By Matthew Young, Real WV
“My mom is a rockstar – a rockstar grandma and a rockstar mom. Without her, I don’t know that I could do this because I’m not willing to sacrifice the kind of mom I want to be. She really makes all this possible.”
That’s what singer/songwriter Kate Boytek told The RealWV on Friday, hours before the video for her song, “Anywhere,” made its debut on CMT (Country Music Television).
A native of Logan, Boytek – herself now the mother of two daughters – is fast on her way to becoming one of Nashville’s new crop of hit-makers. However, her nearly thirty-year journey from West Virginia talent-show contestant to rising star in the Music City has been, if nothing else, unconventional.
“I started in my early twenties,” Boytek said. “At that time, I was married, and I already had a daughter. I very quickly realized that it just wasn’t going to work – I couldn’t be away from my daughter.”
“So I kind of shelved my dream and went into other things,” she added.
Those other things saw Boytek working for the Post Office, directing a church choir, and serving as an advocate for victims of sexual assault.
“I bounced around,” Boytek noted. “But really, outside of charity and local events, [I wasn’t] pushing towards having a career in music.”
It was four years ago when Boytek’s life took a drastic turn. After going through a divorce, Boytek found herself with two young children, and a decision to make.
“I took a year of personal time to just find myself, and decide how I wanted to continue on living my life,” she explained. “Music has always been that home – that place for me.”
After much soul-searching, Boytek reached a conclusion that would lead her life toward yet another drastic turn. But before she could embark on the next leg of her journey, Boytek knew she needed help.
“I sat my mom down – she also sings and writes songs – and I asked her if she would be willing to help me with my girls so that I don’t have to be away from them,” Boytek said. “She was on board. We’ve been hitting it hard, and we’ve been hitting it fast ever since.”
With the help of her mother and support of her daughters, the now 33-year-old has spent the last two years as a full time musician in pursuit of her dream – a dream which Boytek’s oldest daughter recently had the opportunity to share first-hand.
“I took [her] to Nashville, it was her first trip there,” Boytek explained. “I was doing a ‘writer’s round’ – that’s where you showcase your songs with other songwriters in a pretty intimate setting. It’s all acoustic, and you have the opportunity to perform original songs in front of an audience.”
“Having her in the audience for the first time – sharing our stories that she and I both experienced together and I had written about – was my favorite moment that I’ve had as an artist,” Boytek said.
“I got off stage and she was like, ‘Mom, that was really cool,” Boytek added. “And I was like, ‘No, you’re really cool.’ That was really special.”
It is fitting that Boytek would wax poetic about the experience of sharing a writer’s round with her daughter. In her heart-of-hearts, the passion, meaning, and, most importantly, the healing process of her music begins with its writing.
“I definitely pull from the songwriting-style of the 1970s,” Boytek said. “It was so authentic because they (songwriters) stayed true to who they really were. I’ve been very protective over the idea of not sharing experiences that I have no personal connection with, or haven’t lived through myself.”
“I feel that’s such a delicate matter to a lot of people, especially traumatic experiences,” Boytek continued. “I wouldn’t want to speak on something that I don’t have any knowledge of. I’ve been really raw and vulnerable in my own ways – that way I don’t touch on those other subjects for other people.”
“I want to make sure that it’s real, and that it’s me,” Boytek added. “(I want to) make sure that it’s stuff that I’ve actually gone through, and not something that I have no knowledge of.”
While Boytek remains dedicated to her style of experience-based songwriting, it is the relatability of those experiences which adds gravity to her music.
In her song, “Anywhere,” Boytek laments the loss of a relationship. With a voice that impossibly marries heartbreak and the warmth of new possibilities, she croons, “As the sun fell through the mountains on that West Virginia highway, I had no destination I just had to catch my breath.”
“I was mentored by really incredible musicians who also happen to be really incredible people,” Boytek noted. “They always supported me in wanting to stay true to my foundation. A lot of songwriters are pushed to write songs everyday just to get a song written, and I was really allowed a lot of space in that way.”
Boytek is currently in the studio working on a new song called “What if I Still Care?”
As she describes it, “It’s my favorite song that I believe I’ve ever done.”
“It pulls heavy, heavy influences from the 1980s, like Air Supply, and the ballads that build into this epic ending,” Boytek explained. “I don’t really hear that alot in music today. Sometimes, at the end of the song, you’re just ready to leave it all out.”
“I actually kind of scream at the end of the song,” Boytek added with a laugh. “(My producer) said, ‘I want all that pissed off inside of you to come out,’ and it did. A lot of ‘80s songs did that, so it definitely pulls inspiration from that for sure.”
Boytek noted that, while the as-yet-unreleased song will have a heavier tone than much of her previous music, she is maintaining the spirit of the musical inspiration she finds in such artists as Fleetwood Mac, Etta James, and Bon Jovi. That inspiration is something which Boytek draws from during her live performances, as well.
“I bring a very high-energy show,” Boytek said. “I really am of the mentality, ‘Leave it all on the stage.’ I try to bring what I want to feel when I’m at a concert. I don’t want to worry about bills, or anything negative that might be happening in my life. That’s the time to release, and be happy, and be in the moment – I try to fully embody that, and share that with everybody who is there.”
“(My shows are) very much country mixed with southern rock, so you’ll definitely pick up on those vibes,” Boytek added. “I feel like there’s an inner rock n’ roll-Bon Jovi in me. Even though I’m country, I have to find a way to be true to myself and bring that out. I’m really fortunate that my musicians let me be myself, and they harness that emotion fully.”
On Monday, Boytek brought her live performance to the Charleston Sternwheel Regatta, and, as promised, delivered a very high-energy show. Opening for country music superstar Jo Dee Messina, Boytek strutted on stage – dressed in an all-white outfit that was equal parts David Bowie and Stevie Nicks – and belted out a cover of “The Chain” as if Mick Fleetwood and his friends had written it specifically for her.
When Boytek covered “When it Rains it Pours,” she was a little bit country. When she covered “Wanted Dead or Alive,” she was a little bit rock n’ roll. When she sang her own song, “Hell or High Water,” she was a perfectly-balanced combination of both.
While Kate Boytek has come a long way since her talent show days, her growth as an artist has been organic, and her humility remains intact.
“In my early twenties I was chasing fame and being on the radio, that’s what I wanted at that time,” Boytek said. “Now I just want to share my story and make an impact, make a difference – be purposeful and intentful.”
“I reach for larger crowds because I want to share my music with as many people as possible,” Boytek noted. “My goal is to get as much of my emotions and my songs out into the world as possible.”
“That’s where my focus is – connecting with people on a real level, and sharing who I am through music,” Boytek added.
Boytek will next be performing with Joe Nichols at the Appalachian Outpost in Lyburn, on July 22. For more information, including additional future performance-dates, visit kateboytekofficial.com.