Love comes in all shapes and sizes. It can grow over time or capture you at first sight. Now I know that it doesn’t have to even be a living breathing being to feel drawn, to stir the spirit, invade ones core, to inspire creativity and passion.
I was struck when I least expected it.
Last Summer I was back east on tour. During that trip I had the opportunity to tour the Martin Factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. I had a performance opening for Meatloaf the next day in the neighboring town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
We pull up to Martin and for a moment I feel transported to The Toy Maker’s Factory, like in the movie Babes In Toyland. That film may be before my time but it’s a classic so I highly recommend it for children of all ages, much like the Martin Factory.
Chris Thomas greets me upon my arrival. Experienced beyond his years, he is tall and traditionally handsome, with dark hair, and a perfect knowing smile, he treats me like we have known each other for years. He guides me through aisle after aisle of “guitars-in-progress.” He knows every single person’s name at every workstation. I am astounded and immediately feel at home. After all, the Martin Factory is a Family.
Then I am stopped in my tracks. We have only just started the tour when we pass a particular station with a butterfly custom guitar in progress. It is stunning. I want to stare at it forever. The neck: a cherry blossom pattern of perfection. The body: covered with floating mother of pearl butterflies. It is still in pieces, not fully assembled, but the concept of the design is clear to me and it is mesmerizing.
Instantly I fall in love… and then find out it would retail somewhere between $75-100k - maybe more!
Seeing that guitar-in-the-making changed me forever and in that moment I know I will never look at any guitar the same again. I make it no secret to Chris that I am utterly enchanted by the Custom Butterfly.
Chris amusingly makes certain we pass the “butterfly” workstation on 4 separate occasions within a one-hour period. At least now I know where the song title “Killing Me Softly” may have originated. Inlay designer/artist, Aaron VanWhy, graciously allows me to invade his space. Surprised he lets me get so close I snap a few more shots of his meticulous handy-work on my iphone.
As a gesture of my sincere gratitude to Chris for the private VIP style tour I sing So Eden for him in his office, my single on the radio at the time. He offers to build me a guitar with a smaller amount of butterfly inlay so I can feel close to the guitar I am now obsessed with and considering stalking. I have every intention of taking him up on this offer.
Meeting The Butterfly motivates me to practice guitar playing with renewed enthusiasm. Not a day goes by I don’t think about that guitar, wonder where it is, who it belongs to, if they love it as much as I do, and how it can be mine one day. I am not a virtuoso on the guitar by any means, but after witnessing the butterfly-in-the-making I stand by my confession…
I’m In Love With A Martin.
A hockey fan? Yes. A Patriot? Yes. A Los Angeles girl? Yes. A music lover? Most definitely. I hung up my figure skates forever ago. My very first pair are pretty tiny and are for a 5 year old. But my love for the ice never melted even though it’s been at least 20 years since I last laced up ice skates.
There’s something about the way cold air comes off the ice rink and hits your face as the players rush by. Hockey is an exciting sport, I call the players toothless rockstars because that’s what they are. I am proud to be an American and believe in the American Dream, and achieving great accomplishments through hard work and focus. This hockey nut, me, is LA born and raised, except for my 4 years at San Diego State University, and frequent travel for work. Loving music has been a part of me about as early as my first ice skates.
Katrina performing the National Anthem at the LA Kings game on FOX.
So, you can imagine my excitement as news arrives. The Star Spangled Banner is mine to do justice on November 19, 2013 at Staples Center, downtown Los Angeles, Kings vs. Lighting. People often ask if I get nervous about singing the Star Spangled banner as the performance draws near.
My answer is always the same. No one wants to be the person who butchers our Nation’s Anthem. And I assure you, any poor unfortunate soul who has messed it up certainly didn’t do so intentionally. It’s such an epic foul that many professional musicians -great ones- will go through their entire careers never having sung this one song solo, a cappella, and in a public setting.
I look forward to the moment I get to step into the center of Staples Center when it’s packed to the gills. When nervousness creeps up I remind myself it would be a dream come true to sing to a packed house who gathered there solely for me, so surely I can nail this one song I have practiced a thousand times over.
But it is there. In the back of my mind I know and feel the great importance of delivering a beautifully executed National Anthem. There is a responsibility I feel to the LA Kings team playing at home, to L.A. my hometown crowd, and to our country’s heroes to do great. There is a sense of pride and respect for those who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom. All of these things motivate and inspire me to try to be better.
Since I won’t be able to scream it into the microphone after I sing the Star Spangled Banner at Staples Center on November 19, I’ll say it now and I’ll say it proud.
Go Kings Go!!!
Saturday night, October 19, 2013, I was at Staples Center, along with around 18,000 other Los Angelinos.
This was my first regular season home game, since I was in London last week working on my album. We already have amazing seats. Jesse James and Sandra Bullock used to have season tickets literally right next to ours until a certain situation happened.
View from Ice Box, Center Ice
So all of a sudden we have a surprise at the end of the first period. The beautiful Erica Spencer, with the LA Kings, comes over and says “how would you like a special treat during the 2nd period?”
She hands us tickets to the Ice Box. What is the Ice Box you say?
The Ice Box is made up of 10 seats, two rows each with five chairs, and it is magically located at center ice in between the LA KINGS and visitors bench. It was so exciting down there. You can hear the guys talking to each other. You can feel the door giving access to the bench slamming shut as the line changes.
I felt like I was sitting on the bench with them. It was a ridiculous rush.
The first team player next to me was Matt Greene. Then Willie Mitchell and then Drew Doughty. If I had to pick a favorite player I wouldn’t be able to. I would probably name those three. It was so fun. A few times I thought I was about to get run over. Being in the Ice Box is similar to standing in the middle of oncoming traffic.
Willie Mitchell, view from Ice Box
I loved being that close to the action during the game. I loved having a chance to see Darrell Sutter’s facial expressions, the intensity and focus, and team effort. He gives the best interviews.
As a LA girl born and raised I’m a proud LA Kings fan. I remember the buzz in the house when as a young teenager we’d be at Iceoplex and Luc Robitaille showed up and took the ice. We were in awe. Now he cheers me on when I sing the Star Spangled banner at Staples Center, and I get to sit in the Ice Box. How surreal.
Drew Doughty from the Ice Box
Tonight I will be back at Staples Center to watch the LA Kings again from my regular season seats and hope for news that I will be singing our Nation’s Anthem for them again soon.
George Bernard Shaw- Irish writer, once said: “England and America are TWO COUNTRIES DIVIDED BY A COMMON LANGUAGE.”
Church in Seven Oaks, Kent
I love to travel. And it’s a good thing because last year my job required me to be away from home, on the road usually a different city every other day, for nine months out of the year.
Language skills come in handy when you are country hopping. Elated to travel to London, since I wanted to visit the UK ever since I was young, I knew communicating would be a piece of cake. After all we have the English language in common.
On my second visit to London I was performing everywhere in the city, it was a dream come true. Imagine the one place you have always wanted to visit. Then picture your dream job being the reason for your trip. Happiness took on a new meaning when this day arrived.
I had just completed my first performance at the BBC. Sitting directly across from me was the head of my UK team, William Haighton, next to him sits a well known journalist Simon Hardeman. The rest of the tables’ occupants made up of various lovely members of my team, and of course my adorable and gifted musicians.
In Wales, where I had my first and only shandy waiting for the train.
Simon asks, “So Katrina, do you ever lose your temper or get angry with people. How do you react if something should go wrong?”
“Well Simon,” I retort without pause, ”I think everyone is entitled to a bad day, we are all human. But I think that at ones core should ultimately be understanding and kindness. There’s a way to address someone, even if they have done something wrong or a problem should arise.”
A short while later an unexpected surprise lands in my lap, literally. William is telling a story, and much like myself, he is very expressive and talks not only with his mouth but also with his hands. I think it’s the creative side of our brain that causes us to wave our hands about, as if to give words our intended meaning. The table is unusually narrow. His hands go up and before I know it I have two glasses of wine in my lap, his and mine.
I wasn’t mad but I was shocked and happened to scream out a profanity and burst into laughter at the same time because I was sitting in wine. At exactly the same moment the music in the restaurant stops as if the entire thing has been choreographed, and all of the Londoners in the restaurant turn to look at this “crazy American” screaming foul language like it is a joke for the whole of the patrons/ restaurant to hear.
My entire table is in rolling laughter. And then the laughs keep coming. I start saying “oh, it’s okay, I have another pair of PANTS in my bag. I always carry an extra pair of PANTS with me when I have a show because I usually wear more comfortable PANTS when I’m not on stage. Don’t worry William, I am fine I’ll go change my PANTS and come back.”
I hear chuckles but think nothing of it because I incorrectly assume that they are still amused by the wine spillage. As I always say “it’s not a party ‘til someone spills something.”
I return to the table and announce, “I changed my PANTS.” All is well, but the giggles continue. Then my UK publicist seated to my left, Dave Clark, leans in and says, “Katrina, here PANTS means underwear.” I want to crawl under the table but as I said earlier it’s an unusually small table.
“Dave,” I utter. A smile barely camouflages my embarrassment, “aren’t you supposed to tell me these things before I have made a complete fool of myself?” He comforts me telling me my American accent has clued everyone in on my intended meaning but he thinks I should know… for next time.
There was a next time but it had nothing to do with pants.
As a musician I rely on the person running sound in order to hear what I’m doing on stage. Without good sound a performer is in big trouble and may as well just give up before they start. I especially appreciate a girl sound engineer. I am into girl power in general, but it’s so rare to see a young female rocking it with the sound equipment. I am not sure as to why live sound is so male dominated, but it is.
My performance at the Regal Room was loads of fun. The crowd was amazing, a lovely young lady named Aimee Leigh Dean was running the sound and engineering it all, and she was fantastic.
She knew her GEAR. Since we bonded so hugely at The Regal Room show she came out to support me at my BBC performance. I invited her to join in at the post BBC dinner and she accepted. I was going on and on about how she is amazing at live sound and a total GEAR head. I was telling everyone how she is all about her GEAR and knows how to rock it.
A familiar chuckle spreads across the group. Dave leans in and says to me, “darling, I think you should know that here GEAR is slang for drugs. “Great! I have just called this adorable, sweet, angel-faced live sound engineer a drug addict. That is just fantastic. Could I put my foot in my mouth one more time? I think I need an English lesson.”
A small side street in London behind Harrod’s I fell in love with while on a walk with a friend.
We all laugh so hard we may as well be on the floor. It’s harmless enough. Everyone knows Aimee is not a drug addict, and now everyone also knows that I am not from around London.
Fortunately for me I can handle being the butt of a joke, or shall I say the bum of a joke. Which leads me into me next example of differences between Brit-English and Amer-English, which is what it should really be called.
I meet Amy Wadge for the first time and we are going through some of our past musical experiences and accomplishments. I feel it’s important to tell her that among other things, at the age of 12, I worked with Lou Rawls. I see that familiar look between her and her grown niece. It’s uncomfortably familiar.
“Loo Rolls did you say, love? That means toilet paper.” I smile and just have to see the humor in that one. A music legend’s name means toilet paper in the UK?? We laugh our bums off at this wonderfully hilarious “getting to know you” and run off to the studio to write the first of many songs you’ll be hearing soon, like “Heart Beats.”
Language barriers have not held me back from making life long friends that bear the Union Jack. Still it remains. George Bernard Shaw was on to something when he said we are….
“TWO COUNTRIES DIVIDED BY A COMMON LANGUAGE.”
Lately I have found myself upset about the increase in animal cruelty reporting in local news. One in particular, where a man stole a car with the family dog inside, has stayed with me since I first heard the story. He later left the dog in the car with windows and doors closed where the loved family pet ultimately perished. Instead of letting myself cry I decided to take my feelings as fuel to do something positive.
Her name is Tahiti. At No Kill LA Shelter on Pontius Street.
I recently noticed there is a new animal shelter in the city. The sign out in front of the shelter reads “NKLA”, aka “No Kill LA.” I said to myself the next time I have a minute I am stopping in to see what this is all about. Today was that day. A supermodel’ish gal Tammy greets me at the door. I start asking all sorts of questions about the facility. She goes on to tell me they have cats and dogs all breeds all ages. Many of these sweet furry faces are rescued from other shelters where they are literally about to be put down simply because there’s no room.
Tammy says I am free to roam around, which I do un-bashfully. I meet several little souls waiting to be adopted. I talk to them, tell them that they are loved and they will be loved until someone takes them home to be spoiled endlessly. As I start to tear up it hits me. No tears necessary here. Each and every one of the animals under this roof will remain under this roof until they are found a permanent home.
I reassure aisle after aisle of cats and dogs not to fret, that a new Mommy or Daddy will be here any time now. One little guy in particular captured me. No he’s not at MY house, but he left an impression. Jerry. What a sweet one. My little cocker spaniel doesn’t need a companion, but if I had gone in looking for a pet I would have a hard time saying goodbye to Jerry. I may have even taken his roommate home too because they seemed like such good buddies and were both simply adorable.
His name his Jerry. So Sweet!
Before leaving the shelter I make a donation and grab a stack of flyers I’ve been handing to my friends and businesses I frequent, just to help spread the word. So if you are looking for a new four-legged friend, or if you want to make a donation of any amount, please go to NKLA.org. They really do make a difference.
Ready To Love: Video Shoot, Day 1 Philadelphia. Our first stop is Grasso’s Magic Theater. I meet my boyfriend Josh Colon for the first time in the street in front of the magic theater. Josh was a cast member on MTV’s The Real World Washington D.C. the same time that Jersey Shore had exploded onto the scene. Rob cast Josh, and Josh fits the part I think to myself.
The snow stops and starts making us all cold. The flakes are enough to chill us to the bone but not enough to mess with the filming or schedule. We film in the street first. This location and the storefront fascinate me. Grasso’s Magic Theater is family owned and operated. I cannot wait to go in, and not just because it’s snowing and I am significantly underdressed.
We knock off the initial outdoor shots and make our way inside. Mr. Grasso is charming and a class act. He lets us have the entire shop and theater to ourselves. We have free reign of his “house” and it is a hoot. It leaves me wishing I had more time, so I can stick around to catch a Magic Show, maybe next time.
When Joe Grasso first bought this building all that stood were the two brick walls. Joe is a full time carpenter by trade. He built the theater himself after long workdays. It took 6 years to complete. The theater is now operational and bursting with personality. Joe restored chairs and pews he salvaged from trash and dumpsters for the theatre. Most of the interior is from reclaimed material.
What stands out to me most are the sconces that hang on either side of the stage. They are mounted like lamps, frame the stage like a picture, and are shaped like a torch. I wish I had a pair for my house.
There is a family connection with Grasso’s, and if you recognize the name it is for good reason. Joe’s son, Michael Grasso, is a gifted magician. He progressed far on America’s Got Talent and finished in 5th place. When he’s not busy performing around the world he does shows in Philly at the family theatre.
Meeting Grasso makes me feel so happy. He’s such a nice guy. I find his warm welcome to be a good omen especially since I am so far from home and everyone I am working with I have just met for the very first time today. The protection of the theatre leaves us oblivious to the literally freezing afternoon temperatures awaiting the group. After a long goodbye with Mr. Grasso we hustle toward our next location.
Love Park, here we come…
It’s Saturday morning 5:30 a.m., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, video shoot day 1, Ready To Love. The alarm goes off way too early. It is still dark out and my body is torn between London time, LA time, and Philly time. I hop out of bed and straight into the shower knowing the girls will be showing up soon.
When I say “the girls” I am referring to the Glam Squad. Rob Schwartz, AKA WhoMag, planned for them to come and get me ready. This way once I’m done with hair, makeup, and wardrobe we all just pile in and go to the first location together.
Looking in the mirror I hardly recognize the face looking back at me. Puffy with dark circles, my eyes reveal the fatigue my spirit refuses to acknowledge or confess. Even though I have never met a single one of them before, it makes me that much more thankful Glam Squad will be here any minute with the sole purpose of making me look fabulous.
I peel back the curtains in anticipation of their arrival. Low and behold it is snowing… hard. The forecast called for snow but I was in denial about it since 98% of our video shoot is outdoors. I get back into my flannel pajamas (with the colorful dogs all over them) for the getting ready process, knowing this is the last time I will be warm until much later tonight.
My honey lovingly offers up a Starbucks run which I graciously accept- thank you honey. As he walks out of our room the girls walk in. They are all adorable and way too pulled together for this hour of the morning darkness. Lindsey (hair), Lisa (makeup), and Tameka (wardrobe) pile into my room with their smiles and getting-ready-gear.
Luckily the rooms at Aloft are not only spacious and super cute (with a W Hotel kind of vibe), but laid out in a way that maximizes the space and provides plenty of counters and flat surfaces.
They spread out the goods and go straight to work since they have plenty to do. Lisa starts on the dark circles while Lindsey starts a plan of attack for the hair. My hair is so unruly we all joke about giving it its’ own name (which we never actually do). Poor Lindsey, she pulls out a roller brush and a blow dryer, and I say “no”. She pulls out a different round brush and again I say “no”. Luckily she is a good sport about it, “well what CAN I use on you?”
I tell her about all the lessons I have learned with my hair, and learned them the hard way. She listens with patience and changes her hair wrangling approach. She will leave my own curl in tact and this will help us battle the weather since my natural curl keeps well. She will use the curling iron to clean up a few frizzy pieces in an attempt to control and style the front.
Lisa is so cute hiding a giggle throughout the getting to know the hair phase. Out of the three she reminds me the most of me.
Tameka is deeply engrossed, ripping through the clothes, my pieces and hers, to put together different outfit options to keep me as warm as possible without all of my wardrobe changes looking like we are filming at the North Pole. Quickly we come to terms with the inevitable. I will be freezing my buns off for the next two days.
Not expecting to be disappointed I loved that I was impressed. These lovely ladies I had never met just came in, and did their thing, and the result? Beautiful. Rob shows up somewhere in the middle and unobtrusively makes his presence known. So patiently he watches the girls complete their mission and then kindly rushes us out the door.
My honey rides with Rob. I ride with my new girlfriends, the fierce Glam Squad. And we are off to begin the first of two-day shoot and to meet my new “boyfriend”.
To be continued…
The girls from left to right are Tameka, Me, Lindsey, Lisa. This picture was taken in front of the Noodle at Love Park, Philly.
Lindsey and Lisa run http://www.duettehmdesign.com/ - check out their site!
The news comes while I am in London settling in my new room. The hotel decided to give me a complimentary upgrade to a suite because I am here for so long. As soon as my London trip was over I would go home to Los Angeles and then get on a plane again. The music video shoot for Ready To Love would take place in Philly just after Valentine’s Day. My time at home would be just long enough to let me unpack and repack.
The introduction to Rob Schwartz AKA WhoMag takes place via email and was all arranged by Mike Rizzo, who I met through Jeff Z. Mike and Jeff are the key players in making the remixes, release, and music video happen. They introduced me to everyone involved in this song hitting the dance scene, except for FrankMusik and Rick Stone.
Rob is on top of it all. We discuss the video shoot, locations, characters, story line, production, and all of the elements needed for a successful result.
For me, Philadelphia is not unfamiliar territory. My Aunt and Uncle live in Wilmington, Delaware. Philly is their closest airport, 25 minutes away by car. I have flown in and out of Philadelphia numerous times for my music, to attend events and appearances in Atlantic City, and other east coast radio visits and tours.
The park at Rittenhouse Square is a fun stop. I even have my favorite food spots like Delassandro’s and Hip City Veg (yes I realize that I just name dropped a cheese steak and vegan joint in the same sentence- deal with it).
But as Rob guides me virtually through his music video concept and story line I have a feeling he’ll be showing me a side of Philly I have never seen before. After one last conference call I pack my bags.
To hop on a cross-country flight yet again is less tiring, and actually fun, since my honey is coming this time! I make sure to pack food and healthy snacks for the trip. I often get teased for having so much food with me when I travel, but it comes in handy when we get stuck. And we did get stuck.
A mad delay on the connection leaves us sitting in the airport for 6 hours. Thankfully when we finally arrive at the hotel we are able to check in quickly. I booked the cheapest room and I used points to do it, which meant I paid nothing, so I hope this isn’t one of those “you get what you pay for” situations.
It is my first stay at Aloft and I have no idea what to expect. When the hotel room door swings open a sigh of relief rushes out of me. The room is clean and cute. The bed and the bedding are both so comfy. Getting to bed is a top priority since I am still battling jet lag from London, and the call time tomorrow morning is so early it means waking up in the dark. Before I know it my honey unpacks most of my things. I take a quick shower and fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow….
A vacation is a getaway and a chance to explore a new place. Two weeks ago I arrived in St. Barth, a French island in the Caribbean. This was my very first visit to anywhere in the Caribbean and the weather agreed with me instantly. As soon as we landed I started peeling off the layers that kept me comfy on the ride over.
The hotel sent a car to greet us and delivered us to the little slice of heaven on the beach that would be my home away from home during my stay. A short time later the rental car was conveniently delivered and parked in the parking space designated to my villa.
The next day we decided some island exploration was in order. I was the driver for the day, and with happiness I took the drivers seat in our rental Suzuki. It bothered me not that the car was a stick shift.
I learned how to drive in a stick shift vehicle at the age of 13 in a Suzuki Samurai, and have more than decent driving skills. I can parallel park a Suburban, and once upon a time even took a two ton tow truck for a spin just for the fun of it.
Enjoying the scenery was cut short when we attempted to climb the first incline. To my shock and horror the car wouldn’t go, at one point started to go backwards instead of forward, and I was in second gear. I had to slam on the brakes, wave off the cars behind me to pass, and come up with a quick plan.
About to go for it in first gear the gear began to slip. My honey was hanging on to the passenger side door for dear life, like that would make a difference. I revved the gas and the car started going forward. What a concept. I had to go up all of the hills in first gear. Scary.
We drove straight to the rental car office, which happened to be at the airport. Along the same row were all of the rental car company counters for the whole of the island. With a sigh of relief we pulled up and said, “please take your car that has a bad clutch, first gear is slipping, and by the way it won’t go up a hill.” When the girl behind the counter retorted with “I don’t believe you” we handed her the keys, showed her where the car was parked, and bid her a forever farewell. Don’t believe me I thought. How silly. Like I need to lie?
Lucky any cars were available at all since it is high season here we gladly hopped into a Smart Car with seating for two. I had always wanted to drive one of those cars because I have several neighbors that have and love the Smart Car. One neighbor even goes to Costco in hers. She says it’s plenty big enough to fit all of her Costco shopping.
Absolutely loving the Smart Car was easy especially since finding parking in the most crowded places was a breeze. Due to the size and weight of the car I hardly expected climbing a hill to be an issue, no matter the size of the engine. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Half way up the car would go no more and was just about to start downhill backward while in drive. Once again I slammed on the brakes and waved off the motorbikes and cars behind us to pass. Luckily even though this car was an automatic it was also equipped with tip-tronic, which saved the day along with my sanity. First gear had quickly become my only friend at that moment.
Returning this rental too was a no brainer. For some reason I had a difficult time explaining that I know how to drive a stick and automatic, and all I want out of life right now is a car that is able to go up a hill without messing with the settings or beginning to roll backwards on an incline because it doesn’t have enough power or momentum to get to the top, or having to shift into first gear.
Luckily the third vehicle was able to handle the ups and downs of the drive without any drama. I don’t know what issues, if any, I expected to encounter on this trip. But I can honestly say I never thought I would be unable to climb any hill no matter what make, model, or engine size of the vehicle. The road conditions in St. Barth are no joke and every trip tends to have an unexpected twist of adventure.
I guess it gives new meaning to the phrase….
An Up Hill Battle.