When Kate Bollinger opened for Faye Webster at The Jefferson Theater March 3, it was her first time returning to Charlottesville on a real tour. It was something of a homecoming for Bollinger — she had performed at The Jefferson Theater on a one-off occasion, opening for the Charlottesville-based Kendall Street Company in 2019, but she had not performed in the area since.
“I didn’t get that nervous for a lot of shows on tour but I was so nervous because there were tons of people I know,” Bollinger said of her homecoming show at The Jefferson.
Bollinger nicely set the tone with her trademark soothing, ethereal sound. Live, however, she injected a jazzier sound into her discography, pairing nicely with the hazy blue hues of the venue. Of course, Faye Webster followed with her indie rock, country and folk fusion for an all-around great concert. They even performed a duet. A couple weeks after the concert, Bollinger was able to sit down with The Cavalier Daily for an interview to reflect on the homecoming show, talk about her time at the University, new music, her “DONDA” credit and more.
Brandon Brown: I want to start off by saying great concert. I thought the duet with Faye Webster was really cool because I have been listening to both of you independently. I first wanted to know, how did that come about?
Kate Bollinger: I have been a fan of her music for years, I think since her album, [Faye Webster], came out in 2017. I have been keeping up with her online and listening to her music. We kind of started talking to each other over the internet because we liked each other’s music and then our booking agents made it happen.
Wow. How did you figure that out?
I was in upstate New York recording and I got a call from my manager. I was so excited — like a dream come true.
Was that your first tour?
Not my first tour, but definitely my longest. I did a tour in November with Real Estate and while I was at U.Va., towards the end, I was touring a little bit on weekends and in the summer but just for like a week at a time.
And you have a European tour coming up, right?
Yeah, I haven't been to many of the places on the tour so I am excited.
You mentioned your time at U.Va. Can you tell me about your experience?
I grew up in Charlottesville and I actually did not want to go to U.Va. because I wanted to leave. As decisions came closer, I realized that it was the best choice for me. I got there and didn't know what I wanted to do. Music did not seem like something I could make a living on so I did it for fun. I wasn't the best student. I feel like I wasn't the worst. I kind of just went to school and did music on the side. I switched majors a bunch and then studied film which I love.
You were involved in student radio too, right?
Yeah I did that for two years which was really fun. I did a couple different radio shows. I had a random radio show with this guy in my first year and he was playing a lot of psychedelic Turkish music and I was just like, playing my own thing. It was very much split, we didn’t really overlap at all but it was cool. Then I had a show with my friend and we played mostly 90’s hip-hop.
That’s hype. I’m in student radio too, I joined student radio last year and I saw you in the GroupMe and I was confused.
Oh yeah, I’m in so many GroupMe conversations! I don't know how to get out of them!
Yeah, I can’t imagine the student radio GroupMe is very useful to you anymore. What was it like performing for your home crowd? Was it your first time coming back on a tour?
Yeah, I think so. I played at The Jefferson and opened for Kendall Street Company in 2019 so I hadn't played in Charlottesville for a really long time. I didn’t get that nervous for a lot of shows on tour but I was so nervous because there were tons of people I know, like my friends and family.
You debuted two new songs, “Running” and “Who Am I But Someone,” at the show. Can you talk about that as well as the new EP, Look at it in the Light?
Yeah. The songs I just put out were written in a storage space that we were renting during the pandemic. Chris, John and I just split a month-to-month storage space and made a ton of stuff in there which was fun … Yeah, I'm excited about “Look at it in the Light.” It feels so old at this point. What I'm working on now is generally different than that but I'm excited to get it out into the world.
What was the intent with this EP?
They're all songs about denial and being in denial. They're sort of about how I need to leave Virginia and uproot my life and do certain things but also being afraid of making certain changes in my life. Pretty much every song is about that in some or another.
Were you really credited on “DONDA?”
Yeah, that was a crazy weird thing. What was weird about it was that I learned about it in the same three days that I found out about the Faye tour so I was kind of just losing my mind that week.
Basically I got a call from my manager and they were like, “Your lawyer got an email from another lawyer claiming their client wanted to use one of your songs as a sample.” My lawyer asked some questions and figured out it was Kanye West. I didn't know at all what it was gonna be. I was kind of picturing the chorus of the song sampled in some big way but then he sent it to us and the chords in the intro of “Candy” were the chord progression of “DONDA.” So [“Candy”] was just sampled through the whole song. We got to hear that version which was amazing. He ended up using another version because I feel like he always makes ten versions of everything. So he used another version but he still gave us song interpolation, which is when a song is directly inspired by another song.
Wow, that's crazy.
Me and my friend saw you posted the credit and we were like, “There’s no way this is real, right?”
I know. Everyone thought I was lying!
Did you watch his “DONDA” performances at the Mercedes Benz Stadium? And were you keeping an ear out?
Yeah, I was so excited at the beginning. Nobody was giving us confirmation about whether it was going to be on the album and obviously no one knew anything about the album, like when it's coming out. When the first “DONDA” performance came out, I was out of town so I was on facetime with my bandmates. John, my producer, is a huge Kanye fan so he had a bunch of people over and when Kanye didn't play the song, we were all just so sad. Even though it didn't happen, I'm still so honored to be a part of it.
What would you describe your sound as?
I'm scared to pigeonhole myself because I feel like every song feels like a part of me but shouldn't fall into one genre. I really want to make an album that's totally genreless where every song is different. But I feel like I just make melodic pop songs that are inspired by pop, folk, jazz and tons of different genres.
What's next for you?
We’re opening for L'Impératrice for a little one week stint in April and then we're going to Europe in May. I have my first headlining tour in June and then I'm just going to be writing a lot.
Bollinger has just finished her tour with Webster and has exciting developments for the future — within the U.S. and abroad. She has a small tour before her first European tour, and an EP, “Look at it in the Light,” coming April 22. Charlottesville citizens must be proud to hear her taking the sounds of her hometown throughout the states, Europe and even on Kanye West albums. Not to play on her new EP’s namesake, but it is looking bright for the University graduate.