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Steamboat Magazine

Reaching for the Stars

07/14/2016 04:27PM ● By Dan Greeson

Kate Brady plays at the Troubadour Nightclub in Los Angeles during the final of 2016 Guitar Center Singer Songwriter 5 competition, which she won. Photo courtesy of Guitar Center.

By Johannah K. Hall

Kate Brady’s first performances were in her crib. As a toddler, the Steamboat Springs native knew every Disney song, and how to sing it loud enough to attract a crowd – namely her parents, Steven and Bridget Ross. From there, she went on to serenade her summer camp counselors in the pool with self-written a cappella ballads.

Today she sits on stage, tall and comfortable, soft light surrounding her as she plays the piano and sings for a spellbound audience. Brady plays the piano as though she needs nothing else in life, and she sings as if nothing else matters at that moment. 

Whether at a large performance hall or Steamboat’s intimate Chief Theater, Brady touches the hearts and minds of those who hear her sing. For Brady, winner of the 2016 Guitar Center Singer Songwriter 5 competition, music is life. In March she triumphed over 14,000 applicants to win the coveted award, playing alongside five finalists in a live performance at the Troubadour Nightclub in Los Angeles. 

Brady returned to her hometown in April to play to a full audience at the Chief Theater. “It was amazing to play there and see all the wonderful, wonderful people who came out to see me. It was so nice to see such huge support for the arts in our town,” Brady says. She is thrilled and grateful to everyone who has helped and supported her along the way. 

Like most college seniors, Brady, who graduated in May with a B.A. in English and creative writing from the University of Colorado, is looking to the future. She says her recent win is exhilarating, humbling and most of all, a dream come true. 

Brady plans to move to Los Angeles to record her first four-song CD under the tutelage of producer Ariel Rechtshaid, part of her agreement with the Guitar Center. Rechtshaid, a longtime role model for Brady, has worked with Madonna, Vampire Weekend, Brandon Flowers of the Killers and Adele, all of whom inspire Brady. She cites Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills and Nash as motivators for writing songs that reflect relevance in life. “If the words don’t mean anything to you, then they don’t mean anything to anyone,” she says.

She taught herself to play piano by color-coding and numbering the keys in order to write her own version of music. She has never taken a lesson, instead relying on her intuition to create the melody. She jokes about how thankful she is that she has learned to read music because “it’s so much less complicated than basing a whole song off of labels like ‘yellow 1’ and ‘red 5’.” She spent spring break learning to play the new guitar she won as part of the Guitar Center competition. 

As she embarks on her music career, Brady’s goal is that everyone who hears her songs will feel comfort and familiarity, like listening to an old friend.

Kate Brady's "Sailing Ships" Music Video