Listening to More Than Music: Kat Kidwell and Jason Gremley

by Liz Baudler

You have to wonder what two extraordinarily multitalented people like Kat Kidwell and Jason Gremley are doing making music. It’s not that their sound isn’t inspiring—both Kat and Jason have performed at Life Force Arts Center before. It’s just that they have so many ways to express themselves. Kat’s macrame guitar straps dangle from the ceiling as part of Life Force’s Prayer exhibit, and Jason, well, Jason’s a former exercise guru, model and actor. So for both of them, why music?

“When I was in Hollywood, the main avenue that I was taking was modeling and acting, and I noticed that you’re always going by someone else’s script,” says Jason. “I didn’t want to follow that script, and I began writing poetry, and then I thought, mmm, poetry turns into music. As an artist, you have a lot of creative freedom with music. Music is like the bridge to the divine. Everyone listens to music. You can reach a lot of people, you have artistic control of it, you don’t even need the major record labels anymore; with the internet you can do it all on your own.” For Kat, it’s much simpler. “Music was just the thing I knew I had to do.”

Collaboration drives these two, who met a year ago during Life Force’s eagle ceremony. Jason was looking for a contact in the music field; Kat was an audio major at Columbia College. “I really want to expand my horizons with a lot of the talents that Kat has,” he says. “I have a creative vision, but I’m still a baby with the music, I have basic skills that can put it out there enough, but the creative process at that point really takes a lot of faith and trust and collaboration to expand it.”

They have much in common, from the way they write songs, (words first, then music), to an unswerving commitment to being themselves. Talking about her older work, Kat says, “I could pinpoint some songs that weren’t me. Or [me being] something I wasn’t sure I was.” And the reason she wrote those songs that weren’t her? “I got scared to listen to myself.”

Jason, on the other hand, has never seemed to have that problem. Discussing one of Kat and Jason’s favorite artists, Taylor Swift, Jason says, “If anything, I would have to be more like her. Conform to a certain level, to where I’m not losing my artistic expression. But I’ve always been like, no, I ain’t doing that, that ain’t me. The Hollywood people were like, “What? You gotta do it this way.” I had modeling contracts, they’d hand me the contract, and I’d scratch out 70-80% of the contract and then sign. I’m not to be manipulated.”

Perhaps this uncompromising attitude has led to one of the pair becoming the artist formerly known as Kat Wyand. The Folk & Beyond performance July 23rd is the first that Kat will do under her new name. “Kat Kidwell was actually a name that came to me when I was 11 or 12 and just starting to get into my musical groove. For years I imagined that’s the name I was going to perform by, my spirit name, and some people for various reasons didn’t really like that name, and because of that, I stopped using it midway through my teens, and just used my given name.

“A few months ago, some other folks and I were talking about spirit names, and I brought up Kat Kidwell, and people have been commenting ever since that they feel like that’s really me. I think it’s definitely changing my character, the character of my music, how it comes outwardly.” Kidwell is Kat’s mother’s maiden name that’s she claimed—and now reclaimed, for her own.

Also for that Saturday night performance, the pair plan to try some new elements in their act. Influenced by fellow musicians, Kat and Jason will include interactive elements such as sing-alongs and drum circles in their concert. Kat is really looking forward to this. “I do really enjoy performance, and I think it’s definitely it’s a major part of what drives me to do the rest of it. But writing music and the recording process and even making connections with people, if those couldn’t be enjoyable I probably wouldn’t be doing it.” And as Jason learns to let his lyrical poetry flow into notes and chords, and Kat tunes into her inner muse, this statement of Kat’s rings true for both: “I think I could do anything if I wanted it badly enough, which I think is the only reason that I’ve been able to do music.”

Musician, actor, model, and fitness specialist E. Jason Gremley (rememberjasongremley.com), who holds two bodybuilding championship titles, appeared on the cover of Men’s Workout Magazine, and had a part in the movie Vanilla Sky, is reemerging after a ten-year sabbatical. Jason is once again sharing his heart and his creations with the world.

One of Kat Kidwell’s (katkidwell.com) major influences was an old folk guitar songbook she discovered when she was eleven. Another was the collection of Beatles records her mom played for her as a kid in the nineties. “People are right, I was born in the wrong decade,” Kat, a self-described hippie spiritual songwriter and music engineer, says. Nature, paintings, church choirs, and folksy campfire sing-alongs inspired her. Kat sings songs that encourage people to have fun and to think about possibilities and unseen connections.

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