Folk Fest: Queen of the swamp
For the better part of 20 years, Kat Danser worked with people who were dying. Not exactly a cheery profession.
Now, much of the heartfelt emotion poured into the 41-year-old’s performances comes directly from that critical period in her life.
“I am often criticized at times for writing music that people don’t believe I have lived,” Danser says. “I will say to you that from childhood to present everything I write about I have lived.
“You don’t get the blues like I have the blues unless you have done what I have done. I just try to heal those experiences as best I can through music.”
It wasn’t until wandering through a guitar store one day 10 years ago, stuck in a self-described “pop-music coma,” the then 31-year-old realized she had more the share with the world and left her career as a social worker behind.
“It’s never too late to find your passion and to follow and live your passion,” Danser said in a phone interview ahead of her performances at Calgary Folk Fest. “Do your best to be yourself, don’t copy other people, be original.”
Danser doesn’t just preach originality, as her style of music — affectionately coined as swamp blues — is not exactly widely practised. Danser says people constantly question her brand of music, that is at least until they hear it and become lost in its intricate detail.
“Swamp blues to me is an amalgamation of early roots music, folk music, blues music and blues spiritual. Essentially it’s that sort of swampy sound, you can’t really put your finger on exactly what it is but it sounds like a combination of things,” she says. “Once they hear the music they love it. I don’t have any trouble when I come off-stage getting attention.”
Folk Fest Spotlight
Shows: 11:30 a.m. Stage 4 (with Sojourners, The Persuasions, Dry Branch Fire Squad) and 1:50 p.m. Stage 6 (with Nancy White, Ferron, Myrol, Luluc)
For Danser’s website click here
Danser’s commitment to her craft has earned her quite a following, especially in Alberta. She says support from fans is what drives her confidence.
“It’s really just realizing that I am very lucky to be able to write music and perform music . . . anytime I’m feeling unsure of myself I look out at the audience and they really want artists to succeed so I sort of feel that,” Danser, who will start a masters’ program in ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta in the fall, said.
And when it comes to performing for the first time at both Calgary Folk Fest and the Blues Festival in a few weeks, Danser couldn’t be more excited.
“I get to be around artists who are essentially at the top of their genre, so part of it is the incredible privilege to learn from the best, which not everyone gets to do,” she says. “I started singing because of Mavis Staples, I started writing because of Ferron and I started playing guitar because of Corey Harris, so when you have the synchronicity happening in one year it’s pretty shocking and amazing. I get to share the stage with Corey and Ferron and see — and hopefully meet — Mavis after.”