Preview: Katie Geddes Serves Music Community On Several Levels
There are many musicians, promoters, and support staff who thrive on service to the community. They tirelessly and with inadequate recompense give of themselves for the greater musical good. Then there’s Katie Geddes, who fills that bill beyond the call of duty.
A premier singer in our midst for some three decades, Geddes (pron: Ged-us) makes appearances at The Ark, the Green Wood Coffee House, smaller clubs, nursing and direct care facilities, the occasional festival, and even hosts house concerts. Her profession as a financial planner feeds her monetarily enough to be able to take music and acoustic folk art to as high a level as any local musician.
She also programs the shows at the Green Wood Coffee House in the First United Methodist Church at Green Road on Ann Arbor’s near north side. The series has been active since 1995. Recent performers have or will include Melanie (which was sold out), Chuck Mitchell, Don Henry, Mary McCaslin, Chuck Brodsky, Lou & Peter Berryman, Don White & Christine Lavin, John Ford Coley, Laurie McClain, Jeremy Horn, Sally Barris, and of course Geddes. In a room capacity of 200, most patrons hearing big name folk acts while not being church parishioners, is impressive.
We have breaking news: Katie Geddes has plans to record as many as six new CDs in the coming years. One will feature Melanie singing on it and producing it; as well as a tribute to Carly Simon. “I can’t believe no one has done that," she said in a recent interview. “Don Henry will produce that one.”
She’ll also do a solo album, another alongside her vocal trio All About Eve, plus a gospel, and a Christmas album. Whatever project she finishes first will be released first. She hopes all will be done in the next several years. “I would like to think so, but it takes me a long time because music is my side project.” When asked if she is a perfectionist she says no. “I do things over, but the time that goes between my recording sessions might be six months. David Mosher is very patient with me. He keeps my hard drive right there in his studios so when I do show up he’s ready."
Her debut studio CD We Are Each Others Angels was issued in 2010 and was made at Mosher’s Lake Studios in Brighton and Big Sky in Ann Arbor. The Live At Green Wood with The Usual Suspects dates back to 1999. It’s safe to say these new ideas have had plenty of time to germinate and now they are getting ready to sprout wings.
Because of the specific use of guest artists, most times Geddes has to wait until they come to town to book them at Green Wood. Her personal producer is a constant. “Now David Mosher is a wizard on all different kind of instruments, so I would lay down vocals and he would record a mandolin or a fiddle, then I’ll decide whether to keep it or not. The one I’m doing now has Robin McNamara, then a good two years later Jonathan Edwards added harmonica. That’s how I work.”
The guest artists become friends through her booking them at Green Wood. She also interprets other folks' music exclusively. “I do no song writing. I did write a book of poetry that maybe someday someone will put to music. They’re not really formatted."
“I cover songs and I think I'm pretty good at choosing songs and interpreting them. I like to ‘folkify’ pop - I’m a big fan of 1970s radio pop. I’ll countrify it or add a yodel, or harmony where there was not one before. By chance I’ll hear something I haven’t heard in forever and it’ll be stuck in my and really need to redo it. Or we’ll do something in church like Joe South’s 'Games People Play' because it was perfect for the service that day. It’s very relevant. We used Hammond organ on that.”
Some of the artists songs she has covered include Nanci Griffin, Gillian Welch, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, J.D Souther, John Lennon & Paul McCartney, and John Prine.
She mentions songs in church done by Mary Gauthier or Susan Werner, emphasizing the lack of hymns or strictly spiritual music. "We don’t do church music at our church.” As far as dream artists to book or collaborate with, she listed Sweethearts Of The Rodeo, Jennifer Warnes, and Dion.
Then there was the sold out show in the late 2000s with the recently deceased Rod McKuen. “We knew ahead of time we would have had too many people for the room so we put it in our downtown location. His fans had been waiting decades to see him. They came from all over the country."
Michael G. Nastos is known as a veteran radio broadcaster, local music journalist, and event promoter/producer. He is a former music director and current super sub on 88.3 WCBN-FM Ann Arbor, founding member of SEMJA, the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, Board of Directors member of the Michigan Jazz Festival, votes in the annual Detroit Music Awards and Down Beat Magazine, NPR Music and El Intruso Critics Polls, and writes monthly for Hot House Magazine in New York City.
Katie Geddes performs at 8 pm, Saturday, October 8, at the Interfaith Center For Spiritual Growth in Café 704, 704 Airport Blvd. off State St. For reservations e-mail Al Carter at email@example.com or call (734) 327-0270.