Try to ignore her bubbly personality and her Bond girl good looks all you want. You, however will be unable to ignore the vocal talent and songwriting of Katie Belle. Singing since she came out of the womb, the talented Atlanta native spent a great deal of her teens touring as part of Teen Nation Tour before appearing on American Idol in 2019. Since her time on Idol she has stayed very busy releasing a number of singles included the recently released and well received “Not That I Know”. Constantly on the go the up and coming pop sensation took time to talk about her upward trajectory in the music industry.
You have a brand new single.
I do! What did you think about it?
I really dug it.
Yay! That’s awesome.
The new single is “Now That I Know”.
Tell me how you put the lyrics together for it. I understand not only are you a singer, but you’re a songwriter as well.
You’ve been working with a lot of people the last couple of years. What is that like?
I’ve been kind of in the experimental stage because I actually used to be a country artist when I was starting out a few years ago. At 19 I decided I wanted to transition to pop. I felt like that was always who I was, but I didn’t put two and two together until later on. And so right now I’m still in the process of finding my pop sound and doing a lot of collaborations. I didn’t do too much of the writing of “Now That I Know”, but I was definitely involved with the process of it. I really love this song because I love this theme of the whole film metaphor on a relationship. I’ve been talking with a guy who’s in the film industry. It fits quite well with my personal life. It’s authentic even though I wasn’t the core lyricist on the song. I also really love the disco kind of vibe to the track. I’m as huge fan of Dua Lipa right now. I brought kind of the dance, almost disco ‘80s sound and it sounded really cool and funky to me. I was all for it. I’m really excited about the song. It’s been out a little bit now and it’s doing pretty well. I’m excited to keep working on it and promoting it to see where it ends up a few weeks from now.
I like the song. It’s really upbeat, which I am more into upbeat music than ballads and stuff like that. There’s a place for all of that, don’t get me wrong. We all have our personal preferences.
Yeah, for sure. I like to do a little bit of everything. My single before, “Now That I Know” was a very true ballad, so I was ready to get out there and release something a little more fun and dancey.
Do you see yourself more of a balladeer or more of an upbeat kind of person?
That’s kind of a two-part question because as a fan of music I like more upbeat stuff I’d say, because it helps with my overall mood. I’m very… I don’t know how you would say… sensitive. (laughs) But my mood really depends on what I’m listening to and what I watch, the energy that’s around me. I personally like fast-paced music more as a fan, but as a vocalist and a singer I feel like I can get emotional and show off my voice. I really, really love it all, but as a singer I really love singing and performing ballads a little bit more.
Do you find that more challenging as a performer?
No, actually I find the fast dancey stuff more challenging. You have to have a lot more energy, be taking bigger breaths. Usually if it’s a fast-paced song on stage you have some kind of choreography added to it. All the dance stuff is more difficult basically in every way, but that’s what the people love. (laughs) And for good reason.
There are some music critics that aren’t big on upbeat or dance music. Do you feel the message in an upbeat song can be as thought-provoking as a ballad?
Oh, absolutely! I think that really depends on the recording performance; the delivery in the studio, how your singing and word pronunciation is important. If you sing something important but no one can understand what you’re saying, then they kind of miss the point. So, it’s very possible to touch people in the same way on a fast-paced, upbeat song the same way you can with a ballad. I’ve cried to both for sure. (laughs)
As a songwriter, what do you think are your strongpoints? Are you more of a lyrical person or into writing the actual melody?
I’m definitely more lyrically driven. I used to need more help with the lyrics, but that’s switched. I need more help with the melody and kind of putting all those pieces together. I really focus on words, being witty – saying smart things. I like to write in a way that when people listen to the lyrics they think, “Oh, this is so simple, but so to the point – I wish I had written this.” I like listening to a song that’s so simple, it’s perfect. It happens to me all the time. I’ll be listening to something and I’m like damn, I could have written this. It’s saying the things we’re all thinking – poetic, but in a relatable way. I feel like I’ve gotten better with that over the years, but I still struggle with the composition of the melody, all the instruments, and the production side of things. I’m still learning.
How do the lyrics come about when listening to a melody or do you already have lyrics in mind and you make them fit the music?
It’s kind of different every time. It depends on what session I’m working in. If it’s a big co-write with multiple people or me and one other person, I always try to bend the environment I’m in, so if I’m working with someone who has a very specific way they like to do things; I’m pretty easy when it comes to all of that. I’ll follow someone else’s lead if they feel to take the lead. I really like to work collaboratively and put my two cents worth in if necessary and kind of sit and support everybody else when it’s their time to come up with ideas they’re really excited about – a lyric or top line, or something like that. It’s really different every time.
You’ve put out a couple of singles over the last year and a half. What I was wondering was do you see yourself more of a singles singer or do you see yourself working towards an album?
I’ve been getting this question a lot and it’s a good one. I feel like my answer is somewhat personal and somewhat me trying to read what the industry’s trying to do now. Not a whole lot of rising artists are doing the album thing. I think it’s hard to release a whole body of work right now unless you’re already an established artist because people’s attention span is so short. Nobody listens to full albums. I can’t say nobody, but it’s not as common as it once was, so I don’t feel as confident in this day and age – at least while I’m trying to climb the ladder, releasing a full body of work because I don’t feel I’m popular enough to make it worth the time it takes to do something so big. And also me trying hard to find solid songs I’m in love with and I’ve decided I would never do an album unless was 100 percent sure of my song and what was going forward and I would want to build a whole contract off of that. It depends on a few things, but I definitely don’t want to be releasing singles forever. (laughs) It’s coming eventually, but I don’t know when.
You said you started off doing country and then transition to pop. Are you more comfortable as a pop artist compared to country?
I still think I’m definitely country. (laughs) You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. That will always definitely be a part of me. I feel like I gravitate more towards pop. I can be a little more broad – the topic I’m trying to sing about and writing and I can also dabble in other genres as a pop artist I feel – a pop crossover. The pop industry is so welcoming to different sounds. It’s a lot more welcoming than the country industry. I think I can always go back to country if I’m pop, but I wouldn’t necessarily be able to do vice versa, if that makes sense.
That’s what Taylor Swift did. Her last album or two before she officially became a pop artist, she would release the same single to country and Top 40 and on the one she sent to Top 40 shoe would pull out the violins or whatever gave the song that “country” sound or feel.
Yeah, I’m not going quite that hard, but it’s kind of a similar situation. I definitely did that song for a while and it treated me well while I was there, but I felt it was time for me to challenge myself and keep moving forward. The only way I felt I could do that was to break out of country and call myself pop.
Are you comfortable in the recording studio? You’ve obviously comfortable on stage.
It’s funny. One of my least favorite processes is actual studio time – like actually recording the music. It’s tedious. You have to sing the same line over and over and over until it’s perfect. You listen to the same song for days on end. Then changes are being made and you’re like I can’t tell the difference at this point. I definitely have to get myself psyched up and I have to focus the recording weeks. I do prefer to be on stage. There’s so much more energy and space to kind of be myself and try new things. There’s not so much pressure and then being in the studio has to be perfect because that is what people are going to hear when they hear the song is the recording that you are doing. It’s a lot more stressful and a lot more serious work being in the studio. I don’t hate it. (laughs) I still love it, but I do love performing more. It’s a lot more fun.
So you’re a person that likes to be in the moment.
Yeah, for sure. I love to feel the magic. I love to be with other people and find community in music. When you’re in the studio that’s your alone time – your team really going through the details. When you take it to the stage, sharing with your fans and the people who don’t know you and other people – that’s so special. It’s way better.
As a performer what kind of venue do you like?
I do like the theater settings because I feel like it’s a big enough crowd that you feel like you’re performing in front of a lot of people and small enough to where it’s intimate. I really, really love a theater setting. I haven’t had a chance to do an arena yet, but I would really love to see what that’s like, because I’m pretty sure I’d love it. That’s the next goal – be an opening act or get on some sort of festival lineup so I could do a big stage like that. It’s so much fun.
I realize the pandemic has ruined it a lot the past two years, but how much touring do you do?
I did a lot when I was in high school on the Teen Nation Tour. I graduated high school and kind of moved into other things. It was not too long afterwards that I auditioned for Idol. I’ve been keeping a busy schedule, but I haven’t toured in a few years now. I always thought about going back, but it would have to be the right situation – the right opportunity basically. I’m totally not opposed if it comes. I will say yes. I’d love to go back out.
What are the perks of being a musical artist?
The traveling is always really fun. I’m sad when I get to go to cool places and don’t have much time to stay. I always love if I have to travel for work, getting a little bit of time to hang out wherever I am. This is going to sound so Instagram girlie, I really do love some of the events I get to go to. I’ve been to the Grammys a few times, award shows and a few things like that and special underground performances that you only get invited to if you know someone at the label and stuff like that. I definitely like getting invited to the events and the shows because there’s a lot less music and I can see some of these artists perform live and be seated in some of these venues even if I’m not on stage, it’s really, really cool for me.
You began singing very early in life. When did you determine this was your career path?
It kind of chose me. I was really, really young and ever since I remember I didn’t want to do anything else. The first time I was on stage – that was all I needed to know. (laughs) I was addicted to the feeling, the attention, to the dramatics – the whole thing.
How do you balance the art of music versus the business of music?
I go back and forth. (laughs) We all have our seasons and sometimes I’m definitely a lot more balanced than others, but I have to work a lot harder on the business side and sometimes I get into a creative tight space that it’s hard to switch that part of my brain, but I do have a lot of help from my parents, my team and they guide me and help me make big decisions, but I do want to think for myself in a lot of decisions and not have to ask or rely on a lot of people to help me make these decisions. So, I am actively trying to learn the business part. It is a whole… job. (laughs) There are two whole full-time jobs.
I noticed the video for “Daughter” was very cinematic. How did the video come about?
Actually, the videographer for that video is in the film industry. He’s a super good friend of mine and he really wanted to make it a masterpiece in more of a film looking music video instead of the typical looking music video without the expense. He brought a really, really nice film camera and a few of his friends that are in the industry. They helped me out with the video. They did an absolutely phenomenal job. It’s extremely cinematic. It’s very metaphoric – the chain and the door, and wandering through the woods – all that. I felt like it fit the song very well and we could have gone with a cheesy approach, but Joe did a really great job of making it very creative and like you said, cinematic for sure.
You’ve got the new single out, “Now That I Know”.
What is the process now? Are you constantly working on new songs and ideas?
Yeah. I actually just got back in town from a big trip to California on Tuesday. That whole last week I was out there writing and recording. Yeah, it’s pretty constant. I take my breaks and have to do other things sometimes to make ends meet if that makes sense, because we’re still getting back from Covid. But hopefully we’ll be back to normal soon. I have to split up my time between things, but the creative process is in motion. I’ll be at home sitting, watching TV or just waking up in the morning and I’ll get a song idea and I’ll write it down. And that happens quite often, too. I write almost every single day, even if it’s not a full song, it’s thoughts, comments and concerns.
Being a fan of music yourself do you find yourself going to shows much?
Oh my gosh, yeah! Yes, every time I can. Every time I’m in town and there’s someone here I want to see I’m all over it. I love going to shows.
Do you go as a fan or are you scouting the competition?
I 100 percent go as a fan. I am such a huge fan of music and even though it’s a competitive industry, I’m pretty good at staying in my own lane and appreciating other musicians for who they are and what kind of music they make. I feel like I try to learn a little bit from everybody – and that’s really hard to do if you’re a hater. (both laugh) It’s a lot easier to support everyone and be happy and happy to be here.
What do you feel is the biggest lesson you learned from being on American Idol?
I would say, probably to just believe in myself as cheesy as that sounds. I feel like my biggest obstacle during the filming of that show was myself – me getting in my head and thinking too hard and losing sleep – just not taking care of myself physically and mentally, putting way too much pressure of the situation – which of course was a big deal, but I could have handled it better. Who knows? If I would have handled it differently I would have gone farther in the competition, but I’m really proud of how everything worked out. I definitely wouldn’t have changed anything, but if I could say I learned anything it would be to be your own biggest fan, for sure.
– Dave Weinthal