Two weeks ago I sat down with artist and musician Katie Veltri.
Katie grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and since she was a child has had her hands on as many art forms as she could.
From painting to poetry Veltri’s biggest feat has been her music. With a down-to-earth diva sound deriving influence across multiple genres, Veltri exists in a space in the music world I’m always happy to stumble upon.
Her music weaves the stories of her life as an artists, a delivery driver, an art therapist and someone who believes in the power of healing through art.
Listen as you read and be sure to check out Katie’s links at the bottom of the interview!
U: Hey Katie thanks for joining me, I would love to hear about your journey to becoming an artist.
KV: So basically I started off as a writer and singer and fine artist as a kid. Those are the three things that I did after dance. I’m really laid back in some ways. I’m not, like, super concentrated; I was never concentrated on one thing growing up. My mom is very free spirited and she always told me to “do what you want.”
I did different things artistically, and talent shows as a kid. It was a good escape to throw myself into my writing, poetry, dancing, and singing. Eventually, I did a lot of art shows and received different honorable mentions. I was a writer for different magazines right out of high school and had some poetry published in a magazine when I was in college. I started songwriting in college because I always liked singing, so that’s how it transpired. I got a degree in a psychology-related field because I wanted to do something to contribute to society. I’m laughing because it’s just like, the economy is so bad, and I picked these professions, but here are some pennies.
U: Yes. Oh, my God.
KV: I got a master’s in art therapy and mental health counseling and worked in hospitals a little bit. I worked with kids a lot, and I think that was the most rewarding. It was really emotionally draining, but you feel like you actually are making an impact with the kids and their families’.
I was still writing and songwriting through all that as an outlet, and painting here and there. I took breaks from painting for a few years, on and off, because it was always just a hobby for me. Then I think when I started feeling trapped in my music, where I wasn’t getting booked-I was getting booked prior to Covid and all that. Covid hit and it put a damper on everything for a lot of artists. Only the mainstream artists were really moving forward, which is so unfortunate. I [was] feeling really trapped. It’s frustrating because I’ve worked so hard creating all these songs and I self produced a lot of my content in the past few years that is actually probably just as good as the produced stuff I got done out in LA. Because you know you grow and I’m honing my craft skill level with the piano, guitar, violin and producing beats.
So I was like, you know what? I’ll just start painting again. I’ll start, like, doing these little unique pieces and like, weaving in my lyrics, and it was natural. I used to sell large abstract pieces and portraits and stuff. Mostly the larger pieces would sell because I would price them at a point that made sense. $12,000. I’m not that pretentious.
U: I know the thought is nice to think about selling something for that much.
KV: I think the perspective is because I’ve been in mental health and have done work that has been pragmatic, it’s hard for me to put myself in the shoes of selling something – yeah, this took time and effort, and it does have value because it has my experiences in it, but I’m not going to price it [extremely high] There’s smaller pieces, too, but the idea is to help showcase my music in a way that is down to earth and [shows] part of the journey. These things matter, our stories matter. What you go through as an artist matters. I guess I see an unconventional, holistic approach to being an artist. I view it more on the healer side; you’re healing yourself and then you’re potentially healing other people depending on who resonates with it. I’ve come full circle with this stuff.
U: I’m so glad to hear that you work in art therapy. That really adds a new layer to your work. What’s your favorite song you’ve created?
KV: I think it’s between Floating and Deep Down. I think it’s Floating because I did that from scratch. I’ve done a lot of songs from scratch lately in the past two or three years. Floating is not lyrically a very complex song, but the way that I put it together-every time I hear it, when I go to my YouTube channel (because it’s a featured video) it just automatically comes on. It’s like a very pleasant sound between the vocal and I’m really only singing sort of in one range for that song. I think it’s the overall composition and the vibe of it that I really like. I started off with just a piano beat, and then I added a beat and then I added a digital violin on my keyboard. I recorded my vocal separately and then I put it together. So from there I just liked it. I don’t know why. It’s one of the songs that appears in my other stuff like my other songs and my mash ups a lot.
It’s a natural style that I go back to. I can see myself singing this on stage and several venues and people really liking it. I think it’s my favorite because I was floating in the water at some point when my body was in such physical pain from this grocery delivery stuff I’ve been doing for so many years. As cliché as it sounds, that’s what matters the most – finding these little moments with yourself or with people that you feel connected to. You can’t get so caught up in the past or the future worries or stress because they’re always going to be there. I think the song maybe kind of reminds me in a very serene way to just maybe stop worrying so much.
U: Do you recall a live show that’s inspired you the most or you wanted to keep going as an artist?
KV: I think that my favorite live performance would have to be from a local band back in Jacksonville I saw when I was in college. I know this sounds weird because it’s not, like, a big name, but they’re called QST (Cue Estey), and they were just so cool. They were local musicians, but they did do some touring regionally. They were so authentic, you really could feel like what they were doing was for people to connect with people. It wasn’t to be big stars and I don’t know, when I look back on performances, it’s like I just always go back to that one for some reason.
I know it’s a weird answer, but there’s something about poetry, jams and stuff like that too. In high school, I’d go out to coffee shops with friends and do poetry. It was such a cool mix of people in Jacksonville, Florida. It was my hometown. I was born in New York, but raised in Jacksonville. Where I’m from was on the lower-middle-class side and the art was really rich there for a period of time. It was really kind of special looking back on it. So, that’s probably why I think about that band, because there’s such a special, unique energy there and it wasn’t pretentious.
U: So one thing you’ve been saying that I think is really interesting is how you’ve been I forget the exact words you use, but you DIY the production of your music. What’s that been like for you to really take this side of your music on?
KV: I was in contact with some producers in LA before Covid. Then Covid hit and I thought you know what, I’ll just produce my own thing. On the way to self-producing, I was working with a pianist. We were coming up with some stuff together for Building Fences. She helped me compose that piece and Back to Sleep. Then I took that to a studio, MadLife Studio in Woodstock, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. And I’ve actually performed there too. It’s a really cool performance – kind of like a competition show. I had recorded songs there to engineer. I got to learn along the way how to do the mixing and the mastering. Then I worked with a producer in Orlando where we worked together on A Real Man. And so from there, I took a very different approach in putting out music. But some people say, well, you should just work with one producer and that’s it. Or you should just work like on one album, one producer or a few producers all working towards a common goal, but I kind of disagree. I think that if you are being authentic about your art and your music and whatever, you should really be like, well, I can do this. I can be self sufficient. That’s how they used to be. I think there’s something to be said about being self sufficient and putting your own music together from scratch.
And if people don’t like it, that’s fine, whatever. Because I know there’s not a lot of protection behind some of the things I do. But I think what matters is that you’re connecting your spirits for the world outside. I think that it’s been a really interesting process.
I was like, oh, man, that’s going to be so much work. Even though I had all this content singing and all that it’s going to be like a lot, you know? It’s going to be a lot to learn how to mix and master and do things and send it off to get mastered. I haven’t really done much of that, but actually I had a PR guy who was helping me. So I’ve had a broad range of people all the way from LA, the UK, Orlando to Atlanta I’ve been working with. And then this last EP Cover My Heart from 2021. I was so sad when it didn’t really get any press except for like a little blurb from the Charleston City Paper about Draw Love. I thought in my eyes, that was the best work I’ve done. It was all self produced from my apartment in a tent.
I know it sounds crazy, but all the studios were closed and I was like, I’ll just bouncing from this little tent thing because I trapped in the sound and used my keyboard. I did it from my phone and my iPad. To me, I’m like, yeah, this would sound better in a studio for sure, maybe a remix, but for whatever reason, I just think those set of songs are really special.
U: I think the beauty of what you’re doing, and I see this in your painting style, too, is if it were very clean cut and perfect, would it be like your music at that point? And like, same with your illustrations. They have this organic flow to them.
KV: Deep Down is probably my best produced song. And that’s ironic because that’s one of the first songs that we recorded out in LA. I do see the difference; it is more leaning towards the diva kind of vibe sometimes. I do think that this is part of the process and it’s good to stand on your own 2 feet and be able to call the shots to some degree, just so you know what you’re doing, you know your mark on it. I feel like I have the capacity to really be out there in a big voice kind of way.
I have big dreams. I think it’s good to have both because it’s something people might connect to like, oh, that’s cool. That’s her thing that she did from her little apartment after delivering groceries and she really cares about her craft.
U: How would you describe your genre?
KV: I would say that it definitely is eclectic. I would say that the genre is more like RnB leaning, if you look at the whole body of work, but I would say RnB and contemporary adult – heading in that direction. I really like dance music because there was a huge dance scene in Jacksonville, so I do have influences of that in my music. Kind of like a dancy, trance kind of vibe.
U: What’s next for you? Do you have any upcoming EPS or performances, any galleries?
KV: I’ve been hard at work putting the art show together and having everything ready to go so that when a gallery does reach out to me, it’ll be just ready. I’ve been making prints of my work and framing things, and I’ve also been working on other songs. I stepped away from sharing stuff online, basically. There’s just so much content I put out there, so I’m trying to pull back from that. I’ve been working on my piano pieces and planning what my next song would actually feel and sound like, because I think whatever I do next, I want it to be produced right, and I want it to have a real lasting power, and I want it to be the one. Yeah, I want it to be the one.
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