Our Katelyn Tarver issue was originally published in March 2018.
From indie-pop darling to queen of the small screen, it is abundantly clear that Katelyn Tarver is a force to be reckoned with.
While her more recent success comes from her role on the hit Nickelodeon show Big Time Rush, as well as her Tired Eyes EP, her big break came all the way back in 2003, when she appeared on the short-lived Fox singing competition show, American Juniors; a spin-off of American Idol. Tarver reached the top 10 of the show but did not place high enough to earn a spot in the band. This did not stop her success, as she released her debut album Wonderful Crazy in 2005 when she was only 16 years old.
The following year, she became the body of Barbie using motion-capture technology in The Barbie Diaries. Needless to say, Katelyn Tarver wasn’t living the life of a typical 16-year-old.
While Tarver started as a singer, she is arguably most known for her role on Big Time Rush, where she appeared from 2010 to 2013. Playing Jo Taylor, an aspiring actress, and singer, and eventual girlfriend of Kendall Knight, played by Big Time Rush member Kendall Schmidt. Tarver immediately became a fan favorite on the show due to her girl-next-door charm, bubbly personality, and palpable chemistry with Schmidt.
Because of the pure magnitude of the role, as well as how popular both she and the show was, it would seem as though it would be tough being able to fully dive into a character as an actress, while still being dedicated to musicianship.
Katelyn Tarver said balancing acting and singing can be tricky.
“I think they both kind of feed into each other though. I think when I’m writing, I’m writing about what my life is like, what I’m experiencing, what it’s like to be a human, what I see in other people, what I observe and I feel like that comes in handy with acting too because it is sort of the same thing in a lot of ways,” said Tarver.
“You’re getting into the mind of a character but it’s still meant to convey human nature and the human experience. It can be hard mentally sometimes to not have my brain be split between what lines I have to learn and a song I have to write so that can be challenging but I think at the end of the day they kind of feed into each other nicely, which is cool.”
Now, as a 28-year-old, it is clear that Tarver’s outlook on music, and life in general, has changed quite a bit from when she was 16 years old on American Juniors, and when she was 20-23 on Big Time Rush.
“I mean for me, I’ve grown as a person and gone through different experiences of hardship and seeing friends go through stuff and realizing things about myself that I didn’t necessarily know 5 or 6 years ago so it’s cool to see new stuff be reflected in my song writing and kind of going back and listening and being like ‘Oh wow okay, I’ve seen a little bit more than I had at that point’. That’s what I can only hope, that my music is always evolving to this place, not that it has to be serious all the time because it’s definitely not but that it grows with me and I think the more life you experience the more you have in your toolbox to write about.”
When listening to her music, this musical and personal growth is abundantly clear. Nearly 6 years after releasing her debut album, Tarver released her first EP entitled A Little More Free, and nearly another 6 years after that, she released her most recent EP, entitled Tired Eyes. Each project represents, in a way, the different times in her life, both sonically and lyrically. After all, they are coming from a girl at ages 16, 21, and 27.
While all three of these projects have Katelyn Tarver’s uniquely bubbly and charismatic sound, there is an unmistakable evolution between the projects that show her progression as a musician, and as a person.
With her Tired Eyes – EP, released in March of 2017, her newer inspirations are as clear as ever. “I think I’m always inspired by, whether it’s a song or an article or someone just writing about being human and what comes with that, in like a way that it feels different. Like I’m really drawn to sad songs or songs about the bittersweet moments in life so I feel like that inspires what I’ve seen in the world and then what inspires me.”
When asked about her musical influences, she goes on to say, “I feel like it’s hard because I grew up listening to Motown 60s and 70s era music and was obsessed with the playfully lightheartedness of it while also just being good music and songwriting that is so simple but so dead on with different experience. I think the 80s are influencing a lot of pop music right now just with like the synths and I think that’s really cool. I think I’m influenced by a lot but there’s definitely something about the simplicity of the songwriters like Carole King, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and that just good writing that I feel like a lot of songwriters now are inspired by. I’m just trying to write the best music I can and tell the most truthful stories I can.”
These sentiments are made abundantly clear throughout the EP, both sonically and lyrically, with songs such as the vibrant and upbeat “Weekend Millionaires”, which explores the idea of getting through the week with nothing in order to have everything during the weekend, and the heartbreaking ballad “Love Me Again”, which details a relationship where Katelyn Tarver is questioning if her relationship is going to last, despite each partner showing their uglier sides.
Also on the Tired Eyes – EP is the emotionally charged “You Don’t Know”, which has taken off on YouTube, racking up over 20 million views. “I was at a place in life where I was around a lot of friends and even in my own life this idea of being sad and going through something that’s really hard, whatever that is to you, and there’s a tendency I think as friends or as people close to someone or even just going through it ourselves where we want to tie a bow on it and come up with a reason why it’s okay and kind of try to find the silver lining. I think that’s good and necessary but I think that song was about just wanting someone to sit with you and let you be mad or let you be upset and go through the gamut of what you’re feeling and not trying to have a positive spin on it,” said Tarver, on the song.
“It was cool to see how it resonated with people kind of saying they could relate to it with depression or getting a diagnosis or seeing their friend get a diagnosis so that was really special. I’m not saying sit there forever but it’s hard not to sometimes when you’re going through that like it feels so heavy and like it’s never going to end so it was kind of trying to capture that feeling.”
As for when fans can expect new music, a cryptic tweet of Katelyn Tarver’s let the world know that new music would be coming on March 2nd. When we asked her about it, she had this to say: “So the song is called ‘Never Fade’ and it’s kind of in the same kind of world as ‘You Don’t Know’ but I feel like with a little bit more of a positive spin. It’s saying ‘I wish I could make this better but I’ll be here for you no matter what’. And as I was writing it I felt like this could definitely be like a cheesy sentiment but I feel like there’s something about to me all the saying are trite and cheesy because they’re kind of what’s true, if you’re going through it and someone who loves you is like ‘Hey, this sucks but it’ll get better.’ it’s kinda like ‘Okay, I think you’re right.’ So it’s kind of like that song ‘Stand By Me’, it’s like my ‘Stand By Me’ kind of.”
While Katelyn Tarver was hard at work on her own solo material, she found the time to collaborate with DJ Duo Lost Kings on their The Bad EP in 2015, as the featured vocalist on the funky and danceable “You”, and told us about some more recent collaborations: “It’s funny because I’ve actually gotten to write with a lot of people that I’ve been wanting to write with for this new music. I wrote ‘Never Fade’ with Landon from the band Sir Sly and I mean I’ve been friends with them for a while but I’ve also just been an actual big fan of their music so I’ve been trying to keep it cool but I’m like ‘Uh, I love you guys’. No, but we wrote ‘Never Fade’ a while ago and as I was getting ready to put this new music out I was kind of going back to it and I was like ‘This song, there’s something to this song that I really love’ so we got to go back in and Jason who is also in the band produced it so it was awesome to get to work with them.”
She goes on to add, “I just worked with another friend who is also an artist and I’m working with maybe putting out a song I did with him. And RAC, we have a song potentially coming out. So there are a bunch of collabs actually which is awesome because I’m such a collaborative person and writer that it was cool to get to work with friends and they’re also very talented so it worked out.”
As if all of this work wasn’t enough, Tarver recently got back on the stage, taking up a five week residency at Resident in Los Angeles. “The residency was so fun, I mean I love touring and can’t wait to do that again but it was just nice to not have to travel. I would just go back home and it felt like a little home base for a month and it was fun to learn from the week before. It was like you got a do-over for five weeks like ‘Oh I’ll try this next time’ or ‘that was good I’ll do it again’. And the crowd, just seeing the same people show up every week was crazy. I loved doing a residency, that was my first one and it was so fun.”
As Tarver is gearing up to release new music in the coming weeks, we asked her what her plans for 2018 are. “I think the main thing I want to do is keep putting these songs out and put out another EP and see where it takes me. I’m excited for all the collaborations and I feel like the music is headed in a really cool direction so I’m excited to share it.” With a career spanning artistic mediums and nearly 15 years, we can’t wait to see all the Katelyn Tarver accomplishes, and will be cheering her on every step of the way.
Purchase a print copy of our issue with Katelyn Tarver here.