I arrived at Pub Thirty Two 20 minutes before I was scheduled to speak with Katelyn Marie, figuring I’d have time to take in my surroundings. However, as I started to take notes, I looked out the window and saw my interviewee walking up to the front door. Apparently we both like being early. We bonded over that as we took a step outside to get some fresh air and talk in peace.

She’s been performing solo since 2012, so I was curious to see how she’s developed as an artist since that time.

“When I first started writing,” she told me, “I didn’t consider myself a writer, it was just, ‘Let’s write a song and, you know, play hooky from school.’ I wrote about stuff that wasn’t really true to me, but it was catchy. … As I got older and started to think of myself a writer, I went through a little rut and had writer’s block for a couple of years. I was thinking, ‘I can’t write about me! Then I actually have to go to that place that’s scary. I don’t want to go in there, I want to lock that up and make stuff up!’ So it’s a lot harder now, but I find it’s much more rewarding. … It’s a lot more relatable to people when you’re feeling it and it’s a true story.”

As she’s gone through her journey as a writer and performer, Katelyn’s played with a band, rode solo, and, for a couple years now, worked with guitarist, singer and songwriter Billy Alexander. He initially reached out to her via ReverbNation to write with her, which sparked their partnership. The timing was perfect; she was fresh out of high school and leaving her band, and he was just coming out of a collaboration with a different country artist. They fell in together and he became her guitar player.  

Photo by Ryan Najjar

At every stage of Katelyn’s career, no matter who she’s worked with, she says, “Country is my soul … [it’s] where I go to as a writer. But as far as singing, I love everything, [especially] blues-rock. I gravitated toward country as a little girl cause that’s what my mom always had on. Dixie Chicks was my childhood. We’d wake up before school and sing into a hairbrush in the mirror and fight over who got what part. You know that song ‘Picture’? I was always the guy and it was so fun.”

She recalls a story from when she was in middle school singing the National Anthem at a hockey game. “People were coming up to me saying, ‘You have this country voice, where are you from?’ They’d hear me talk and say, ‘You’re from California,’ and I’d reply, ‘Yeah, I know, I’m not even trying, it just comes naturally.’ That’s what has always felt the most genuine and sincere … even though I’m from California I’ve always felt like a country girl, in a weird way.”

Her voice isn’t limited to the country sound, though. At different points in her singing career she’s received comparisons to a range of vocalists, from fellow California-based singer Colbie Caillat to Amy Lee of Evanescence. The latter confused both of us slightly, but as someone who was sad and angsty in my early teens, I consider any comparison to Evanescence high praise.

I was curious about whether the Colbie comparison might be rooted in her listening history, so I brought the conversation back to the music she was raised on. Her mother had introduced her to Tom Petty’s discography from a young age, and she later got into Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, along with Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. She correctly describes Carrie as a divine figure who “can do no wrong.”

From there, she let me know that she has big plans for the near future, namely the recording and release of her debut EP, a goal she’s been working toward since graduating high school. Now, after establishing herself as a full-time musician, saving up and writing constantly, she’s ready to create a project that’ll tell her story.

As far as what that story is, she’s looking to let people in on her real experiences. “I’ve been through breakups, love, jobs, this and that, everywhere … so I’m hoping to share those experiences in my songs.” She wants to make the sort of music that helps listeners realize they aren’t alone, and she wants to talk about things that people aren’t always willing to talk about.

Billy pulled up to the bar as we were talking and I left them alone so they could set up for their performance.

I took the opportunity to scope out the bar, and enjoyed its minimal yet warm vibe. They’ve taken a modern aesthetic approach with certain twists, including wood furnishings, vintage mirrors and striking black and white depictions of nature and ruins. Their outdoor patio is fairly low-key, and the addition of a wooden wall planter with various succulents and cacti gives it a cozy and hip feel. By that time, I noticed that Katelyn and Billy had completed their setup with the planter serving as a backdrop, so I took a seat and waited for the show to begin.

I don’t expect a lot of energy during any Sunday afternoon performance, but they blew me away. Throughout the show, they were bringing the sort of charisma you’d expect on a Friday night, and they brought a range of moods to the table. Even with this range of moods, they were able to transition between vibes with a refreshing smoothness. They had excellent chemistry together on stage, and Katelyn’s powerful vocals, Billy’s dynamic solos and their occasional duets made their performance that much more captivating. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable moments was their performance of a track off Katelyn’s upcoming EP called “Hit & Run,” which captures the intensity of lost love with a touching precision.

After seeing her and Billy express their truth, I’m beyond excited for Katelyn’s future as an artist, and I hope you, our lovely readers, can share in that excitement as well.

You can learn more about Katelyn and her upcoming shows from her website, and you can find out more about Pub Thirty Two here.