Words: Mundi Ross
Photos: Brian Kwan
I crossed paths with Kate Perdoni through a mutual friend and it was a greeting not with a handshake but a warm embrace. She is someone who desires to know you deeply and that is a rare commodity these days. Spending time with her is like spending time with someone wise beyond her years. Kate is a wife, mother, writer, rocker, and one bad ass chick. Kate has been writing for COCO for a year now and since we are honoring woman this month she is definitely someone COCO readers need to know.
You hail from? Why Colorado?
I was born in New Jersey, grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and moved to Minnesota as a kid. I worked on an organic vegetable farm with lots of animals, and sold vegetables on the sides of roads in the very small local surrounding towns. This was within the geographical hump that sticks into the Dakotas. I wrote prices on pumpkins with grease pencils, weighed cabbage, and carried math on scraps of grocery sacks. I had my own herd of goats and read constantly. It was not your typical pre-millennial upbringing. In the summertime, my brothers and I lived in the fields and the grove of woods. Living in the middle of nowhere was hard at the time, but looking back, the work ethic that came from those experiences, and the quiet solitude, enriched me and provided the foundation for artistic discipline. I had Neil Young blasting while picking row upon row of green beans, and I pretended I was on stage with Mary Chapin Carpenter while I made dinner. I wrote terrible pop songs in my closet, using the reverberation of the little room as a makeshift isolation booth. My musician friend Kellie Palmbland said she used to do the same thing as a kid, and we realized we didn’t know what an isolation booth was, we just thought it sounded better.
Colorado is a return to my agrarian roots, especially the San Luis Valley, where I lived for years. I feel very fortunate to have found a home that resounds so deeply with common values. Everyone here is sort of wild. People seem less afraid to grab life by the balls. It has always felt to me that anything is possible in Colorado, you need only imagine it. Certainly, life has proved that.
I’ve lived in Colorado on and off for the last decade. As a traveler, it was hard to pick just one place to call home. With our son preparing for preschool, we knew we had to set up shop, and Colorado was virtually the only place on the list. We planned to end a three-month tour from North Carolina to Colorado Springs by December of 2013, and are grateful for every single day to be here.
I want to know more about Kate Perdoni, the musician?
I have been playing in bands and releasing albums for many years, but when we were signed to Bar/None, I think that is when I had the legitimacy I’d desired. We have been doing commercial and music publishing projects with them for a couple of years, released an album, did several long tours, Hopscotch, CMJ and SXSW. The most joyous aspect of being a musician, other than the raw love of writing and playing, is working creatively with people who we admire to use our music to impact another medium. We also really love playing festivals. (*coughUMScough*) I have been writing music my whole life, and I could do this for the rest of my life.
As far as only doing music, on a trip in San Onofre beaches in 2003, I had this realization my life was going to be a broad sweep of many colors, not just one thing. At the time I was really focused on a music and acting career. But this experience told me not to be too specific. By filling up with many parts of a whole that all are pointed toward the same thing, I’ve been able to find and follow my North Star.
What has been a high and low of your music career?
Highs would be working with great people in the industry, touring, meeting fellow artists in other bands, hosting bands, recording bands, and writing songs. Lows would be… not fit to print. Ask me sometime in person.
What’s it like touring with a kiddo?
F****** awesome. Lio has been touring with us since he was two months old. He’s used to it, and he does great. He’s also pretty great to have around. Everyone who tours with us — fellow band mates, and the rotating cast of friends we bring along on the road to watch him — always say how much fun it is to tour with a kid. Touring is wondrous anyway, and it adds a childlike perspective to the mix. I do have to plan two tours — the music booking aspect, and then the litany of friends and families scattered around the country that we rely on to house us and watch Lio — but it’s amazing. Mostly we wish we could spend more time in every place. Lio gets to meet so many people, and see cool things. He’s met many of our oldest friends, scattered near and far, that he would otherwise maybe never know. Touring seems to give him a certain confidence.
You work for PBS and the Library District. What are your roles in each?
At PBS I was hired to produce television content and run a public media studio at the Tim Gill Center for Public Media in downtown Colorado Springs. I organize and run a three-week Citizen Journalism boot camp there geared toward producing broadcast content for our 23 regional partner organizations. The first series of classes yielded 11 first-time radio projects from a class of 20 students. The pieces have aired on radio stations across Colorado. The goal of my role at PBS and the Gill Center is to coordinate community journalism projects that produce airable, local content. I am so honored that PBS sees the value in this, and that the community is stepping up to participate.
My other job is also pretty cool. I run a recording studio where patrons can check out studio time with their library cards at Library 21c. Library 21c is the newest branch of Pikes Peak Library District, years in the making. The purpose of Library 21c is to provide this new set of technologies to the public and to be a grounds for the most trending and proactive resources for the community. We have Makerspaces with 3D printers, laser wood engravers, vinyl cutters, sewing machines, and every other tool you could ever imagine. We have an entrepreneurial center with conference rooms that can be checked out, the latest presentation technologies, and lots of places where people can set up and work in a mock office space. So many people are self-employed or do freelance work. Because of all the resources available at Library 21c, this is a great place to do it from. There is even a restaurant in Library 21c, Her Story Cafe, where all of the sandwiches are named after famous women. This library is a prototype for what PPLD is doing across the 15-branch library spectrum in El Paso county. It’s completely remarkable and unbelievable.
At the Library 21c studio, I facilitate the trainings necessary for patrons to use the studio for their own projects, be it a grandmother recording audio books for her grandkids in the isolation booth or a local band who wants to rock out for a few live tracks. I do recording sessions with local artists and teach classes that show the recording process.
I am a total geek about both of my jobs and I love every single second of them. Journalism and recording are truly my lifelong passions, and it’s kind of wild that these are actual jobs that exist that I got. I say that every day so get used to it.
I also need to mention that I have the absolute most amazing bosses in all of the world. They’re both strong, exceptional leaders who get it and are so totally my heroes — Dee Sabol at Library 21c, and Kristy Milligan at Rocky Mountain PBS.
Why do you feel drawn to this work? Is it the educational component, giving folks the opportunity to explore their voice?
Yes. The important stuff are the stories we tell each other. Especially in indigenous cultures, immigrant communities, our aging populations, et al., that voice has been squashed. It’s very easy to forget. Actively seeking out untold stories and engaging and even just documenting everyday things, I feel, is very important. Giving people the resources to go out and do that on their own feels awesome. So many of these folks materialize truly great stories.
How do you carve out time for everything you have going on right now? What is the balance you’ve created for yourself?
It’s basically just a combination of mate and green tea! For real. And I’m a morning person, so I take advantage of that.
Let’s talk about the zine; why did you start Mamá Liberada? For the readers, what is a zine, and what will folks expect from yours? Where can you snag a copy?
Zines are handmade publications of writings, articles, drawings, art, found objects, anything, and everything usually published on xerox machines in small batches. Zines can be comics or they can be about anything. My boyfriend when I was 19 made a lot of them and so I started making them. “Katey Sleeveless” is a moniker I made up for my zines. I love Aaron Cometbus, a zinester from San Francisco, and he had this list of “Signs of Punk Rock Love” or something in Cometbus. One of them was “Sleeveless T-Shirts.” So I was Katey Sleeveless. I did a zine called The Underbelly of the Sun for seven years, 19 volumes of original writing. I made Mamá Liberada because I was looking for ways to celebrate the wonderful, daring moms and families we know. I’ve always had mothers, children and grandmothers in my life who have taken me under their wings. So this was an extension of that, to honor the hard work and creativity of the people around us.
ML is available at Mountain Fold Books in downtown Colorado Springs, at our shows, by request, and at Ragged Print — til Holly moves to Austin, that is.
What is the best thing about being a woman?
Getting to push a kid out of my vagina was pretty cool!