Today we Spotlight – Karen Lee Batten. We sit down with this amazing talent to talk about her career and her new release Drinkin Song. Check it out now and make sure to show Karen some love!
Hi Karen, so nice to see you, I’m curious about what got you started in music. Your father was a performer, what was it about him/music that entranced you?
There is just something about watching a performer, no matter what age you are, that is mesmerizing.
Every age group loves to go to concerts and when I sit and watch a band or artist carry an entire room – whether big or small – in the palm of their hands, it’s still to this day, the coolest thing to watch. So at 4 years old, to see my Dad on stage playing base and singing BGs (which I have learned just how hard that really is), he just seemed like a superstar to me!
I knew one day that I wanted to try that, too!
As a country artist, obviously we can give shout outs to the greats, but I’m curious who are some non-country artists your fans would be surprised that you draw influence from?
I would have to say that my very first major influence in music was Whitney Houston. I spent hours and hours trying to learn how she sang “I Will Always Love You”… those trills, the vocal gymnastics… trying to perfect the big notes. I remember pushing and pushing myself to try to sing like her. I would have to say that she really helped me learn to really sing.
Alanis was also one of my very favourites… and not gonna lie, that Jagged Little Pill record still is. The way she wrote so raw, the way she sings and leaves “stuff” not 100% perfect. I loved learning how to write by listening to her.
Alice in Chains… oh I know… what? Their harmonies made me want to learn how to harmonize. And so I learned and now have had the pleasure of singing on many albums doing BGs. I LOVE singing harmonies and they were really my first real full band that I fell in love with for that reason… then it went on to the Dixie Chicks – haha.
You are a BC gal originally from Abbotsford and now in Langley. What was it like being just outside of the big city, and how do you think growing up in a smaller town with access to the big city influenced your artistry?
I love being a small town girl.
When I grew up in Abbotsford, it was still a pretty small town, not so much anymore though. I think it was fun when I was on “Canadian Idol” because people kept saying to me, “You put Abbotsford on the map!” – haha. Loved that! My town was so happy for me and to this day has shown me love and support even though I now reside 30 minutes away.
Living close to Vancouver has always been awesome. I used to live in Vancouver for 6 years in my 20s, but then moved back to the “middle.” It’s kind of a holiday now. My husband and I will plan a concert/ dinner/ hotel and then come back home to Langley after. Vancouver is only about 30 minutes away from us and I love that. But at heart, I am not a city girl, I will always be a “small town girl.”
You had a big break into the scene you were in the top 10 for Canadian idol in ’03. What was it like being on stage and reaching a national audience and not just regional?
It felt insane! I have never felt more nervous, like I was going to pass out or be sick so often! That was an experience that I would never take back and will remember forever. Sometimes I am bummed they don’t still have it, so that more Canadians could have that chance. It definitely helped give me a head start when I didn’t know where to start. It’s a pretty crazy feeling to be looking into a black box with a red light on top and know that 6.1 million viewers are looking back at you…. “Don’t screw up Karen!”
I would be remiss in not discussing your awards. There are too many awards and nomination too mention it would be a paragraph. Were there any that really struck you as special?
Absolutely, I would have to say that two really stick out in my mind.
1) The BCCMA 2018 Humanitarian Award for the Fire Relief Fundraiser and then
2) The last BCCMA award that I won, which was was the 2020 Fans’ Choice Award.
Both of these Awards mean so much to me for different reasons. I think when you think about helping people you don’t do it with the thought that “hey I might win an award for this,” that is the farthest thing from your mind at the time. You just see a need, and you help, its just what one does. So then to have your name called in recognition for that time was amazing and unexpected.
And “unexpected” would also be the perfect word for winning The Fans’ Choice Award. I was completely caught off guard, totally shocked when my name was called. In a year like we had for 2020, I can’t even tell you how much it meant to me to have the fans speak and want to give this award to me. I will forever be grateful and humbled by it.
Your latest single “Drinkin’ Song” just dropped – and it is a banger, and a success. What is it about the song that you think makes it special?
Aww thank you so much!! Well, for one.. I think we can all use a drinking’ song right about now, don’t you?
For me, this song is a reminder that sh*t happens, but time passes and eventually, it doesn’t look quite the same as it used to. It talks about a time in my past that might have felt heavy and hard, but fast forward and things always look different, and you just might be able to grab some girlfriends, a case of beer, and have a few laughs over it all. So that’s what we did. I also think this song took on such a new special meaning for me when I asked my girlfriends to be in the video with me. It’s the first time I have ever done that, so this one will be a keepsake for life!
Not only do you have the single, but you are also prepping us for a new EP this summer/fall. What can fan and new listeners alike expect from it?
Well I know for sure we have two more new songs coming but who knows what can happen in a couple months? I would love to see if we can make it a nice five! With “Too Strong” and “Drinkin’ Song” released, I am excited to release the EP and see what everyone thinks of the next ones, too!
Something I find very humbling about you is that you routinely co-write your songs and are open about the fact. What is it about collaborating that you like? As opposed to writing solo.
I honestly find it so refreshing to have more than me in the room! There is something about combining experiences that I love so much.
To me, it reassures me of a few things:
One – that others will be able to relate.
Two – that where we are going with it is working, sounds good and writes well.
Three – if I have said something or am going down a road that’s sucking, that someone is going to rope me back on track – haha.
When I write on my own, it takes a million years because I question all of these things. I love having multiple talented brains in the room, and then it gives me an excuse to hang and have some beers!
Music aside for a hot minute, how is your dog doing? I saw pics of the pooch on Insta, and they look so cute!
Awwwww – favourite question so far – hehe. They are so good!! Lulu is my black lab and she’s almost 9, and Whiskey is my Italian Greyhound / Rottweiler and he’s 1.5 years. He is a little rascal, and sheds like a mother, but we love him, anyways. Lulu is way too smart for her own good and puts up with her brother pretty well, she’s just basically a princess. Thanks for asking about them… they are my heart!!
Back to music, what was it like for you to play online and not in-person shows this last year?
Well, not my first choice. Not gonna lie. But I am crazy thankful we had this to work with and not be completely cut off from the world. So, I will take it.
What I love the most though is being on stage, watching everyone having a blast… drinking some bevies and singing the lyrics back to me. There is really nothing like it, so I can hardly WAIT to be back there to help create a party again like we all need and want so bad.
I am curious on your opinion: Online shows- great way to reach new audiences? Or an oversaturation of the market?
I would say right now being that it’s the only way for us, it’s ok. I’m not sure anyone will want to pay much attention to it when everything opens back up… it might be like “what you loved to eat when you had to get your wisdom teeth out that you never want to eat again” – or who knows? It might stick.
2020 sucked. 2021, not looking that great either- do you have any plans for the summer?
I do have “plans” that I would like to do, depending on if we are allowed. I would like to plan a writers’ trip to my house in the Okanagan (three hours away) and I would love to stay there for a bit and have a girls’ trip with a few gals, too. So, nothing major because who wants to be let down again and again but a few small things to hopefully look forward to. Then as soon as I can…. Mexico and Vegas baby…. First flight!
As an artist, how difficult is it to plan shows/dates in the unknown?
It’s almost impossible.
I’m pretty grateful to so many festivals, wineries, and stages who have reached out to say “as soon as we are good to go, you are playing here.” I couldn’t be more thankful for the support for the future. So I will be chillin’ for a little longer and dreaming of that time!
Something I love about you is aside from being a badass musician, you also own your own company- tell us a bit about Earthya?
Thank you so much!
Earthya was something I started when I was sort of at my lowest point during all of this. Normally, I like to be a pretty busy gal, and then I felt like I was stopped in my tracks. So there were a couple of days there that I was plowing through wine pretty quickly – haha – as we all did I’m sure.
I can’t stay down for long, so I looked at some of the hobbies I had and one was making organic household and beauty products like lip balms, bar soaps and surface cleaners.
Fast forward to now – I have over 100 products that I hand make to order in small batches and people have been amazing. I have shipped all over the world and am currently on order 900-something.
My website still says “coming soon” so I have to work on that… when my hands have a minute. This company truly got me out of the covid funk… so that was amazing!
Being in the scene so long, and having done a million of these interviews, what is one thing you wish that people knew about you that never comes up?
I think asking about peoples “art” would be kinda fun… and by that I mean tattoos! They always come with a story, no matter what that might be.
So for me, I have 16 I think….. wait, maybe more! My first one was when I was in college in Ontario – my roommate and I got the same one, mine got colour and hers was supposed to but she bailed on that part because it hurt too bad – haha. It was a vine with the Christian fish, Ichthys. The last one I got (oh no… it won’t be the last one though) is a bouquet of hydrangeas for my Grandma. She passed a few years ago and she was like an angel to me. She always picked hydrangeas in her backyard and had them on her kitchen table throughout the whole summer, they just remind me of her. Then the other 14 were from all over the place… Vegas, California… Vegas… Vernon BC… Vegas – you get it!
As a successful woman in the music industry, what is some advice you would give to the next generation of female performers you wish to impart. Either something someone told you when you started, or something you wish someone had told you?
Call me, message me, ask me…. And if not me, someone.
You are going to care about your career more than anyone else will throughout your career. You have to make it happen and if you don’t know what to do when you wake up… just ask someone. I will always answer. If you ask 6 people who to contact or what to do, 6 people are going to give you different answers that will create momentum and things to move you forward to the next phase in your career. It’s not easy but it is what you make it.
Thank you so much for talking to us here at Hidden Beats. Last question: Our favorite independent and smaller businesses have been hit hard from Covid this past year and a half. Who are some of your local favorite places to hype up and give a shout out to?
Love it! Well, my husband’s place for sure!! Sammy J’s Grill & Bar in Langley, White Rock, Kelowna and soon to be Maple Ridge. The staff has been nothing short of amazing and have killed it though all the ups and downs, closures, 1/2 opens, and new rules to follow. Thank you for rocking it every day, guys!!!!
And thank you so much, Hidden Beats, for having me! Love ya!
Spotlight – Karen Lee Batten is a wrap. Big thank you to the ever so lovely Karen Lee Batten for taking the time to chat with us
Check out Drinkin Song now!
Keep up with Karen right here
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