An unquenchable thirst for music was instilled in Karen Lee Batten at the young age of four. For Batten this meant singing and singing some more before realizing that she could make this childhood dream a reality. Batten, knowing she had to pursue this lifelong dream anyway she could, engrossed herself in the music industry working any job she could to climb the ladder to the top rung.
Recently, we caught up with Batten to discuss her journey, the lessons she’s learned and her new single “Drinkin’ Song”.
Who would you describe as your biggest musical influences?
I think that in every stage of life, your influences change.
So when I first started really singing, I think Whitney and Mariah were at the top of that list as I pushed myself to learn vocal strength and different techniques that they clearly had mastered!
As I started writing, I loved listening to Amanda Marshall, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, The Cranberries, I could go on and on.
As I got older and performed a whole lot more, I fell in love with Eva Cassidy, Alanis, Etta, Aretha, Ella, Miranda, Carrie, and Martina.
But at the end of the day, I still love me some Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice n Chains, Counting Crows etc.… I mean… who doesn’t?
Did you always know that music was what you wanted to pursue?
l knew from age 4 that I loved to sing. I then found out around age 8 that I wasn’t terrible – haha. By about age 14, it really became a dream and when I was living on my own at 17, I knew that I wanted that dream to become a reality… it was the how that I needed to figure out!
Once you realized music was something you could pursue seriously what was your first step towards making it a reality?
I just knew that I needed to find work “in the industry” somewhere. So I started working a karaoke show in my hometown. It allowed me to learn new music, practice singing and meet other singers in the industry, too.
From this, I got a solo gig singing in a local bar, on my own to tracks – haha. I think back now how funny this sounds and it kind of was. I stood on my own, sometimes in front of a few people and sometimes in front of lots of people, and sang 10 songs x 2 sets, all while holding a small paper in one hand with lyrics on it, just in case I had a brain freeze. But in all honesty it helped me so much, as it got me over any sort of stage fright I may have had really fast, and to memorize lyrics. To this day, I still pull out the odd old cover from those days!
What’s the story behind your latest single “Drinkin’ Song”?
I had really never pulled my writing from past broken relationships. I think at times I felt like I didn’t want to talk about it and as well, who wants to hear about another relationship that didn’t work out? Whenever I thought about writing about an ex, I always thought it had to be sad.
What I love about how this song evolved was that, yes… I am talking about times that were not fun in my life. At the time, they were heavy, they were hard, but time heals. And while sitting with Jeff and Mitch (co – writers Jeff Johnson & Mitch Merrett), they asked and allowed me to take those times and talk about them in a completely different way. We made the heavy light.
“When the hard is hard to take, I need a song to numb the pain. When its wrong, I need a Drinkin’ Song.”
How do you feel this song differs from what you’ve put out previously?
This is a song that talks about my past, but is perfect for the future. I’m just so happy to have this song out…. and right now in the middle of all this, I think it was about time we needed a good party, and good time song. I know I needed one!!
How do you feel that your time on Canadian Idol has helped you grow as an artist?
I would say it was a great wake-up call to see just how much talent there is in Canada. When I heard how many amazing talented artists there were just in my season, it really made me realize that this is not going to be a walk in the park. I am going to have to work my ass off, on the show, off the show, in the future to try and be original.
It doesn’t come easy, it rarely comes to you, you have to work harder than you have every imagined. You have to want it. I would say that Idol really opened my eyes to this.
Sing every performance like there is a label head in the audience, like a radio program director is having beers with his or her friends. You never know who is watching so give it your all. Even if it’s “dead” that night.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
*No only means no if you believe it.
*Support others, don’t get caught up in the industry drama, because drama you will become.
*The people you see on the way up are the same ones on the way down. Respect everyone.
*ENJOY it…. It goes so fast, so have a freakin’ blast.
What’s next for you?
We’ve followed up the streaming release of “Drinkin’ Song” with a Canadian country radio release and a new music video! Then in the fall, there will be an EP release along with the next single release. Then – if the world has opened up a bit – we can make some live music again, party together, and rock these songs on stage!!!