News and Reviews

National Reviews for ‘Suit Of Hearts’

REVIEW: Katy Vernon Releases The Beautifully Complex ‘Suit Of Hearts’://americanahighways.org/2019/05/16/katy-vernon-releases-the-beautifully-complex-suit-of-hearts/

Reviews May 16, 2019  Gary Schwind0

Katy Vernon is a singer-songwriter who was born in London and currently lives in Minnesota. Of her new album Suit of Hearts, Vernon says, “most ambitious project I’ve done so far musically, it is also deeply rooted in mental health and sobriety.” Whatever the subject matter, it doesn’t take long to figure out that this album is hard to pin down. If someone were to ask you “What do you get when you add horns, ukulele, and spacey slide guitar to 90s pop?” you might expect a punchline. You’d be waiting a while because the title track of this album sounds like what would happen if The Darling Buds added all of those elements to one of their tunes. Kind of a saloon piano sound in “In Your Shoes” along with some alt-country guitar sound. The more you listen to this album, the harder it is to describe the songs. “Home” has a little twang in the guitar courtesy of Clay Williams. The ukulele gives a bit of an exotica feel, while the trumpet part by Paul Odegaard gives the song just a tinge of Latin flavor. “Catch Myself” is a song that sounds ready-made for country radio especially with the strings by the Laurel String Quartet. It is a sweet, pensive song in which Vernon reveals, “Kept thinking someone else would save me.” It’s easy to imagine this being one of those songs that you hear wherever you go. “Undertow” is a song that begins with some spacey twang. There are a lot of layers to this song from Simon Husbands’s poppy piano part that brings to The Beatles (“In My Life”) to mind to the lonesome sound of the pedal steel. It is as complex and pretty as the other songs on the album. If you think it’s never too early to get into the Christmas spirit, you’re in luck. This album closes with “Christmas Wish”. Like the other songs, this one has a lot of layers: pedal steel, trumpet, and what sounds like vibraphones. Vernon sings about how her Christmas wish will never come true, but somehow she doesn’t sound quite as sad as a lot of singers do in sad Christmas songs. Suit of Hearts is a complex, multidimensional album that defies easy description. The sounds range from pop to country, and Vernon’s sweet voice ties it all together. Suit of Hearts will be available everywhere on May 17.


 FV Reviews (album review) 5/7/19 URL: https://fvreviews.com/2019/05/07/katy-vernon-suit-of-hearts/

‘Suit of Hearts’ is the divine new release by Katy Vernon. This 12 track album has become a ‘go to’ on our playlist and it is most definitely a force to be reckoned with. Her original sound makes her stand out from the crowd and Vernon is most certainly a master of her craft.Suit of Hearts’ has elements which are sent from the heavens. Vernon’s unique vocal performance matched with her ukulele and excellent songwriting makes for a sound which is truly blissful. We have not heard an album which is as unique and as characterful as this in a long time. The album opens with the title track, ‘Suit Of Hearts’. First, we hear a feedback opening with claps to keep the beat, strings and horns. The horns are a special element which features heavily on this album. They are beautifully captivating. There are layers of depth and interest to be enjoyed throughout. We adored the songs, ‘Home’ for its Spanish vibe, superbly played guitar and luscious harmonies. ‘Listen’ is a wonderful track, its opening sounds like a wave sweeping across the audio spectrum. From the strings to the syncopated drums, each element has been carefully thought out and cared about. ‘Latest Disaster’ has a Lady Gaga feel to it. It has synths galore and is catchy with energetic high hats too. Parts of the album reminds us of, Panic! At the Disco’s first album from 2005, ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out‘. Its instrumentation and clever transitions between parts are always intriguing and engaging, this is often what is missing from new music. Katy Vernon’s band are comprised of: Katy Vernon – Vocals, Guitar, Ukulele. Clay Williams – Guitar. Simon Husbands – Keys, Vocals. Chris McAtee – Drums. Reed Pagel – Bass. Paul Odegaard – Trumpet and Terry Isachsen – Guitar. There is no doubting the talent and skill which all of these players have in abundance. They create rhythms and melodies which are unexpected, innovative and constantly exciting. Any music lover will love this album. London Born artist Katy Vernon now resides in Minnesota. She is a formidable talent which is surely destined for very big things in this world. We can not recommend her fresh and talented sound enough. Make sure you check out this exciting release ASAP!


Skope Magazine (album review) 5/8/19 By Dan MacIntoshRL: https://skopemag.com/2019/05/08/new-album-released-by-katy-vernon-suit-of-hearts

Publicity photos of Katy Vernon are a little deceptive. She’s a pretty woman, sitting with a ukulele in hand. Therefore, one might rightfully expect her music to be stripped-down, old-fashioned ukulele-centered music. However, Vernon’s album, Suit of Hearts, is quite a different thing, indeed. The album opens with its title track, which bursts out like an 80s U2 anthem. It’s not just a cute girl merely strumming her ukulele happily. Instead, it’s a full-bodied arrangement, featuring Spanish-inspired acoustic guitar strums and a horn section worthy of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” The song includes a lyric filled with words of empowerment and encouragement. Vernon asserts that, even though a person may not save another’s life, a life well-lived is still a worthwhile goal. “Life is what happens,” Vernon quotes John Lennon, “when you’re busy making other plans.” Along the way, there’s even a slide guitar solo. Thus, Vernon opens her album with a bang. all the joy exuded through her music, you’d never easily notice how Vernon has had a difficult life. She lost both her parents young. Writing songs was one therapeutic way Vernon dealt with her loss. She’s originally from London, but after meeting her future American husband on a train from Amsterdam to Berlin, she settled in St. Paul, MN. One song titled “Listen” is given two distinctly different renditions. One, titled “Listen (Strings And Voice Mix)” is just that, nothing more than Vernon’s ukulele, a string section and the artist’s vulnerable vocals. The other version is similarly transparent, but also includes a more solid rhythmic part with its drum fills. “Pink Cloud” is the album’s most joyous track. It’s an upbeat declaration of happiness. In our increasingly cynical times, Vernon’s overt thrill with life is so refreshing! The song includes cool organ and electric guitar solos. “It feels so right not to feel so wrong,” she gushes. This is the song to play when you wake up with the blahs. Even one song that faces personal struggles, called “Undertow,” leaves the listener feeling comforted and hopeful. It’s a slower, quieter number than “Pink Cloud,” and includes some nice steel guitar. “Somebody’s Daughter’s Daughter” is one of the album’s more stripped-down songs. It features nice, twangy electric guitar work. Best of all, the song’s few other aural elements bring out the lovely quiver of Vernon’s vocal. The only song that doesn’t seem to fit quite right is “Christmas Wish.” Its jubilant vibe fits with Vernon’s musical approach, but a Christmas song, on an otherwise non-Christmas release, is just a fish out of water. That’s likely why she put it at the end of the recording. It’s rare to come across an album so consistently delightful. However, ‘delightful’ is the only appropriate word to describe Vernon’s Suit of Hearts. Yes, she could have easily become a blues singer, based upon her difficult familial upbringing. But she didn’t. Rather, she’s one that’s learned to find joy, and expresses this joy through music. Besides, blues music and ukuleles don’t go together well. Never have, never will. If Katy Vernon’s Suit of Hearts doesn’t put you on a pink cloud, it’s likely nothing will.


Warlock Asylum (album review) 5/10/19 https://warlockasyluminternationalnews.com/2019/05/10/suit-of-hearts-by-katy-vernon/

Katy Vernon’s passion and artistic industriousness have established her as one of Minnesota’s busiest musicians. Interestingly, this folk music diva was born and raised in London, UK. Vernon is very active in the music world. She performs in more than 50 shows a year and puts on an annual Uke Fest benefit to raise funds for charity. Vernon’s new album titled Suit of Hearts is an emotionally-charged musical journey with a refreshing sound. Suit of Hearts consists of twelve tracks. Coupled by the musical craftiness of her band, Vernon has put together a very soulful work. Tracks, like Listen and Look To The Sea, are great examples of Vernon’s creative range and inventiveness. Vernon’s voice has an enchanting flare that is sure to capture audiences. Suit of Hearts excels as an album for its innovative qualities musically and profound lyrical content. For more info on Katy Vernon and her new album Suit of Hearts, please visit her website at http://katyvernon.com

In Studio Sessions:

Radio Heartland:

https://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2019/03/21/katy-vernon-performs-in-the-radio-heartland-studio

Katy Vernon’s bio describes her as a “singer of sad songs with a happy instrument,” which is brilliant and accurate given Vernon writes and sings with a ukulele. But when you ask Vernon about that, she says, “Actually I am the happy instrument.” Suit of Hearts is Vernon’s new album, and it’s being released in concert this weekend at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis. The songs on the album deal with sadness and regret, but when you listen, you hear a woman also finding strength and opening doors to a brighter future. I finally had the opportunity to meet Katy Vernon when she brought in her whole band to do some songs from the album live in the studio.

Katy Vernon and her band in the Radio Heartland studio; L to R: Reed Pagel, bass; Paul Odegaard, trumpet; Katy Vernon, ukulele and vocals; Clay Williams, guitar; Chris McAtee – drums; Simon Husbands, keyboards. (Mike Pengra | MPR)

Songs Performed:

“Undertow”

“Catch Myself”

“In Your Shoes (For Daisy)”

The Local Show:

https://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2019/03/21/katy-vernon-on-facing-fears-and-vulnerable-music

Katy Vernon isn’t satisfied with just wearing hear heart on her sleeve — so she stitched herself an entire suit of hearts. The singer-songwriter has always addressed personal themes in her music, often pairing dark lyrics with her cheerful signature instrument, the ukulele. On Suit of Hearts, Vernon addresses themes from confronting grief and finding confidence as a musician to rediscovering her family’s roots. Vernon wrote many of the album’s songs while traveling around the UK. Born and raised in South London, Vernon moved to Minnesota when she was 21. After feeling lost from juggling part-time jobs and disconnected from a sense of home, Vernon accepted an invitation to perform at two ukulele festivals in the UK, and spent the weeks between them on a solo tour. While there, she visited the hospice where her mother passed away, reconnected with a cousin she hadn’t seen in 30 years, and traveled alone for the first time. “That was so much of what that tour was about — just facing my fears,” said Vernon. Vernon is debuting Suit of Hearts at the Parkway Theater this Saturday. Ahead of the concert, she joined Andrea Swensson on the Local Show to talk about the journey that inspired her latest album and finding recovery in writing vulnerable music.

The Local Show interview, with Andrea Swensson:

Below is a partial transcription of their conversation. Click the player above to listen to the full interview.

I have this impression that you have just poured your entire heart into this album; it seems very personal.

Yeah, really personal. My songs always were personal, but I think other CDs that I’ve done, I’ve thought of them more of them as a setlist — which I enjoy, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in that. But this one was really like, “This is a story.” This is going to chronicle where I’ve been, where I’m at right now, and where I’m going, and really delve deep into what I was going through at the time — and songs written in real time. I’ve written sad songs about memories that have been with me, people in my life I miss, but this one was like, “I’m going through this right now, and I’m going to use this song to figure out how to get through it.”

You really get that sense from listening to it — that it’s a lot of processing, and perhaps catharsis as well.

I knew that I was going through heavy stuff, but I wanted to write a record to help me get through it, and hopefully show the possibilities that no matter how much you are facing in your life or how low you feel, I wanted to offer songs that show you can get out of that. Maybe you have to do that yourself, and obviously ask for help from the people around you. That was very much digging myself out of where I was at.

When was the earliest that you started working on this album, and what was going on in your life at that time?

The first song I wrote is the song “Home.” In the summer of 2016 I was feeling very homesick; I was in a job I didn’t like, really quite difficult, challenging job. It was a part-time job, I thought I could juggle my music and my job really well — turned out it wasn’t going well. I realized that I missed my home, and then had a very strange feeling of not even knowing what my home was. I’ve lived half my life in the UK, born and raised there, half my life here, and didn’t even really feel a sense of where I belonged.

More importantly, at that time I was also very newly sober, and realizing that I was still blaming myself a lot for drinking. Even though I stopped I was experiencing so much self-doubt and blaming myself for all of that. I began to wake up to the fact that maybe my drinking was not the only issue, and that [the issue] was the reasons why I had been drinking. A lot of that had to do with literally self-medicating against feelings I was having, and also I had a lifelong health condition that was causing pain.

So I got myself to the doctor, and I was diagnosed with depression, and that was the beginning of realizing that it wasn’t my fault that I felt the way I did. Not to alleviate that there was nothing I could do about it, but actually the reverse of that — that I could do something about it; I could seek help and get better. I realized that I had really been grieving for about 30 years, and I always thought that was what was wrong with me, and I wondered why I couldn’t get over it. I blamed myself for not being able to just move on in life.

It wasn’t until my brain and my head got clear of alcohol — and I was diagnosed with depression — and I was like, “Oh, maybe it’s not just my fault.” I couldn’t shift myself out of that sadness. Through a diagnosis and starting medication, the fog started to lift, and I realized, “Oh, this is something fixable.” That was when I quit my job, and under the encouragement of my husband, I accepted an invitation to play a couple of ukulele fests in the UK. They were six weeks apart, and I really agonized, “Which one should I do?” They were both great, and my husband was like, “Just go, just do both and tour in between. Just leave.” So I did, for the first time; really jumped into being a musician and not worrying that it was my side-hustle, and just literally taking myself seriously as a musician, going “I’m sober, I’m on medication, I’m just going to commit to this.”

Had you ever done traveling alone like that before?

No. It’s funny, because sometimes people think that you’re an international traveler, because I’ve been lucky enough to travel. But it’s never been by myself, and it’s never been as a working musician. I’ve done the road-warrior kind of gigs in Chicago and Wisconsin, but I had never ever done a tour. I booked these gigs in all different parts of the UK. In one day I realized I took a train, a car, a bus, and I ended up on a narrow boat in North Wales with a complete stranger; we knew each other just through setting up the session. He records musicians from all over the world on his narrow boat in North Wales. There was not even an address; you just follow the canal path until you find him. I ended up staying the night on his narrow boat, there was nowhere else to go. To do all of that independently, by myself, was just incredible.

That seems like it would be such an interesting way to process what’s been going on — to fully remove yourself from your life and your day-to-day grind of family and jobs and just focus on yourself and your music.

It was hugely transformative. There are many a bedroom musician who looks at someone like Bon Iver, and thinks, “What would I come up with if I was ever in a cabin by myself for a week?” I think especially as a wife and a mom — they weren’t shackling me in any means — but I always put other people first. I feel selfish enough that I gig all the time, and I commit to my weekly band practice, so I’m certainly not saying I don’t have me-time. But six weeks of traveling and playing music with nothing else to do was such a gift to myself — and terrifying. The prospect of being completely alone, and newly sober, too. To be in the UK with pubs literally on every corner was scary, but I knew I had to prove to myself, “I can do this. This is my job. There’s no one else I have to prove anything to except myself, and I’m going to travel and stay sober and really enjoy every moment.” It was such an adventure.

Tell us a little bit more about the show coming up this weekend.

It’s going to be at the Parkway [Theater], which really is a dream. I knew that I wanted to have people really sit down and listen. That can be a challenge, but I really deliberately picked a theater to have a special send-off for it. When doors open at 7 we’re going to meet and gather in the lobby, and anyone who wants to can be involved in filming a music video. For that hour we’re going to intentionally have people take part in that. The title track is what we are going to be filming: “Suit of Hearts.” I really wanted everyone there to take that on as everyday acts of bravery. It’s definitely not just a song about me; I want everyone to share what they feel brave about.

So that will kick off the evening, and Tori Evans will be starting the show. She is a 16 year-old ukulele player who I’ve somewhat taken under my wing. We’ve now done a couple of ukulele fests together and she’s just absolutely taken off. She’s popping up all over town playing, she’s a great songwriter. Then Dan Israel’s full band will be playing, and then the Prairie Fire Lady Choir will be doing a short set of their own, which is such a dream come true because they will be singing with us for the last song. And we will be joined onstage with the Laurel Strings. We practiced with them last night and it was just goosebumps.

I’m just a cheesy theater kid at the end of the day. To have the opportunity to put on a show is a dream come true.


Local Press Highlights:

City Pages (top 5 MN videos), Star Tribune (interview), Mostly Minnesota (show review), Star Tribune (best concerts this week), The Current/ Radio Heartland (in-studio), Pioneer Press (interview), City Pages (interview), KFAI/ MSP Sound (in-studio interview and live performance), Star Tribune (pick six), Mostly MN (playlist), Twin Cities Media (calendar/ preview), The Current (song of the day), Mostly MN/ WMCM Radio (in-studio), The Current (playlist), TPT Television

City Pages (top 5 MN videos) 5/21/19 By Jared Fagerberg

URL: http://www.citypages.com/music/positive-affirmations-new-planets-and-warehouse-woes-in-this-weeks-top-5-mn-music-videos/510179941

“You may never be brave/You might never save anyone’s life in this life but your own.” If you needed to hear those words today, thank Katy Vernon for writing them. Vernon’s affirming new single “Suit of Hearts” is the title track of the local songwriter’s new album, representing the record’s enduring soul. For the video, Vernon and director Rouse Productions asked attendees of the singer’s release show to share the moments when they feel most brave. In the process, they created a testament to the everyday battles people win through positivity.

Star Tribune (interview) 4/20/19, By Chris Riemenschneider

URL: http://www.startribune.com/twin-cities-strummer-katy-vernon-breaks-out-of-30-year-funk-to-write-songs-of-hope/508820032/

Her rebound led her to not only write a hopeful new album, “Suit of Hearts,” but to follow her passion. Talk about a tough room.Two summers ago, Twin Cities singer/songwriter Katy Vernon returned to the hospice care center in London where she last saw her mom alive at age 12. She went there to perform for teens with terminal illnesses, not long after coming to grips with the deep-seated sadness and self-medication she had grappled with throughout her adult life.“When you’re going through recovery, you learn that doing things to help other people helps you get out of your own way,” she said, marveling at how the seemingly unenviable gig “felt so beautiful” in the end. “It completely changed how I felt about that place, creating something positive out of something so negative.”

A ukulele-strumming tunesmith who now calls White Bear Lake home, Vernon has often wittily billed herself as “a singer of sad songs on a happy instrument.” She did not realize until a few years ago, though, just how truly sad she was after losing her mom to lymphoma and her dad to a heart attack five years later. A quarter century later — and now a mother herself to two teen girls — Vernon finally sought help for her long-undiagnosed depression and accompanying alcoholism. Her rebound led her to not only write a hopeful new album, “Suit of Hearts,” but to follow her passion and play music full time and use it as a vehicle to help others.Part of the Twin Cities music scene going back to her early-’00s rock band, the Camdens — which she formed after meeting her ex-serviceman husband on a train in Europe and eventually following him home — the London native enjoyed a good local buzz off her prior solo album, “Present.” Surprisingly, though, she didn’t enjoy its rollout. “I was actually hung over the day of the release party,” she recalled with a wince. “When I looked at my behavior and my moods, I realized I was medicating with alcohol and had been for a long time. So I thought if I stopped drinking, I would feel better. And stopping did help, but I realized a lot of the heavy stuff was still there.” The heaviness, of course, had a lot to do with the lingering trauma of losing both parents before her 18th birthday. She finally sought treatment and was formally diagnosed with depression — which, she said, “was almost a relief.

Just as being a woman in the music scene has its challenges, she said speaking about recovery sometimes involves sexism.“As a society, we kind of look down more at women with drinking problems — especially mothers — whereas men seem to be able to speak about it more with a certain sense of romance about it.”These newfound efforts follow Vernon’s long-standing support for the Arc Minnesota, which is the beneficiary of the annual Uke Fest she organizes every October in honor of the oldest of her two brothers, Peter, who was born with cerebral palsy and still lives in London.Katy often sings to Peter via Skype, and she visited him during the six-week stay in England that included her return to her mom’s hospice facility and gigs all over the country. That’s also when she wrote many of the songs on “Suit of Hearts.” “It was a big leap of faith, because it was the first time in my life where I got to be nothing but a musician, at least for a few weeks,” she said, noting that “Undertow” was influenced by the seaside location. “It’s so much a metaphor for recovery because you have to give up all control and trust that you’re going to be thrust back out and make it to shore.” Her record closes with “Somebody’s Daughter’s Daughter,” a stirring finale featuring the Prairie Fire Lady Choir and sound bites from an interview Vernon tracked down of her mother, Juliet, speaking on a U.K. news program about raising a child with disabilities.“Her voice didn’t sound at all like I remembered it,” Vernon admitted, “so that made it all the more sad at first. But that, too, became part of the healing process.” That upbeat new outlook extends to ABBAsolutely Fab, a new tribute band that Vernon fronts. about which she said, “It feels great to just get up and sing happy songs like theirs,” she said, “and to step out of being a songwriter and just let go as a singer.”It feels even better having her own happy songs to sing now, though.“Part of me, as a songwriter, wanted to write a more miserable, woe-is-me, cathartic kind of record,” she said, “but I’ve spent way too much of my life being sad.”

“For 30 years, a big part of me thought: ‘Get over it already.’ But I couldn’t get over it on my own.”All of this led to many of the songs on “Suit of Hearts,” which she’s promoting with a digital/national release celebration May 18 at the Aster Cafe in Minneapolis. Dramatic but uplifting tracks such as “Latest Disaster,” “Pink Cloud” and the title track — produced with Minnesota music vet and fellow recovery advocate Kevin Bowe — reflect her turn to mental-health assistance.“You might never save anyone’s life in this life but your own,” she sings in the title song, “but that’s more than most of us can.”At her sold-out album celebration last month at the Parkway Theater, Vernon showed off her new efforts to help others by promoting the local mental-health arts organization Dissonance, for which she is also a board member.

3/25/19 Minnesota Review: Ann Treacy

URL: https://mostlyminnesota.com/2019/03/25/katy-vernons-long-awaiting-cd-reveal-party-at-the-parkway-is-a-great-show/

Katy Vernon celebrated her CD release among many musical (and music-loving) friends at the Parkway Theater. Suit of Hearts came out to a full house and lots of enthusiasm. And it was absolutely worth the celebration. Ukulele player Katy’s moniker has been “sad songs on a happy instrument”. Katy has been very vocal about her experience with depression and alcoholism this album feels like the ukulele is winning. Katy seems so happy and celebrated – although I don’t want to give the uke all of the credit. Katy’s happiness is well earned! I spoke to her about some of the trials and tribulations. It’s tough when you lose your parents young. And it’s tough to take 8 years off your musical career to raise kids. Kids are rewarding, but as a mother, I can attest that raising kids can be lonely and you spend a lot of time looking for the nonexistent manual for them and you! There are so many things to unpack about the show. First – the songs titles and images on the screen behind here. That’s a reviewer’s dream but it also helps set the tone of each song. The costume changes – wow! The showmanship. Wow! But the songs were the star. Suit of Hearts, the title song, has the biting irony of a Lily Allen, the key change of a Brandi Carlisle and the unique almost falsetto voice of Katy. The lyrics speak to the everyday hero, carrying on and (I think) both appreciating the heroes around and within us. Katy brings an honesty without bravado to the stage and allows us in to what hasn’t always been a happy story, much as I love her singing I think her legacy will be the people she helps and lifts out of their own depression. The full band is amazing. The addition of the Laurels String Quartet and Prairie Fire Lady Choir. I know Prairie Fire Lady Choir weren’t swaying at full mast, but they sounded fantastic. Who else can successfully mash up I am Woman and We’re Not Going to Take It. And when women have a seat at the table, it’s best to bring other women to join.

Star Tribune (best concerts this week) 3/22/10 By Chris Reimenschneider

URL: http://www.startribune.com/twin-cities-concerts-of-the-week-oberst-amp-bridgers-dan-shay-dessa-amp-mn-orch/507486252/

Katy Vernon: She’s come a long way literally and figuratively in her journey through the Twin Cities music scene, and now the ukulele-strumming British transplant is opening up on a personal odyssey that preceded her new album, “Suit of Hearts.” Dramatic, cliff-pondering folk-rock songs such as “Latest Disaster,” “Look to the Sea” and “Somebody’s Daughter’s Daughter” were written during a stayover in England as she fought past depression, alcoholism and the lingering pain of losing her parents during childhood. It’s a triumphant, feel-good record with wistful music to match from her longtime band and album guests the Prairie Fire Lady Choir and Laurel Strings, both whom will perform at the release party along with Dan Israel. (8 p.m. Sat., Parkway Theater, 4812 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., $10-$15, theparkwaytheater.com.)


3/20/19 Pioneer Press (interview) By Ross Raihala

URL: https://www.twincities.com/2019/03/21/katy-vernon-bares-her-heart-on-new-album-inspired-by-an-all-around-tough-year/

Singer/songwriter Katy Vernon’s optimistic new album, “Suit of Hearts,” was inspired by a whole lot of pain.“I had a very rough year in 2016,” said the London native who now lives in White Bear Lake. “I crashed my car, broke my toe, broke my phone and was trying to hold onto my marriage. I recognized my drinking had been a crutch and I tried to give it up. “Then I started to personally feel even worse, because I wasn’t numbing (my pain) with drinking. I was diagnosed with depression, which in a way was kind of encouraging. It wasn’t just personal shortcomings, it was something wrong with me that could be helped.” Vernon marks the release of “Suit of Hearts,” which she calls the most ambitious thing she’s done, with a Saturday night show at Minneapolis’ Parkway Theater. She’ll perform with her full band and the Laurel Strings Quartet atop a bill that also features Prairie Fire Lady Choir, Dan Israel and Tori Evans. Making it through 2016 convinced Vernon it was time to fully commit to being a musician. She had never toured before 2017 when she booked a six-week run of shows in the U.K. “I wanted to dive in and explore the U.K. and see what that experience brought out in me,” she said. “I started writing songs more to kind of chronicle what it felt like to go home, reconnect with family and sights and places. I wanted to be brave, to go on an adventure and not be scared.” It was a challenge for Vernon, who said she had never really been on her own like she was during her overseas trip. She met her husband, Randy, who was in the Air Force, by chance on a train from Amsterdam to Berlin. They married in 1993 when she was 21 and she moved to Minnesota where they started a family. (Vernon has two teenage daughters, Lily and Daisy.) Vernon has focused on playing the ukulele in recent years and landed spots at two large U.K. festivals devoted to the instrument. Those shows served to bookend her trip, which included gigs in pubs and clubs along with some house concerts. “It was scary to be completely on my own – very daunting, but also exciting. I had to live in the moment. I was in a different city every couple of days. For the first time, I really felt so encouraged on stage. People didn’t need to know me, they could just listen to the songs. I realized I have something to offer and that people were liking my music.” She returned to Minnesota with a clutch of fresh material and renewed enthusiasm. She did another U.K. tour last year and will launch her third this summer. Inspired by her trip, Vernon set up a Kickstarter to fund her new album and raised $10,000 in a month. She made “Suit of Hearts” with songwriter and producer Kevin Bowe, whose lengthy resume includes work with the Replacements, Joe Cocker, Etta James and Steven Van Zandt. “He encouraged me to make the most of this big adventure,” she said. “He was such a team player, he really made me feel like I was co-producing. He’s been sober for a long time and he knew and respected that there were serious underpinnings to these songs. We didn’t have to belabor it.” While much of Vernon’s past music has been folk rock, she took a leap into disco for the song “Latest Disaster.” The Abba tribute band she founded a few years back helped push her in that direction. “My drummer told me he knew why I started the Abba band, because it cheered me up. It was like joining a gym. Singing Abba songs has made me a better singer and I wanted to inject some of that into my record.” During the recording process, she stumbled upon the title she ultimately chose for the album. “It was somewhat inspired by social media and the weird time we’re living in,” she said. “I’ve chosen to be very open about the grief I’ve dealt with and my recovery. I realized I wear my heart not only on my sleeve, but all over myself, with nothing to hide. And I thought, that’s a good album title. I need to delve into what it means to me.” In the end, “Suit of Hearts” offers a range of emotions. “The point was not to chronicle darkness and depression, but to show you can come out of it. There’s always hope, you can always get better.”


3/20/19 City Pages (interview) By Erik Thompson

URL: http://www.citypages.com/music/katy-vernon-shares-her-journey-toward-healing-and-recovery-on-suit-of-hearts/507373911

The English seaside has inspired generations of artists, and now Katy Vernon can be added to that list.

In 2017, Vernon’s life was in disarray. She had recently left her job, quit drinking, and been diagnosed with depression. Amid all that emotional upheaval, she left Minnesota for a six-week run of shows in the U.K.—and began writing the best songs of her life.

“I started to get help for my depression, and I resolved to not drink to numb my feelings and self-medicate,” Vernon says now. “I allowed myself to really work through all that stuff that I was suppressing. I thought that I was really self-aware. I had written all these songs about feelings and being present—Present is literally the name of my last album. I’d done a lot of work on myself, but I was kind of missing the big picture, which was that there was something wrong with me that could be fixed, or at least helped.”

Vernon, who was born and raised in South London and moved to Minnesota when she was 21, brought that newfound sense of clarity with her as she ventured back home to the U.K. “I was really, really scared to do it,” she says of the trip. “I knew it would be a lot of time by myself, which as a newly sober person I didn’t really trust myself 100 percent with. Also, it was in the U.K., where you can find alcohol everywhere you turn. But I went with the encouragement of my husband, who said, ‘Go for it. You love music. You love playing. It will be an adventure.’ So, I just jumped on a plane and did it.”

Performing at two large-scale ukulele festivals inspired Vernon to develop a new style of playing and to challenge herself as a songwriter, developing techniques that she would use to write the songs that would eventually form Suit of Hearts, her third and best solo record.

“I was so happy to be there and playing, but I felt so intimidated. These were the best ukulele players in the world,” says Vernon. “I set myself the task of throwing everything I knew about songwriting out the window, and just trying to start over. I tried to write with all new chords, nothing I had done before. And a lot of grief and stress poured out of me. I knew I wanted to write my way out of that. I knew I wanted to write a happy album that would cheer me up, even though I had to dig deep in order to get there. I wanted to make myself feel better and see that light at the end of the tunnel.”

Intimate and unguarded, the songs on Suit of Hearts transform sad memories into happier moments. “Home” offers a glimpse of someone who feels like they don’t belong anywhere, feeling homesick for a place that doesn’t exist anymore, while “In Your Shoes (For Daisy)” offers support and encouragement to her daughters.

For Vernon, who has been an orphan for 30 years, the trip to the U.K. also took on a personal significance. With her cousin as a guide, she took a sightseeing tour of Wales, visiting the places where her mom grew up and locations that were important to her.

“I went back to the hospice where my mom died. That was the last place I saw her. I was 12 years old,” Vernon says. “But I was asked to put on a concert there. It was my first time walking back in that building. And there were all kinds of sad memories. But I was there to put on a concert for young people going through terminal illnesses, so I had to check my own issues at the door and not bring them in with me. So I sang, and it was a really lovely event. And that really changed my memory of the place. Those kinds of experiences are so good, to push yourself through and create a happier memory out of somewhere.”

Vernon threads layers of her mom’s speaking voice, from a long-lost interview with her on the BBC program Panorama, into the song “Somebody’s Daughter’s Daughter,” a way for the singer to have her mother personally involved in an album that drew so much inspiration from her.

“I sat on the same beach that my cousin was telling me was my mom’s favorite beach,” Vernon says. “And it was such a powerful moment, of realizing both the end and the beginning of my mom’s life, and all this stuff that I didn’t know about her. How joyful that all was for me. ‘Somebody’s Daughter’s Daughter’ was inspired by that day at the seaside. Because I thought, as lost and lonely as I feel, I did come from a family. There is a heritage there, I just didn’t grow up with it and I didn’t know it. And I felt really British, and connected to the land. And I realized that I’m not this broken, rubbish person. I came from something nice, I’m lucky enough to have a happy, healthy family myself. There’s a lot to celebrate.”

And Suit of Hearts is indeed celebratory, even hopeful despite the songs’ fractured origins, with lyrics focused on reassembling a life from its broken fragments. As Vernon sings on the title track: “You wear your suit of hearts/You tear yourself apart/But you’re not broken/Just a little rearranged/And none of us get out of here/Without a little change.” Vernon acknowledges the flaws and failures of her past, while rejoicing in the fact that she has changed her life—and her music—in a positive way.

“The little throwaway line I have in my Twitter bio says, ‘Singer of sad songs on a happy instrument,’” Vernon says. “It took me a while to even realize what that meant to me. And I think I was always a little embarrassed or insecure about how heart-on-my-sleeve I was about grief or any of those things that were difficult to sing about. But the more that I think about it, I’m the happy instrument. I’ve always loved singing and dancing and being a goofball, so that balances out this sad, kind of intense stuff I want to write about.”

Though a full band backed her in the studio, and the Laurel String Quartet and the Prairie Fire Lady Choir also appear on the album, Vernon proudly asserts that Suit of Hearts is first and foremost a ukulele record.

“In the past, I thought that I would be taken more seriously if I played at least half my songs on guitar,” Vernon says with a laugh. “But I realized that’s really silly. It’s still me. And I want people to realize that you can still front a band with a ukulele and it doesn’t have to be this twee, cutesy thing. It can

really rock.”


  1. KFAI/ MSP Sound (in-studio interview and live performance)

3/17/19

By Krista Wax

URL: https://www.kfai.org/episode/03-17-2019-msp-sound/


  1. Star Tribune (pick six)

3/15/19

By Jim Walsh

3 Cactus Blossoms, “Easy Way”; J.S. Ondara, “Tales of America”; Katy Vernon, “Suit of Hearts”; David Huckfelt, “Stranger Angels.” Four impressive, consistently beautiful Minnesota-hatched albums, harmoniously shuffling through my playlist and warming my winter-weary soul.


  1. Mostly MN (playlist)

3/15/19

By Ann Treacy

URL: https://mostlyminnesota.com/2019/03/10/mostly-mn-music-2-radio-hours-with-ben-noble-live-and-interview-with-dessa/

Song: “0”

Note: March, 23rd at Parkway


3/13/19 Twin Cities Media (calendar/ preview) By Markus Akre

URL: http://twincitiesmedia.net/blog/cool-shows-next-week-3-18-3-24/

As you may know Katy Vernon toured the UK a couple of years ago and it was a trans-formative trip for her. Not only was it a very literal homecoming, it was also the kickoff to a huge creative leap for Katy.

Katy traveled to play two of the largest ukulele festivals in Europe. The Greater Northern Ukulele Festival and the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain. They were six weeks apart so she decided to leave her job and jump in! Katy independently booked over 2 dozen other shows and traveled the entire country on her own.

Katy spent 9 days alone in Brighton by the sea. Every day Katy would walk to the sea and explore the town. This inspired so many songs and also gave me time to reflect and recharge. 2016 was a very difficult year personally, Katy set off on this tour newly diagnosed with major depression and newly sober. Being alone was exciting and daunting at that time. Katy sat by the sea and let all of that fear and uncertainty pour itself into songs.

This record is the most vulnerable Katy have ever been, but it is also more importantly the strongest she has ever been. These songs were written to inspire her to get through life’s struggles. They include happy anthems meant to embrace life. ‘Suit of Hearts’ is meant to reflect the vulnerability of wearing your heart on your sleeve, but also convey the strength of baring your entire self openly and honestly.

One that I think you will enjoy is the song ‘Latest Disaster’. It’s obviously very ABBA inspired. It’s been so fun for Katy to expand her sound and incorporate more pop influence. Katy feels like this is more of a organic growth of the band. They loosening up and started to have more fun.

Another song that means a lot to Katy is ‘Somebody’s Daughter’s Daughter’. Katy was inspired to write this as she walked the childhood haunts of her mum, and her cousin told her stories about the generations of women in their family that she never knew about. Katy wanted to pay homage to them. In addition to a choir of women singing on the song, you can also hear her own mum’s voice. Katy was able to track down this audio from the BBC last year, having not heard her voice since 1984. Kevin Bowe and Katy got chills editing it into the song.


3/8/19 The Current (song of the day) Song: Undertow

URL: https://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2019/03/08/katy-vernono-undertow


3/3/19 Mostly MN/ WMCM Radio (in-studio) By Ann Treacy

URL: https://mostlyminnesota.com/2019/03/03/mostly-mn-music-with-katy-vernon-anna-stine/

We had a wonderful show today and I could just cry because I didn’t push record in time. So the best parts of the show – the interviews with Anna Stine and Katy Vernon aren’t on the archive. BUT I have videos of each of them singing. It’s such a treat to have people play music the studio and we were twice blessed today.

Next we had Katy Vernon, whose CD (Suit of Hearts) is coming out March 23 with a big hurrah at the Parkway Theater. Katy haven’t known each other very long but I am so impressed by her. In the promotional video for her upcoming CD release she has a quote from Alice in Wonderland – I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then. We talked about that line.

First I learned that Lewis Carroll spent in Brighton and so did Katy. She went there for a 9 day writing retreat. She learned about a secret-ish tunnel from Carroll’s to the see and at one point he saw a rabbit (presumably white rabbit!) running into the tunnel. And that fit into her song Undertow, a song I liked before and love now. But it was great to hear from Katy how the quote fits into her own life – how she has recovered from depression and substance addiction to a better place.

I met Katy one night as we both volunteered to interview people experiencing homeless for three-year survey of a night on the streets in the Twin Cities. She has heard about it from a social post of mine and then there she was – after midnight at the bus transit at the Mall of America. So that’s not much about her singing, but it’s a lot about her songs and her humanity. One of the monikers I love for Katy is “sad songs on a happy instrument” and it’s very true. But we talked about how that’s less true than it once was – it feels some of the sunshine from the ukulele in sneaking into the lyrics! I really enjoy her music – it’s hard not to dance even when the dark tones take over the theme.




Advance praise for ‘Suit Of Hearts’

I didn’t expect “Suit of Hearts” to touch me as quickly and as deeply as it did upon my first few listens, but it did and it grabbed me the way any great song or long-playing collection of songs does: What did I miss the first time? What did she say? What was that? Are there more riches to be had? Sure enough, the songs on “Suit of Hearts” are best heard again and again, and by doing so we the lucky listeners (the second track, “Listen,” btw, is a string-thing of peaceful easy beauty that advocates for my favorite thing, listening) get to know something intimate about my friend and sometime collaborator, the Singer-with-a-capital-S Katy Vernon, as she bares her soul and beautifully tells her stories of family, kicking the bottle, life, love, motherhood, the tightrope of show biz, and the joy of singing.Great tunes abound, including the set-closer “Somebody’s Daughter’s Daughter,” a haunting cry for freedom featuring Katy’s late mother’s recorded voice); the should-be pop-dance smash “Latest Disaster,” the wised-up confessional “Catch Myself,” and the terrifically timeless saunter “Look to the Sea,” to name only a few off this supremely full-bodied and gorgeously produced (by Kevin Bowe) and played (the strings and Paul Odegaard’s trumpet are especially spectacular) gem. Katy’s voice is a thing of robust beauty, and she wears her heart on her sleeve throughout, but from what I hear here, it’s obvious that heart is so big, kind, and generous that it needed more fabric. “Suit of Hearts” is the sound of an artist simultaneously growing and in full bloom, and it’s exciting to hear. Jim Walsh
Author/writer/columnist/journalist


She’s come a long way literally and figuratively in her journey through the Twin Cities music scene, and now the ukulele-strumming British transplant is opening up on a personal odyssey that preceded her new album, “Suit of Hearts.” Dramatic, cliff-pondering folk-rock songs such as “Latest Disaster,” “Look to the Sea” and “Somebody’s Daughter’s Daughter” were written during a stayover in England as she fought past depression, alcoholism and the lingering pain of losing her parents during childhood. It’s a triumphant, feel-good record with wistful music to match from her longtime band and album guests the Prairie Fire Lady Choir and Laurel Strings, both whom will perform at the release party along with Dan Israel. Chris Reimenscheider – Star Tribune

Pioneer Press Article By ROSS RAIHALA | rraihala@pioneerpress.com | Pioneer Press March 21, 2019 

Katy Vernon bares her heart on new album inspired by an all-around tough year

Singer/songwriter Katy Vernon. (Courtesy of Randy Vanderwood)

Singer/songwriter Katy Vernon’s optimistic new album, “Suit of Hearts,” was inspired by a whole lot of pain.

“I had a very rough year in 2016,” said the London native who now lives in White Bear Lake. “I crashed my car, broke my toe, broke my phone and was trying to hold onto my marriage. I recognized my drinking had been a crutch and I tried to give it up.

“Then I started to personally feel even worse, because I wasn’t numbing (my pain) with drinking. I was diagnosed with depression, which in a way was kind of encouraging. It wasn’t just personal shortcomings, it was something wrong with me that could be helped.”

Vernon marks the release of “Suit of Hearts,” which she calls the most ambitious thing she’s done, with a Saturday night show at Minneapolis’ Parkway Theater. She’ll perform with her full band and the Laurel Strings Quartet atop a bill that also features Prairie Fire Lady Choir, Dan Israel and Tori Evans.

Making it through 2016 convinced Vernon it was time to fully commit to being a musician. She had never toured before 2017 when she booked a six-week run of shows in the U.K.

“I wanted to dive in and explore the U.K. and see what that experience brought out in me,” she said. “I started writing songs more to kind of chronicle what it felt like to go home, reconnect with family and sights and places. I wanted to be brave, to go on an adventure and not be scared.”

It was a challenge for Vernon, who said she had never really been on her own like she was during her overseas trip. She met her husband, Randy, who was in the Air Force, by chance on a train from Amsterdam to Berlin. They married in 1993 when she was 21 and she moved to Minnesota where they started a family. (Vernon has two teenage daughters, Lily and Daisy.)

Vernon has focused on playing the ukulele in recent years and landed spots at two large U.K. festivals devoted to the instrument. Those shows served to bookend her trip, which included gigs in pubs and clubs along with some house concerts.

“It was scary to be completely on my own – very daunting, but also exciting. I had to live in the moment. I was in a different city every couple of days. For the first time, I really felt so encouraged on stage. People didn’t need to know me, they could just listen to the songs. I realized I have something to offer and that people were liking my music.”

She returned to Minnesota with a clutch of fresh material and renewed enthusiasm. She did another U.K. tour last year and will launch her third this summer.

Inspired by her trip, Vernon set up a Kickstarter to fund her new album and raised $10,000 in a month. She made “Suit of Hearts” with songwriter and producer Kevin Bowe, whose lengthy resume includes work with the Replacements, Joe Cocker, Etta James and Steven Van Zandt.

“He encouraged me to make the most of this big adventure,” she said. “He was such a team player, he really made me feel like I was co-producing. He’s been sober for a long time and he knew and respected that there were serious underpinnings to these songs. We didn’t have to belabor it.”

While much of Vernon’s past music has been folk rock, she took a leap into disco for the song “Latest Disaster.” The Abba tribute band she founded a few years back helped push her in that direction.

“My drummer told me he knew why I started the Abba band, because it cheered me up. It was like joining a gym. Singing Abba songs has made me a better singer and I wanted to inject some of that into my record.”

During the recording process, she stumbled upon the title she ultimately chose for the album.

“It was somewhat inspired by social media and the weird time we’re living in,” she said. “I’ve chosen to be very open about the grief I’ve dealt with and my recovery. I realized I wear my heart not only on my sleeve, but all over myself, with nothing to hide. And I thought, that’s a good album title. I need to delve into what it means to me.”

In the end, “Suit of Hearts” offers a range of emotions.

“The point was not to chronicle darkness and depression, but to show you can come out of it. There’s always hope, you can always get better.”

Katy Vernon shares her journey toward healing and recovery on ‘Suit of Hearts’

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 by Erik Thompson in Music

Katy Vernon puts the 'U.K.' in ukulele

Katy Vernon puts the ‘U.K.’ in ukulele – Randy Vanderwood

In 2017, Vernon’s life was in disarray. She had recently left her job, quit drinking, and been diagnosed with depression. Amid all that emotional upheaval, she left Minnesota for a six-week run of shows in the U.K.—and began writing the best songs of her life.

“I started to get help for my depression, and I resolved to not drink to numb my feelings and self-medicate,” Vernon says now. “I allowed myself to really work through all that stuff that I was suppressing. I thought that I was really self-aware. I had written all these songs about feelings and being present—Present is literally the name of my last album. I’d done a lot of work on myself, but I was kind of missing the big picture, which was that there was something wrong with me that could be fixed, or at least helped.”

Vernon, who was born and raised in South London and moved to Minnesota when she was 21, brought that newfound sense of clarity with her as she ventured back home to the U.K. “I was really, really scared to do it,” she says of the trip. “I knew it would be a lot of time by myself, which as a newly sober person I didn’t really trust myself 100 percent with. Also, it was in the U.K., where you can find alcohol everywhere you turn. But I went with the encouragement of my husband, who said, ‘Go for it. You love music. You love playing. It will be an adventure.’ So, I just jumped on a plane and did it.”

Performing at two large-scale ukulele festivals inspired Vernon to develop a new style of playing and to challenge herself as a songwriter, developing techniques that she would use to write the songs that would eventually form Suit of Hearts, her third and best solo record.

“I was so happy to be there and playing, but I felt so intimidated. These were the best ukulele players in the world,” says Vernon. “I set myself the task of throwing everything I knew about songwriting out the window, and just trying to start over. I tried to write with all new chords, nothing I had done before. And a lot of grief and stress poured out of me. I knew I wanted to write my way out of that. I knew I wanted to write a happy album that would cheer me up, even though I had to dig deep in order to get there. I wanted to make myself feel better and see that light at the end of the tunnel.”

Intimate and unguarded, the songs on Suit of Hearts transform sad memories into happier moments. “Home” offers a glimpse of someone who feels like they don’t belong anywhere, feeling homesick for a place that doesn’t exist anymore, while “In Your Shoes (For Daisy)” offers support and encouragement to her daughters.

For Vernon, who has been an orphan for 30 years, the trip to the U.K. also took on a personal significance. With her cousin as a guide, she took a sightseeing tour of Wales, visiting the places where her mom grew up and locations that were important to her.

“I went back to the hospice where my mom died. That was the last place I saw her. I was 12 years old,” Vernon says. “But I was asked to put on a concert there. It was my first time walking back in that building. And there were all kinds of sad memories. But I was there to put on a concert for young people going through terminal illnesses, so I had to check my own issues at the door and not bring them in with me. So I sang, and it was a really lovely event. And that really changed my memory of the place. Those kinds of experiences are so good, to push yourself through and create a happier memory out of somewhere.”

Vernon threads layers of her mom’s speaking voice, from a long-lost interview with her on the BBC program Panorama, into the song “Somebody’s Daughter’s Daughter,” a way for the singer to have her mother personally involved in an album that drew so much inspiration from her.

“I sat on the same beach that my cousin was telling me was my mom’s favorite beach,” Vernon says. “And it was such a powerful moment, of realizing both the end and the beginning of my mom’s life, and all this stuff that I didn’t know about her. How joyful that all was for me. ‘Somebody’s Daughter’s Daughter’ was inspired by that day at the seaside. Because I thought, as lost and lonely as I feel, I did come from a family. There is a heritage there, I just didn’t grow up with it and I didn’t know it. And I felt really British, and connected to the land. And I realized that I’m not this broken, rubbish person. I came from something nice, I’m lucky enough to have a happy, healthy family myself. There’s a lot to celebrate.”

And Suit of Hearts is indeed celebratory, even hopeful despite the songs’ fractured origins, with lyrics focused on reassembling a life from its broken fragments. As Vernon sings on the title track: “You wear your suit of hearts/You tear yourself apart/But you’re not broken/Just a little rearranged/And none of us get out of here/Without a little change.” Vernon acknowledges the flaws and failures of her past, while rejoicing in the fact that she has changed her life—and her music—in a positive way.

“The little throwaway line I have in my Twitter bio says, ‘Singer of sad songs on a happy instrument,’” Vernon says. “It took me a while to even realize what that meant to me. And I think I was always a little embarrassed or insecure about how heart-on-my-sleeve I was about grief or any of those things that were difficult to sing about. But the more that I think about it, I’m the happy instrument. I’ve always loved singing and dancing and being a goofball, so that balances out this sad, kind of intense stuff I want to write about.”

Though a full band backed her in the studio, and the Laurel String Quartet and the Prairie Fire Lady Choir also appear on the album, Vernon proudly asserts that Suit of Hearts is first and foremost a ukulele record.

“In the past, I thought that I would be taken more seriously if I played at least half my songs on guitar,” Vernon says with a laugh. “But I realized that’s really silly. It’s still me. And I want people to realize that you can still front a band with a ukulele and it doesn’t have to be this twee, cutesy thing. It can really rock.”

 Present: Released 2015

 Present Press: 

U.K. expat Katy Vernon: ‘death, drinking, disability’ songs meet the uke

The combination of getting older and having a day job is an eternal struggle with which most artists deal. On her latest album, Present, Katy Vernon finds solace and contentment in her current life, somewhat appeasing those demons that force you to create while living a “normal” life.

The record is an example of the mystery that is the human mind and a reminder that music is about making people feel they are part of something — a larger tribe. On it, Vernon digs deep into the creative psyche, revealing the complex interchange of ideas between human beings.

City Pages sat down with the U.K. expat and current Minnesotan before her album release on Sunday at Icehouse to find the process behind her latest musical venture.

City Pages: What drew you to the ukulele when you first began performing?

Katy Vernon: I’d been writing and singing for a long time but was in a creative slump. I played guitar a little but I was always primarily a vocalist and the idea of playing solo was completely daunting, so without a band I felt pretty lost. I saw Lucy Michelle play a tenor uke that had a fuller sound and really changed the way I felt about it.

A friend, Dave Kapell, had been telling me for years that it would be a good instrument for me so we went shopping together, and I literally asked the guys at Twin Town for the one Lucy played. I wrote my first song in a couple of weeks and it just felt instinctive to me to play it. It suits my voice well and I like the levity it brings to some of my sadder songs. On Twitter I call myself “singer of sad songs on a happy instrument.”

CP: What do you think is a common misconception about the instrument or even people who play the ukulele?

KV: I think most people still think it’s pretty twee. Every time I write a song on it I’m trying to make it sound different. It’s at versatile as any other instrument. I also put together Uke Fest every year and that embraces the large range of how it can sound.

We had 16 different acts this year and none sounded the same. I think you can embrace people’s misconceptions and have fun with it. There’s a history to cutesy songs being played on the uke and that’s fine but there’s so much more it can do.

CP: How did you come to working with your producer Kevin Bowe on this project? How do you think he changed the songs?

KV: I knew Kevin a little and he invited us in to his IPR [Institute of Production & Recording] sessions, which is a chance for bands to track for free and students to learn recording. I don’t think he had any idea how ambitious we were going to be when we came in. We had just come off a residency so we were super tight and we did five complete songs during that morning.

One of my favorite musical moments was when we played a song that day and when we were done the entire room of students clapped and said it was a hit! That was an unexpected and sweet moment. We went back and did the rest of the album that way and then spent the next year putting the rest of the tracks together at his home studio. It was amazingly productive.

The songs didn’t change during the recording process so much. I think the biggest factor was that we had really learned how to play together and tighten up our arrangements prior to going in. I could have agonized over every choice, and Kevin would get a couple of takes on everything and keep it moving. He told me to put all the stress on him, so I did. He’s incredibly encouraging and I felt completely listened to and involved.

One song that Kevin absolutely had a vision for and that we started over after the IPR sessions was “Pearl.” We had rushed that one and so when we re-did it he made a couple of keyboard sound suggestions and we added some single uke strums and it took on more of a Roxy Music vibe. I think if we had started at his studio in the beginning rather than going the IPR route, he would have had even more creative input, but I really wanted a band sound and I feel like we got that. He took what we were all already doing and made sure we didn’t overthink it.

CP: You mentioned you write a lot about tough situations in your life, such as losing your parents at a young age. How did/does music help you move forward when you’re faced with tragedies like this?

KV: It’s always been my outlet. I found it hard to talk about a lot and at some point people expect you to just be okay and stop talking about grief, but it’s always with you. I found pretty early on that I could put my feelings into song and then luckily people enjoyed them.

It might sound like a break up song or something else that people can relate to and although I know it’s cathartic for me it’s an even exchange of pretty singing and enjoyment for the listener. So hopefully it doesn’t sound totally self indulgent. It’s just a huge part of who i am and also a way to keep my parents memory and presence in my life.

I knew after my last record that I didn’t want another whole album that focused on that though. I’m trying to grow. The record is called Present because I’m trying to live in the moment more and not look back so much and not stress about the future either. Some of my deepest fears have already come true but I have so much to be grateful for.

CP: How do you self-edit to make it not cheesy and trite?

KV: On paper I might sound cheesy, English girl with a pixie haircut singing songs on a ukulele! But anyone who’s ever seen me would know that’s not the case. I pour my heart out on stage, and I just try to be really true to how I want to express myself. I definitely self-edit anything cheesy out.

I think that’s why I found it so hard to write happier songs. Whenever I write I just want to say something I don’t think had been said a million times. Love songs and happy songs are hard without breaking into the cheese. Songs about death, drinking, and disability are more my style.

CP: Tell me about the song “Lily.” How did you come to writing that piece? What headspace were you in when you were writing it?

KV: This was my happy song success story! The chorus came to me almost fully formed in the shower, I think a lot in there, and I loved the idea of someone painting the world with happiness. My daughter Lily wakes up every single day with a powerful joyful attitude that is so foreign to me that I just marvel at it! She’s also incredibly creative and really great at art. She drew the back cover art for this record.

Once I had the idea for the song I had to do some serious Crayola research to look up all the color names I wanted to name check. I’ve never done that with a song before so it was a fun project. Of course now there’s pressure to write a song about my other kid, Daisy, but she came in to the studio and sang backing vocals so that made her happy.

CP: Any other songs on this album that you’re particularly proud of or you embody when you’re on stage?

KV: “Pearl” is my favorite song on the record for now. It was such a turning point writing wise. I was really struggling with anxiety and grief and needed help trying to lessen some of the stress in my life. I actually turned to hypnosis therapy for help.

After leaving one session I had a strong sense of releasing some of my issues and sat down and wrote that song. It came flooding out of me all at once and is a really hooky beautiful song that I just love performing with the band.

I’d also say that the song that embodies me most right now is “23.” It’s about singing for myself and not fitting into the cookie cutter mold of whatever people judge as music industry success. I realized one night on stage that I’m not auditioning for anyone. I’ve got the gig. I gave it to myself after almost giving up. I don’t want to tell my kids they can do anything they want in the world but not tell myself that. It’s my own personal anthem!

CP: What are you excited to share at the album release show?

KV: In addition to unveiling all the new songs we will also throw in a few really beautiful covers that people haven’t heard us play before. Most importantly the evening will showcase how great the band [Clay Williams on guitar, Simon Husbands on keyboard, vocals, Chris McAtee on drums, Reed Pagel on bass, and Paul Odegaard on trumpet] is.

They have my back In every way and are some of the best players in town. No matter how I feel when I get on stage I know I will always feel better when I’m up there because playing music with them is pure joy.


Television:

WCCO News..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ4qySAtDSs

WCCO/CBS..http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2014/11/15/women-who-rock-katy-vernon/

TPT Almanac ; TPT Almanac Full Band

Thank you to ‘Almanac’ for having us on as guests. Click to view Almanac Appearance

Recently featured on WCCO News: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2014/11/15/women-who-rock-katy-vernon

& MPR News.. http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/10/03/ukulele

TPT Almanac http://video.tpt.org/video/2279389099/


Online:

Back to the City. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPfcdm_9jKA

Local Current Blog – by Aaron Bolton · 

The UK singer-songwriter transplant that now calls our skies home, Katy Vernon, is strumming those four happy ukulele strings on her new release Present. The record jumps off with “23.” It’s a vibrant introduction to the dark material hiding behind those bright tones and shimmering vocals. Vernon may be warm and fuzzy on the surface, but take a closer listen for a darker tone. Add her to your Sunday calendar for her show at Icehouse.


Album of the year (Country/Folk) L’Etoile Magazine 2015

Top Ten Album of the year #6 Pioneer Press 2015

Top Ten local song of the year #8 (PEARL) The Current 89.3 2015

Top albums of the year Rift Magazine 2015

ALBUM OF THE YEAR (Country/Folk): Katy Vernon, Present 2015

PRESENT – Review by Jon Hunt, letoilemagazine.com

“When Katy Vernon released her debut Before I Forget a few years ago, I called it an unrepentantly happy album — the delightfully folky songs’ inner sadness was bolstered and balanced by tons of totally contagious hope. It would have been super damn easy for her to just release Before I Forget vol. 2 and be just fine — people love “girl with ukelele singing sweet country-tinged folk songs” and a lesser artist probably would have just rested on those particular laurels. Instead, and quite amazingly, this record is a rich, fully-formed, brightly colored work of the kind of British pop that was popular in the late 80s and early 90s — think World Party, think The Wonder Stuff, think latter-day Tears for Fears, even. Dammit, that is ambitious, and a little unexpected (the influences come as a bit of a delightful surprise to me, as I adore that era of music), and as a result, Present is a kind of mini-masterpiece of melancholy and very British pop music, full of richly-drawn, delightfully developed melodies, gorgeous singing and lyric-writing and tons of great playing. The big hit: “Pearl,” which would have sounded absolutely right on any radio station in 1990, all electric-piano punches and sweet jangle and a wordless hook that will drill into your skull. Equally great: “All Fall Down,” which has a kind of righteously twangy guitar up atop and a gorgeous verse melody. There’s still uke, don’t worry — “Lily” is a delightfully cheery and jaunty piece of British music-hall, and “Heart Is In Your Hands” uses the instrument to oddly sad (and stunningly beautiful) effect (it’s usually quite a cheery thing, no?). It’s just not the main instrument anymore — that honor belongs to Vernon’s gorgeous and slightly-wavery voice which is itself quite a marvel, especially on “Heart,” which has a truly and marvelously heart-wrenching chorus. I’m happy to be a little surprised at this album’s ambition — the album elevates Vernon way above mere novelty (where she never was to begin with, thank you very much, however much people wanted to pigeonhole her into that) into a damn important local songwriter, and one to be reckoned with. Doubters take note: this is one of the three or four best local albums of the year however you want to cut it.” Jon Hunt, letoilemagazine.com

“With her first album, Vernon made it known that she was a standout singer and songwriter, even in the sea of talent that exists in the Twin Cities. Present shows us her emotional depth and precision, along with heavy doses of insight, pop sensibility and irresistible charm. The woman who writes sad songs on a happy instrument is feeling pretty good about life. This album will make you feel that way, too.” Chris Reimenschneider – Star Tribune

“Her roots have been firmly planted as one of the Twin Cities’ most beloved folky singer/songwriters. Her newest album, “Present,” at once shows off her blooming relationship with her local band — with whom she will promote the album Sunday at Icehouse in south Minneapolis — as well as it touts her happy home life in White Bear Lake. One of the standout songs, “Lily,” jubilantly compares her eldest of two daughters to her favorite Crayola colors, while the ballad “Heart Is in Your Hands” celebrates motherhood. And the romantic gem “Loud” — well, let’s just say it sounds a bit randy.” Star Tribune, October 23, 2015 – by Chris Riemenschneider

We don’t know if you can even call British ex-pat Katy Vernon folk anymore — sure, she still twangs the uke and carries a nifty folk sensibility through this album. But Present shows her growing by such remarkable leaps and bounds that she could be equally considered “rock,” or “80s-inflected sophisti-pop” if you’re into such narrowcast labels. There’s no question that it caught on, too: tons of airplay for “Lily” and “Pearl” and a million ever-growing shows proves that there’s something about her sensibility — sad, sure, but optimistic, and sweet and just a little bit cute — that appeals massively to Minneapolis audiences. Which is great: she’s also that rare artist that got where she is later in life through sheer chutzpah and hard work rather than any kind of artificially-manufactured buzz. And smart-as-hell music — there’s no denying the beautiful, brainy lyricism of a song like “23” or the delightfully wistful “Out Of My Depth” or the coyly bouncy “Play.” This is what happens when you’ve got a ton of talent and you came up in the UK in the late-80s — you absorb all that cool and eventually filter it into your sensibility, yeah? Guessing there’s more/better to come, too. – Jon Hunt – l’étoile magazine

“Present is a kind of mini-masterpiece of melancholy and very British pop music, full of richly-drawn, delightfully developed melodies, gorgeous singing and lyric-writing and tons of great playing. Rich Larson – Southern MN Scene

Before I Forget: Released 2012

Before I Forget might be Katy Vernon’s first solo outing, but it won’t be her last. With her strong vocal presence and sharp songwriting, she has the strong possibility of becoming a force in the indie/folk genre. This album is worth a listen, and I highly recommend it.”
By Nick Habisch, Rift Magazine
http://riftmagazine2.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/review-katy-vernon-before-i-forget/

Before I Forget” showcases her willowy siren voice and ukulele-plucked, autumnal back-porch folk songs.
Chris Reimenschneider, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“”Before I Forget” is Vernon’s first solo album, her compositions are fairly sparse, leaving plenty of room for her songbird-like voice and her ever-present ukulele. There is a beauty and hope in Vernon’s voice that ultimately makes the songs feel uplifting. “
Andrea Swennson, Local Current Blog

“”Before I Forget” is simply lovely; a celebratory, timeless, old-timey romp yes, romp, you heard me), the kind that doesn’t get made anymore, really. If you’re looking for a great record for a sun-dappled fall drive, this is your monster, my friends.”
Jon Hunt, Le’toile Magazine

“After all, you’d hate to be in the middle of a world-changing conversation, catch one of Katy Vernon’s songs out of the corner of your ear, and find yourself standing there, leaving you wondering what the hell you were talking about a minute ago. “
Dwight Hobbes, TC Daily Planet

This debut solo CD from the London-born singer-songwriter, who used to front the local band the Camdens, is a deeply moving set of songs focused on family connections that continue to bring joy and heartache”.
Dan Israel, Star Tribune

“Katy Vernon finds her voice”

A year ago, folk artist Katy Vernon recorded her first song in her bathroom, accompanied by only her ukulele. She wasn’t happy with the quality of the recording, but it was enough to win the support of a small troop of fans and raise enough Kickstarter money to record a proper album. That record, Before I Forget, comes out next month.”
Andrea Swenson, The Current.
2012  http://blog.thecurrent.org/post/2012/09/friday-five-mint-condition-meme-kevin-bowe-and-more

PAST PRESS

Katy Vernon’s past band ‘The Camdens’

“Katy Vernon’s floating vocalizations can gently caress or peak with a high-flying quality”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Such sweet melodies, commanding, heart-lost vocals”
PULSE of the Twin Cities

“Should please fans of the Sundays, the Smiths, and Everything But the Girl alike.”
Minneapolis City Pages

As lead singer for the group ‘The Camdens’, Katy played all over the Twin Cities. She was also nominated for a Minnesota Music Award for her song ‘Invitation’ which was competing for Song Of The Year. Limited Quantities of ‘Halfway Around the World’ by The Camdens available at shows (If you know the special handshake!)

Radio:

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/10/03/ukuleleWomenFolk’ Find of the month for KFAI Radio, Sept 2012.

Katy Vernon live from the MN State Fair

Katy Vernon and her band perform live and talk with Mark Wheat at the MPR booth at the Minnesota State Fair.

Posted by The Current on Friday, August 25, 2017

Katy Vernon took a ride with us for this year's first Sky Ride Session! She's playing her new song "Look to the Sea," from her forthcoming album "Suit of Hearts." See Katy play on Friday on the Schell's Stage, and then, also Friday, at the Minnesota Public Radio booth with Mark Wheat at 4:30 p.m.!

Posted by The Current on Thursday, August 24, 2017