By Jack Hill
Singer-songwriter-pianist Kate Schrock knows about happy accidents. Thought she has a deliberate career focus, some things can’t be prepared for. Her latest CD, Live at the Majestic, is such an event.
“That wasn’t planned”, she says. “It just happened and I didn’t even know my set was being recorded. I was doing some shows with guitarist Monte Montgomery, and after my set, the sound man just handed me the disc and said, ‘We got this on tape’ ”.
Montgomery and Schrock first combined their talents through another such happy accident, she recalls. The two performers were touring some of the same Midwest clubs, and Monte caught the flu, forcing him to reschedule some shows. A club owner called her and asked if she would consider letting Montgomery play on the same night that she did.
“We hit it off, and a few months later, he called and invited me to come out solo and open some shows for him and his band,” she says. “So we went around and did shows in St Louis, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Fort Smith. I had a blast. With him being a guitar virtusoso and me a piano player, it was a good mix, and the two shows’ approaches gave the audience a variety. It seemed to go over very well and we are thinking of doing more of that.”
Schrock is returning to The Afterthought for what she reckons must be her fourth show. She visits the area not just to perform, but also to visit her mother, Jan Schrock, who moved here several years ago to take a job as director of church and community relations with Heifer International. The organization has made an impression of Schrock, who still lives in Maine, where she was raised.
“It inspires me, when I visit the Heifer Project, to think about an attitude of living with less and with what’s important”, she says. “As I travel and see the world and see where we’re at and where we are heading, the message I take in is the importance of things such as sustainable farming, especially in this age of excess we live in.
“Plus there’s this baby camel I’ve fallen in love with! I love to see her every time I am in Arkansas.”
Sometimes compared to Tori Amos, Kate Bush or Joni Mitchell, Schrock differs in going it alone, not just solo, but also in her career choices. Like singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, Schrock puts out her own albums and books her own shows, preferring to avoid the music industry horrors that could be visited upon her, as they have upon others.
Music became a focus for Schrock slowly but surely. She worked as a model in New York and Paris, spent months building wooden lobster boats and four years studying philosophy and theatre before focusing on the music she was hearing in her mind and soul.
She released her debut album, Refuge, in 1994, and followed that with Shunyata, in 1997 and Dames Rocket, in 2000. Other than the live album that came out a few months ago, she plans to stick with a three-year schedule of studio releases.
“I’ve started working on a new one, but when you have to raise the money yourself, or make it, you’re dependent on that which can take a while”, she says.
Going it her own way, through writing her own songs, singing them and playing them on piano can appear like a slow road to fame, but she is content with playing the tortoise to the major label hares that are out there.
‘I’m okay with that, and I’m going about this for different reasons than some”, she says. “The reasons make sense for me, and thank God that they make sense for some people who notice what I do. They may not be in the majority, those who listen to top 40, and believe what they hear and read and listen to advertising and don’t got he extra mile to search under the rocks for those of us who might be there.
‘I’m steady and true to what I do and it’s between my souls and my mind and my art. I was encouraged at a recent show I did at a Borders bookstore in Tampa, FLA, where two little girls, about 8 and 10, were watching me and the younger one blurted out, ‘I think you sing better than Brittany Spears!’ we all laughed ~ but I think maybe there’s hope for those of us not part of the mainstream, There were people who came up to me after that show who thought maybe I had inspired these girls to consider things other than what they saw on their tvs.”