KATE // CEO & Founder of Unspeakable Records
Where did you grow up and how has that influenced who you are today?
I'm from Olympia, WA, which is a small town in the Pacific Northwest. I would spend a lot of time outdoors with my family, which had a big influence on my appreciation for nature and ability to stay grounded when life gets crazy.
What inspired you to found an all female record label?
I needed to take a step back from my own music for awhile, and I wanted to turn my frustrations about the music industry into something positive by actively getting more women involved in music production and promoting their work.
What are some of the challenges and rewards you find being a woman in a male dominated industry? I've definitely had to develop a thick skin because of this industry. Being judged based on appearance instead of the quality of my work is not easy to deal with, and the need to grind twice as hard just to prove my worth as an artist and entrepreneur is exhausting at best. But facing these harsh conditions in the pursuit of doing what I love makes the process of music-making 10 times more rewarding, and the experience has taught me to be unapologetic about my values and ideas. Music is both the challenge and the reward.
How did you come up with your artist name?
Dot was my grandma's name, and she was one of the only other musicians in my family. She passed away before I was born, so I wanted to carry on her name and pay my respect in this way.
What advice do you have for younger women who want to create music?
If you want to make music, just start now! We are tremendously lucky to have access to so many resources and affordable tools to create music in 2016, so there are no excuses if it's truly what you want to do. If you're looking for a starting point, then find an artist you love, study their work, and then study the artists who they are influenced by. Make your own work based on what you learned. Repeat.
Where do you go for inspiration when creating a new track? Outside.
How would you categorize your own music?
60's-inspired dream beats with haunting vocal melodies. I guess it's my weirdo version of pop music laced with jazz and RnB influences.
Direct us to what we should listen to first if we're not already familiar with your music:
You could listen to Stereolab, Flying Lotus, James Blake, Portishead, Hiatus Kaiyote, Anderson .Paak, Can, Sigur Ros, or anything from TeamSupreme collaborators.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I have to say that teaching has been the most rewarding aspect of my career thus far. The travel opportunities have been amazing as well!
We love your instagram feed, what is your criteria for a good image?
I like anything that makes me feel something. My favorite pictures are the ones that can transport me back to the emotion of the moment when the image was captured.
What has been your biggest challenge in life so far?
Battling my intense self-criticism and perfectionism, and learning to just let go from time to time.
Who is the most bad ass woman you know and how does she influence and inspire you?
Probably my mother. She kicked ass in the business world for a number of years, which allowed her to retire at the ripe young age of 40, and now she dedicates a tremendous amount of her time to travel and nonprofit work. I've never known anyone who works as hard and as efficiently as she does, and it's inspiring to see her enjoy the fruits of all of her labor while also paying it forward. Love you mom.
Tell us about that amazing Banjo:
It belonged to my grandma Dot, and was custom-made in the 1920's!
What is your guilty pleasure? My iPhone.
Do you have a hidden talent? iPhone photography!
Tell us something about yourself few people might know: I speak a little bit of French.
What are you listening to right now?
Anderson .Paak, BADBADNOTGOOD, Kaytranada, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder, and whatever comes up in my soundcloud feed.
What are you reading?
Catching The Big Fish by David Lynch & Carrie Brownstein's memoir Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl.
Do you have a motto that you live by? Honor your truth.
Describe your personal style: If it makes you feel good, wear it!
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
I've had a few people tell me that I inspired them to start making music, and that means a great deal more to me than any praise I could ever receive for my own achievements.
If you could travel anywhere right now, where would it be?
I've never been to Tokyo, so I would love to go there and explore!
When you are not working, what are you doing?
Practicing yoga, meditating, running, or Netflix & chill.
Tell us the meaning of some of your tattoos:
My tattoos are very personal to me, so I prefer not to share their meanings with too many people.
What is your favorite zenzee style and how do you like to wear them?
I love wearing the "bite me" shoes along with some Levi's, a vintage tee, and a jacket. It's the ultimate studio uniform.
dot (Kate Ellwanger)