PortFolio Weekly

PortFolio Weekly
August 7, 2007

A Rare Musical Gem

by Jim Newsom

On her new DVD, Live at the Diana Wortham Theatre, Christine Kane talks about a gig early in her folksinging career where the marquee read, "Christine Kane and All You Can Eat Crablegs." When I called her a couple of weeks ago, I told her about a similar experience of being second billed to crablegs.

"Oh my God," she exclaimed, "you have the exact same sign as me! One time I showed up and they had my name as Christine Kazue, K-A-Z-U-E.

"These humbling experiences: itís like the Zen Buddhist approach to when youíre trying to get into the monastery to meditate with the monks and they donít let you in, they just keep humiliating you until you earn your way in. I feel like thatís at the beginning of any music career; you just keep getting humiliated."

Fortunately Kane, who performs at the American Theatre Saturday night, persevered. But hers is not the typical singer-songwriter-guitarist story by any means. She didnít start playing music seriously until she was 24 years old. In fact, she was a dancer before she was a musician.

"I was mostly a ballerina," she said. "I studied ballet for 12 years and I absolutely loved it. But I got a huge eating disorder and just kind of plummeted internally. Doing music got me through all that stuff; it was like getting a second chance.

"Right when I got out of college, I bought a guitar and I made myself play in my room every day. Itís amazing how you can get pretty good doing a half hour a night. On Saturdays Iíd take guitar lessons, and eventually it got to where I just quit my job and started playing guitar a lot.

"I was slated to go to journalism school. I had gotten accepted to Medill School of Journalism to study Broadcast Journalism. But right around that time, when all kinds of things were looking a little weird to me, I just went, Ďwait a minute! I hate writing news.í And I realized that I would just suck at journalism, and I donít have the personality type for it either. I had to do something a little more creative."

She moved to Asheville in 1993 and recorded her first album two years later. She was initially compared to Mary Chapin Carpenter, and with good reason.

"I grew up in D.C.," she said, "and I went to the Birchmere. When I started seeing Mary Chapin Carpenter and people who I felt were just like me, writing stuff and being creative and being so authentic onstage, my first thought was, ĎI want to be like that; I want to make people feel like I feel when I see that person.í That was the motivating force. What kept me going was how much I grew each time I wrote a song, and how much happier I was when I was in the midst of writing. And the people that I was meeting when I started playing and doing open mike nights were just wildly creative and out there, and that kept that dream alive for me."

Christine Kane has succeeded in keeping her dream alive, becoming that rarest of musical gems, an engaging performer and an intelligent songwriter. Sheís found other ways to connect with people and share her gifts as well. The North Carolina Dance Theatre toured with a ballet choreographed to her music. She also conducts workshops on creativity, and has given lectures with titles like "Getting a Job is Boring; Get a Life Instead."

"Someone in St. Louis who knew I had started music late was doing a conference for women," she explained, "and she wanted me to do the keynote speech about Ďfollowing your path.í So I went and did that, and I was good at it. I didnít expect to be!

"I put a note out to my mailing list and said I really want to try doing this retreat for women. Itís going to be all the things Iíve learned from pursuing a career in music; itíll be a little bit about creativity and a little bit about following your dreams. And the thing filled up instantly.

"Now Iím doing them four times a year, with a concert in conjunction. It fulfills that part of me that wants to connect with people on a deeper level rather than just standing onstage and doing my shtick. People get to go home and feel like they have a chance of fulfilling their own dreams. And I love doing that for people."

copyright © 2007 Jim Newsom. All Rights Reserved.