It’s been a testing couple of years for Kat Dahlia. Following the release of her debut single, the caustic “Gangsta” in March 2013, the Miami-born singer seemed destined for great things. A forceful vocal style aligned to the wry, critical tone of her lyrics seemed perfectly suited to the pop and hip-hop worlds that she bridged, and add to that a sound that infused further elements of jazz, soul, and old-school Latin groove. But a serious throat infection threatened to derail her career and, requiring an extended rest period, delayed her first album My Garden for almost a year.
Now fully recovered, Dahlia is rearing to make up for lost time and sounds as strong as ever. With My Garden finally hitting the shelves last week, Kat sat down with us to talk life, music, inspiration and her post-vocal recovery perseverance.
Hi Kat. How are things?
Everything is amazing. The album dropped on Tuesday, which is super exciting. Finally it’s here after three long years and going through so much. Everyone is really, really loving it so I’m really happy.
How’s the voice doing?
It took me a long time to get everything back. I had to go to vocal therapy. I just got into a little cocoon and had to cut off a lot of people, to prioritize and just reenergize everything. It took a while but I finally got it back and now it feels better than ever.
What are you up to at the moment and where are you?
I’m in New York right now. I’m doing so much promo this week but it’s been great. I’ve got some promo in Miami as well. Then I want to move to LA.
You’re going to move to LA?
Yeah, I think that’s my next move. I live in Miami now. I moved back (from New York) about a year ago, but now I’m going to head out to LA.
“We have so many different sides. We don’t wake up feeling the same way every day.”
How does the vibe compare between New York and Miami, and why are thinking about going to LA?
Well, Miami’s always home for me. But it’s also so chilled and it’s too relaxed, it’s too relaxed. In New York obviously there’s so much energy and there’s something always happening. It’s a constant inspiration. Miami’s more to just be in the cut, which is what I needed when I was recovering. Just to be really low-key and out of the loop. That’s what Miami’s really good for, and to be around family. Or, you know, if you just want to, like, binge out and go to crazy clubs all night. There’s that aspect, too. But I’ve been going back and forth to LA, and it’s really big out there. There’s so much music out there. I felt really near to the music and to everything really.
So what can people expect from the album?
The reason we named it My Garden was because it’s such a mix of genres. Every song tells a different story and has a bunch of different emotions. That’s why I felt it was like a garden, where every flower was making me feel something different, just like every song. I didn’t feel there was one set theme or one word that can encompass the entire project because it was the best songs of the past three years. There’s a little bit of everything. You know, there’s a heartbreak song, then you get a falling in love song, a more poppy song, a sexy song, and I think that’s what human beings are. We have so many different sides. We don’t wake up feeling the same way every day.
Do you have a personal favorite tune on the album?
A really special tune to me is “Just Another Dude.” When I wrote it, I basically just heard a guitar, went into the booth, and I just blacked out. I don’t think we even wrote anything down, because I wanted to freestyle it and keep that moment. It was so deep I wanted to keep that exact take. We tried adding production and refiguring it, but we ultimately realized we were keeping it exactly as it felt. So it’s just guitars and voice.
“And do I already feel successful? Yeah I do. And things will come as they’re meant to.”
According to your lyrics, gangsters don’t impress you. So what kind of people do you admire?
I admire people that are comfortable with themselves. They don’t feel like they need to carry a persona and they’re happy with who they are. They don’t have to go the extra mile. They just shine on their own.
I look up to BB King, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, you know, people who’ve carried on a career for a very long time and are constantly making good music.
As an artist, what would you interpret as the pinnacle of music? At what point would you think “Ok, this is it, this is what it’s all about”?
You know, I think I’ve felt that a couple of times, maybe it’s just a matter of feeling it on different levels. When I put together my first independent EP, I was like “Wow, this is it, I can do this.” Even now, putting out my album, I’m like “Wow, I did it, I put this party together after years.” Then it’s just continuing on to each and every level. And do I already feel successful? Yeah I do. And things will come as they’re meant to.
What about the pinnacle of playing live? Would it be in a stadium to 50,000 people, or in a small club where you’ve got this intimate connection with everyone there?
I do love both. I was on tour and I did four gigs out in Berlin, which sell out 20K. Honestly, the energy there is insane, amazing, it really is. But then, in a small club where there’s like forty or fifty, maybe a hundred, people, that really has its own thing as well. You feel you’re literally right there with the people, and you can see faces and hear responses. They’re both very different.
So what does 2015 hold in store?
I’m actually putting together a tour. We’re going to start in March and I’m really excited about that. I’m putting out a video, another video. That’s it for now at least, other than just getting out there and meeting the fans, doing a bunch of shows, promoting the album.
Is it all as much fun as it looks?
It is, but it is actually very tiring. It is very fun, though.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Just thank you so much to the fans for following me for so long, and I’m so happy the album is finally out.