Kat Perkins rocketed to fame on Adam Levine’s team on season 6 of The Voice, coming in fourth place. Last week, her new single, ‘Fearless’ was #5 on iTunes. But how does a Minneapolis musician who was raised on the farms of North Dakota get “discovered”? The answer: YouTube. Well, an airport piano and YouTube.
Following surgery to remove a cyst from her vocal cord, she told us, “I started devoting my time mostly to performing for the troops over in the Middle East. For two years I did that. And one day we were coming back home and we had a layover in Amsterdam and there was a piano in the airport and my band convinced me to impromptu sing – at six in the morning – for the people in the airport. And after a couple [of hours] of twisting my arm…I said, ‘Fine! I’ll sing.’ And I sang and there was a whole bunch of people videoing and we created a huge scene and there was a big crowd and that video ended up on youtube. And the producers of the Voice saw that video and asked me to audition for their show.” (Watch Kat’s airport performance)
After performing in the Twin Cities for years (her band Scarlet Haze once opened for Bon Jovi), that one impromptu session lead to national attention and has shaped Kat’s view of success. In “Fearless,” she says, “I really wanted to encapsulate what I had gone through this past year and [how] stepping outside of my comfort zone and taking risks … [has] paid off for me.”
“[With] all the hard work and all the risks I’ve taken all throughout my life, [‘Fearless’] really gives that message of following your dreams and not giving up and … doing something good.”
For her, fame is not the end goal, but a tool she can use to touch other’s lives. This fall, she is combining her love for music with her love for kids (oh yeah, she was nannying full-time for steady income so she could keep performing at night.) Kat will be visiting high schools in the midwest to share her journey, hoping to inspire teens, “speaking to them about following their dreams and trying new things and being fearless.” She specifically wants them to know they have a choice in how they use platforms like social media, “to use it to your benefit and to use it to take your life to another level instead of negativity or venting or things that don’t make you feel good or other people feel good.”
If she could go back and share one message with her high-school self, it would be “Don’t worry about what other people think or say, just do, and if it makes you happy, don’t worry about it. Just do it.”
A special high school visit will be to her alma matter, Scranton High School in North Dakota. It is her father’s last year teaching music and she told me, “I really want to sing a song with my dad’s choir.” I’m betting choir enrollments will be up this year.
Even with her travels and tremendous success, her midwestern roots run deep. When we chatted, she was at the Minnesota State Fair and told me about her love for the baby animals. When I asked if she was going to visit the Miracle of Birth Center, she told me, “That’s actually what we’re just on our way to do right now.”
It’s hard to believe it was only a few months ago she was covering Sia’s, “Chandelier” at the end of her run on The Voice. She told me this ended up being her favorite performance. “It was kind of this no holds barred attitude and, you know, if I was going to go home, I was going to go home singing an awesome song. And it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the hardest song I’ve ever sung, and I remember every single moment of it and it was really fun for me. I’ll never forget that.”
Even though she didn’t make the top three, she has still gone from strength to strength. Instead of performing covers, she’s come full circle, back to performing her own songs. But this time, it’s different. “It was such a great feeling to be able to sing my music to these people. And know that they’re loving it and they’re purchasing it and they’re connecting with it, just as much as they did with the cover tunes that I sang on the show. It’s absolutely overwhelming that I get to sing my music for my old fans and my new fans that I gained from the show.”
Kat’s CD/Single Release Show is at Mill City Nights in Minneapolis on September 26, 2014. Tickets are available for $18-$20.