Katie Ditschun is a singer-songwriter living in Alexandria, Ont.
She attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she studied jazz and contemporary vocals, and then returned to Canada and taught for a number of years.
In 2018, Ditschun began the process of recording her debut album called Spare Skirt. She describes her music as “quirky piano with some serious jazz notes,” and it’s full of lyrical substance and sincerity.
The album’s latest single is the moody, ethereal The Moon, a song that came together in almost an instant. “This song came to me in a sudden rush,” Ditschun recalls. “I sat at the piano and was astonished at how quickly it flowed out of me. It was like it had been poured into me.”
For the New Music Spotlight, Ditschun joined us to talk more about her life, career and musical process.
Let’s talk a bit about your song All Bundled Up. You say you wrote it a long time ago, but it was reborn when you were thinking about making this album. Tell me about that.
That’s true. I actually wrote that song when I was studying at Berklee. I guess it felt unfinished, so when I was getting ready to record Spare Skirt, I went back to it, did some editing, and it came out that way in the recording studio because of some magic on the harmonica.
Tell me about your experience studying at Berklee. How did it inform your experience and your style?
Berklee was an inclusive environment. Everybody felt welcome. You felt encouraged and challenged to be your best. I had studied classical music at Wilfrid Laurier, but pursuing that avenue of music just wasn’t for me. When I ended up at Berklee, I really felt at home. I’d go back their in a heartbeat.
What was it like trying to build your confidence from someone learning about music to someone who’s now releasing their own music?
It’s quite a journey. I had to first built my confidence as a performer. As I grew more confident as a singer, I felt a little more confident to put my own stuff out there. I was very lucky to work with some fantastic musicians on this album, and they really helped build my confidence as well. It feels great.
What was the catalyst for deciding that now is the time to put pen to paper and tell your own stories?
One thing that really pushed me was when my mom fell ill in 2012. I had spent a long time teaching music privately, which I loved and still love to do now, but I felt a push when my mom became ill. It was a terminal illness, and it woke me up and made me realize that our time is short. It pushed me to start working harder on music and getting my own stuff out there.
Did you find it easy to begin sharing all of your music? Was it easy to find a community with which you could share it?
I was really lucky. I moved to Alexandria a number of years ago, and I fell into a lovely music community that was really warm and welcoming. I was able to take my music to them and they were very willing to play it with me. That really helped build my confidence, because it was such a caring group of great musicians. I felt comfortable and I thought, “I can do this.”
You’ve mentioned that you write music as if you’re portraying a character, but you also incorporate a lot of your own personal story into your music. Is it easier to write through the lens of portraying yourself, as opposed to another character?
I really like the idea that you “write what you know.” I really think that is true. So, I write what I know. I write from my personal experience. But I really try to write it so that other people can listen to those lyrics and feel like it’s their experience. They can superimpose their life experience on those lyrics. They might get something different out of the lyrics than I get out of it, but I think that’s fantastic. They’re written for me, but hopefully other people listen to them and they feel themselves in the songs.
Tell me about your single The Moon. Where did that one come from? Is it true that Sting inspired that song?
Sting does inspire a lot of my songwriting. That one was one of those moments where you feel like you have this muse and you don’t know where it’s come from. I work really hard at songwriting, I dig into the lyric, but this one seemed to just happen. I was at the piano and the chords were flowing, and then all of a sudden I was singing these lyrics and this melody. I made almost no edits to the whole structure of the song. I knew as I was writing it that it needed the darkness and moodiness of the cello. This one just kind of evolved.
This interview has been edited and condensed.