Growing up in rural south central Wisconsin, Kari Arnett was experimenting with writing, playing, and singing music from a young age. It wasn't until her early 20s that Arnett taught herself guitar and began performing as a traveling musician. Shaped by the rich sounds of older country and folk music, Arnett was drawn to the Americana scene. Her lush, imaginative, storyteller approach to narrative songwriting pulls lyrics from love and loss to create a compelling and hopeful listening experience.
We spoke with Arnett ahead of her show at The Cedar Cultural Center on April 14 about pursuing music full-time, Kickstarting her new LP, and finding hope among divisiveness. Read the full interview below and get tickets for the show here.
You became a guitarist and traveling musician in your early 20s. What made you decide to pursue musicianship more seriously?
I think I always had an innate desire to be a full-time musician, and it takes a lot of hard work, patience, and dedication to the craft. After some life altering hardships, I realized that I didn't want to be stuck in a situation that didn't allow me to be my true self. I feel most at home when I am performing, writing, or creating. And life is too short to not be doing what you love to do.
You’ve been touring on your first EP, Midwestern Skyline, for a few years. How has traveling with these songs affected you as an artist?
Those songs were where I was at in life a few years ago, and traveling with them for the last couple years has always grounded me, and made me realize how much I have grown as an artist. I've had a great run with that EP, and I am super grateful for all the doors that Midwestern Skyline has opened for me. I am excited for the next chapter.
Kari Arnett's debut EP, "Midwestern Skyline"
You were able to fund your upcoming debut LP, When the Dust Settles, through Kickstarter. Where does the recording process stand right now?
Currently, we have everything tracked except for a bgv's and steel. We have a little ways to go as mixing and mastering is not yet done. My hope is to release in the Fall. I am so thankful to ALL 195 backers that helped make this dream become a reality.
How does the sound of the new record compare to your previous EP?
The new album (When The Dust Settles) has even more of an Americana/Southern Rock sound to it, with a good up-tempo, sprinkled with sass and grit. As compared to my last EP, I have a full band on most of these new tracks, from warm, vintage acoustics, to a more bluesy electric guitar sound with a retro, cinematic feel on some of the songs.
The new album has a lot to do with human connection and building community. How do you address these themes in your new songs?
Human connection and building relationships has always been a huge factor for me with music. Wherever you stand on different issues, music is always a good connector. I think it's crucial to bring people together especially at a time when everything and everyone is seemingly so divided. I draw from very personal places when I write, and I went really deep for these songs.
Anywhere from letting go of a relationship, starting over from scratch in the middle of your life, depression/anxiety, from finding yourself, to finding the strength and courage to believe in your fellow human being. Real issues that affect people every day. The common denominator in all of the songs is that there is hope. There is always hope.
What are your plans for When the Dust Settles; is there any release or tour planned?
I am planning on releasing in the Fall of 2018. I definitely want to tour this album.
What can audiences expect from your live performances?
My hope is that they will enjoy the music, let it hit their hearts, and they can always expect it to be a real experience.
"They can always expect it to be a real experience"
What’s inspiring you lately?
I've been diving in to a lot of new music lately, as so much is being newly released this year, which is awesome! It's always inspiring to watch people go for it, in terms of their life. Seeing people do what makes them happy, whatever that is, inspires me to do the same, it reminds me to be grateful for each moment.