Toronto’s Peter Katz and Emma-Lee are bringing their remarkable musical talents to The Hideout on April 28.
Though their genres vary – Katz falls more into the folk/roots category where Emma-Lee leans toward soulful alt-country – their audiences tend to be familiar with both artists.
Locals can enjoy their singular talents during their City stop. Their collaborations began when Emma-Lee asked if Katz would sing on Where You Want To Be, a track on her then-upcoming debut Never Just A Dream back in 2010.
The two have been collaborating both on stage and in songwriting since. (Emma-Lee also appears on Katz’s 2012 release Still Mind Still, singing on the hauntingly beautiful It Was You).
“You meet a lot of other artists on the road, and while many of them are great, every now and then you come across one with whom you share an extra-special kinship,” said Katz.
“Emma-Lee is one of those rare people. She’s a super creative, fearless songwriter, and collaborating with her is great because neither of us will let the other give up on a good idea, nor let a not-so-good one through – we really hold each other to our best.
“We found we had a lot in common as far as our drive and focus went. When we started writing together, I realized she is really a kindred spirit – in how she approaches her career, her willingness to put herself on a limb and take risks.”
Recently, Katz and Emma-Lee got together at the Toronto Zoo to film and record their inspired banjo and guitar cover of Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got To Do With It video.
It’s a glimpse into what audiences on their current tour can expect to hear from the pair. Each artist performs their own material, sometimes accompanied by the other, as well as some covers and originals which they will perform together.
The new single What’s On Your Mind is their first publicly released original collaboration. “It started loosely with a chorus idea I had and then I suggested we try to write verses line for line improvising, we had to accept what the other person said,” says Katz. “That really gave us a ton of freedom creatively and it all came together quickly.
“The original version of it is a bit more folksy and bit ‘over the top’ playful – it works well when we’re are presenting it as a duo.
“In both of our solo projects we tend to be a little more serious, a little more cerebral. When we came together to work on this new project, it felt like an opportunity to do something different.”
Indeed, Katz captivates listeners with his unique brand of contemporary folk music. A passion for music was sparked early on – he recalls a household filled with music during his formative years. “My dad would try out instruments, play them for a month and then ditch them which was great because there ended up being all of these instruments around the house that I inherited. It was never a big focus, but my parents certainly made an effort to expose us to the arts in general. I always loved it.”
But he didn’t consider music a viable career choice until his final year in university.
“I then realized all the people in the world that I was most interested in were artists. I thought why don’t I pursue this? Why don’t I just go for it?”
Working on his guitar skills led to a discovery of a knack for singing, which in turn led to exploring the craft of songwriting. He tends to set aside specific time to write songs, although there are those moments of raw inspiration.
“I was sitting there the other day talking to my wife, and I was looking at her, and this whole song just came into my head. I said I’m sorry, I have to interrupt this conversation and go write this song. We’ve been together for 10 years and she knows me very well, so it wasn’t a problem,” he laughs. “Every now and then you get sort of touched by an angel, and it happens. I’m kind of a believer in the ‘make an appointment to write and the inspiration will follow’ philosophy.”
2011 saw him release a live CD/DVD entitled Peter Katz and Friends: Live at the Music Gallery. The concert was recorded in front of a sold-out crowd and reveals an artist at home on the stage.
“That to me is the best part. For me I think I just write songs because I want to play them for people,” he explains. “I love when a song comes to life for an audience, I love that they are different every night, and I love writing a song in the morning and playing it that night. For me, I live and die to play for people.”