Katie Kim: The Story Of Her Life


Katie Kim opens the Flood gates with her sophomore album

Irish autuer Katie Sullivan—who, as Katie Kim, home-records ethereal, loop-based folktronica like her recent Cover & Flood sophomore album—has plenty of frustrated yarns about the music busi – ness. And they all end with the same resigned admission: “Well, that’s the story of my life.”

Mike Scott hired her for the Waterboys’ 2011 effort An Appointment With Mr. Yeats and a subsequent European tour, but her duties ended there—she didn’t make it to these shores for its American run. And she helped compose a modern soundtrack to 1928 French silent film The Seashell And The Clergyman—which she performed live with her sextet at the time, plus some music for a U.K. TV series, Final Witness. But she hasn’t received any scoring offers since. Subsequently, the other five members scattered. “They’re now all over the world, doing other things, and I still don’t really like playing live by myself,” she says. “But I have to do it when I have to do it.”

Kim knows she doth protest too much, as things are going pretty well for her these days. The 20-cut Flood is finally reissued Stateside, and she’s put the finishing touches on its follow-up Salt (hitting shelves this autumn), in an actual high-tech studio in Dublin. “It’s much bigger, more ambitious-sounding,” she assesses of its 10 songs, including “Ghosts,” “Thieves” and “I Make Sparks.” But her actual biography is a fun, quirky one that leads almost inexorably to where she is today. Her quiet childhood in the lush Irish hamlet of Waterford was jump-started when she discovered singalong musicals such as Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

“And then I just fell in love with Queen,” says Kim. “I think I was 10 at the time, and that’s where my love of vocals came from. Because there were hundreds of them, just a choir of Freddie Mercurys, and I was like, ‘How is he doing this?’”

Then, she grew obsessed with Mariah Carey, even magic-markering the pop diva’s name across her knuckles and plastering posters at home. “My mother got really worried about me—it was very disturbing,” she chuckles. Later, she discovered Dylan, Bowie, Dory Previn and, finally, Leonard Cohen, which provided an aesthetic template for her first acoustic-strummed originals. To perfect her craft, Kim studied music theory in college. It only annoyed her.

“So I spent my college money on a computer and Pro Tools and started recording in my bedroom, and that brings us up to date,” she says.

And she’s proud of the moody atmospherics she DIY-achieved on Flood processionals like “Charlie,” “Blood Bean” and “The Feast,” all held together by her whispery, semi-detached vocals.

“But the music world is funny these days, and not the one I grew up imagining when I was dreaming of becoming this romantic musician,” she says. “People don’t really buy albums anymore and artists have to go on tour all the time just to make money—you really have no choice. Oh, well,” she sighs, adding—wait for it—“It’s the story of my life.”

—Tom Lanham