‘Ardent’ student musician proves her passion

Kate Bollinger of U.Va.’s counter-cultural music shares her story


Kate Bollinger, a second-year College student, is one of several aspiring musicians attending the University.

Courtesy Kate Bollinger

College can be an incredibly stressful time for students — they have to develop time management skills in order to balance schoolwork, extracurriculars and social lives. That being said, it may be surprising to learn that so many students at the University are aspiring — even moderately successful — musicians.

Kate Bollinger is one such musician. Bollinger is a second-year College student whose first official EP “Ardent” is set to be released Oct. 31. The Arts and Entertainment staff had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her origins, her aspirations and how she fits into the music scenes of Charlottesville and the University.

Bollinger had a myriad of information concerning her musical roots, explaining that multiple members of her family are musically inclined. 

“Will, my older brother, tours, and my brother Ross used to do music,” Bollinger said.

It was partially her brothers’ musical influence that led to Bollinger’s first official show, opening for The Extraordinaires, a Philadelphia-based band and a personal favorite of Bollinger’s. Bollinger said both of her brothers had opened for the band in the past, adding that the group’s music has sentimental value to her. 

“I used to listen to them with my dad in the car,” she said.

Bollinger went on to explain how her involvement with The Extraordinaires led to her becoming a more established musician.

“The last time I opened for The Extraordinaires, Jay, the lead songwriter, was like, ‘We need to get you recorded! You need to come to Philly,’” Bollinger said. “So I went to Philly … And it just kinda all fell into place.”

On her forthcoming EP “Ardent,” Bollinger is backed by various members of the band. This includes Jay Purdy on backup vocals, guitar, piano and even a singing saw in one track, along with Mike Harkness on drums and Matt Gibson on bass.

Talking about the influence of her family members and The Extraordinaires made Bollinger remember her earliest songwriting roots.

“I always wrote songs in elementary school but it was never serious, and then my brother Ross gave a notebook for Christmas with a guide of how to write songs,” she said. “It was like, ‘Lay down in your bed with your headphones on, and listen to all your favorite music and just really study all the parts you don’t really think about so you know what goes into creating it … The more you listen to music that you want to create, the easier it’ll be to create that kind of music yourself.’”

Bollinger then tied this philosophy into her current creative process, saying that she starts by listening to the sort of music she enjoys creating, and then attempting original work

As a Charlottesville native, Bollinger also had a lot to say about the music scene of the City versus the music scene of the University.

“Collaboration happens more naturally in Charlottesville,” Bollinger said. “Maybe it’s because I’ve lived here my whole life and I go to concerts, and then I meet people from the bands and their friends who also play music. I’m not as involved in the music scene at U.Va. yet.”

She went on to define the University’s music scene as “sort of … a niche thing, but it’s not really a big part of U.Va.”

Other than The Extraordinaires, she mentioned other indie rock acts that have shaped or otherwise affected her style.

“Feist is my favorite artist of all time,” Bollinger said. She went on to add influences such as Frankie Cosmos, Alex G., Kurt Vile and Gary Clark Jr.

Influenced by Feist, Bollinger said she wants her style to sound like the singer’s hit “Get Not High, Get Not Low,” stating that she likes the “natural sound of it.” This admiration of Feist’s natural process influenced the production of Bollinger’s own “Ardent,” she said.

“I think something important to say is that this release is probably not going to sound like my other releases, because there’s a full band behind me,” Bollinger said. “I wanted to take the opportunity to record with one of my favorite bands.”

She stressed that her earlier SoundCloud recordings are “more natural and intentional” due to an absence of the “thorough planning” directing her work in “Ardent.”

Bollinger wrapped this up by describing her genre as “just a mix of indie, pop and folk.”

In a segue to people’s reception to her music, Bollinger explained that there is often a disconnect between her personal thoughts and preferences about her music and listeners’ reactions to it.

“Some songs get picked up more than others,” Bollinger said, describing a Dr. Dog cover of hers that has accrued “like 20,000 listens on SoundCloud,” while some of her favorite personal tracks aren’t nearly as popular. “People never react to my favorite songs like I want them to, but that doesn’t matter.”

She included advice she had received from a fellow student musician, third-year College student Tom Sobolik.

“Something Tom told me is, you can’t control people’s perception of your music,” Bollinger said. “Just accept that people are gonna perceive your music the way they are.”

Bollinger is clearly an artist shaped by influences both personal and professional, as proven by her parting advice for other aspiring musicians.

“Something my mom always said is that you have to write like a million bad songs to get any good ones,” Bollinger said. “I have notebooks full of songs that are probably so bad. Keep notes on your phones, just whatever you think of. Just write bad songs I guess, and put out whatever you have.”

“Ardent” promises to be just the start of Bollinger’s rise to fame. She has an upcoming show this December held at the Ante Room, alongside other female musicians and hosted by HackCville.

Bollinger is just one of countless student musicians creating content at the University. Though they may not be the most visible artists in the community, they can always be found through outlets such as WXTJ’s Trash House or any of the smaller music venues in Charlottesville.

The underground music scene of the University may be just beginning to gain traction and catch up to the City, but with the support from fellow students and community members that it deserves, it can flourish.

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