Prolific A2 Songwriter, Musician Hits Stride in First Album
Songwriting comes naturally to Ann Arborite Kat Steih. She writes as many as 30 songs a month. “Melodies come first for me; it’s almost like they are downloaded into my brain,” she said when we met recently at Knight’s. “I build everything else, the lyrics and tone, around the melodies that spring into my mind.” Relationships are a core theme in her work. “I love music because you can convey your feelings through song.”
Even for the musically inspired, though, there is an abundance to learn. Kat started piano lessons at 4 years old and picked up drums and guitar in middle school. It was also in middle school where she learned that her voice was an instrument she could explore.
“I was really lucky to have a great teacher who encouraged me,” said Kat. “In 8th grade, I sang in the talent show and was recruited by a high school band.”
In her first solo album, Hymns of the Huron, Kat blends folk rock, electronic, jazz, soul and other genres in her pieces. Kate Bush has been a big influence on her music. “The Wall” had a huge impact on her, as well. ““The Wall” is all about struggles and being vulnerable in the world,” said Kat, “which I’ve definitely felt and listening to David Gilmour's guitar arcs, to me, is like looking at shooting stars."
Kat struggled with learning disabilities throughout her schooling. Overcoming those disabilities was not easy. Kat found her home and her people, she said, while studying electronic music performance, music production and music improv at UM. In 2016, she graduated from UM with a degree in Performing Arts Technology and Interdisciplinary Physics.
In addition to the challenges she faced with her learning disabilities during college, Kat also discovered that she had a nodule that was causing swelling on her vocal cords. Three years ago, she had the nodule removed, not knowing if she would ever be able to sing again. She went through a total of five years of vocal therapy where she had to relearn how to sing in a less taxing way.
“Having to relearn how to sing was very humbling, though I feel really lucky that I at least figured it out at a young age.”
This past fall, Kat recorded her first solo album at Willis Sound Music Studio. “I feel like it’s thefirst accurate depiction of what I'm doing musically, because of the quality of the recordings,” she said.
In “I Haven’t Seen a Couple,” Kat was thinking about “older couples I know who don't seem very loving towards each other, compared to the strength of my first love.” It’s a jazzy lullaby of heartbreak and the dangers of love.
“12th House Affair” is about “human connections that are so strong that they seem mystical, like you knew the person in another lifetime. The 12th house in astrology is about the collective unconscious,” Kat said.
The last track, and another favorite of mine, is “Hole in my Heart.”
Alongside her music career and teaching private lessons, Kat also works as the music production advisor at the Neutral Zone, an awesome Ann Arbor teen center that promotes artistic expression and leadership.
“We have six music programs. I help teens express themselves through the whole music process, from creation to capturing to releasing their music. I see my job as manifesting the visions these teens have and harnessing their voices,” she said. Last month, Kat hosted NZ’s Battle of the Bands. (My daughter went and said it was awesome!)
Area residents have a couple of chances to see this local talent in the next few months. Feb. 29th, Kat will be co-headlining at a new venue, The Lodge, in Manchester. Kat will be giving a concert at Unity Vibration March 27th from 8-10 p.m. The concert will benefit Huron River Watershed Council. You can learn more at katsteih.bandcamp.com.
Congratulations, Kat, on your album and success!