Kathryn Overall has so many talents – not only is she a wordsmith with a flair for social marketing, but she’s also a singer-songwriter and, last year, released her first album ‘Not All the Leaves Are Falling”, a folk-pop collection of melodic, story-telling songs infused with depth, beauty and hope.
Kathryn says she’s an artist at heart which gives her business communications empathy, depth and creative flair.
focus caught up with Kathryn to find out more about her journey.
You wrote your first song when you were 12 years old and studied classical piano up to Grade 8. Did you always plan to follow a musical path?
All throughout high school my one, clear ambition was actually to go to medical school. I worked very hard at maths and the sciences, but music and the arts were my joy and I wasn’t prepared to let them go either. In my last year of high school I had quite a profound time of personal and spiritual growth and realised that while medicine had been a helpful goal to get me through some difficult years, it wasn’t really me – to be true to myself I had to follow the song in my heart.
Songwriting took you to Sydney in 2001, where you spent most of your 20s. Tell us a bit about what you were doing there.
I studied songwriting and music at the School of Creative Arts in Sydney, which was part of a large contemporary church on the Northern Beaches called C3. Experience I adored. I made some wonderful friends, was part of a like-minded creative community and widened my musical horizons. C3 was an amazingly creative place, and the church put out several albums a year which were distributed globally. I came on staff when my studies ended, to assist the label manager with album production, sales and marketing. And eventually ended up managing the music publishing side of things. They were fast-paced, busy, purposeful years, formative in so many ways. I feel like I had several lifetimes of experiences packed into my eight years there.
In 2008 it was time to come home to Tauranga after going through a tough time both professionally and personally. You came back burnt out, broken-hearted and in debt and no idea what you were going to do next. How did you regroup from there?
The first few years were a very vulnerable time for me. I found myself at age 27 dealing with some childhood experiences which I had never properly processed. Looking like a capable adult and feeling like a traumatised child is a very disorienting experience. And yet it was also a powerful time of healing and re-forming. When everything falls apart, there is the opportunity for things to be put back together in a more whole and resilient way.
That is what happened for me. Writing and songwriting were important for me at this time. And as I began to re-build my life, I knew I had to find a path that allowed my creativity and my sensitivity to have expression. Seven years down the track I am blessed to have a life centred around words, music and spirituality, and to be surrounded by an amazing community of friends. I’m truly grateful for this.
Last year you released your first singer-songwriter album with songs that span the preceding seven-year chapter of your life. Tell us a bit about the album and why you chose the title ‘Not All the Leaves Are Falling’.
I feel like I was ‘pregnant’ with this album for a long time. So there was such a sense of fulfillment and release to finally bring it into the world. It is a folk/pop collection of melodic, storytelling songs with poetic lyrics that explore my journey from loss to hope and the liminal spaces in between. It’s a reflective collection but it’s also joyful. The three years I spent recording with my friend Luke Thompson (fitting in around my business), were three of the happiest years of my life so far.
I was looking through magazines for a collage I was making on New Years Day in 2014 when a heading from a gardening magazine jumped out at me: ‘Not All the Leaves Are Falling’. Something about that phrase captured both an acknowledement of loss and a poignant, but resilient hope. I knew instantly that I would write a song with that title. And sure enough, three months later it showed up. It felt fitting that it become the title track of the album.
You’ve included a minute’s silence in the middle of your CD which is an incredibly interesting thing to do, especially as it’s your debut album. Why did you do this?
As part of my rebuilding phase, I stumbled across the contemplative tradition of Christian spirituality. It values spiritual practices of silence, solitude, a deep openess to the Mystery we call God, and ways of praying that are more about simply ‘being’ than ‘doing’. A weekend silent retreat at Titoki Christian Retreat centre in Whakatane opened this world up for me. Because this spiritual undercurrent forms part of the songs and sound of this album, I wanted to include a minute of silence as part of the listening experience of the album. It’s there as a moment of pause in our busy lives. An invitation to the listener to slow down and become present to themselves. It’s only on the CD version, as iTunes wouldn’t allow it on the digital version.
Not only are you a gifted songwriter but you are also a wordsmith and social marketing expert. Through your business, Engage Communications, you bring strategy and soul to a company’s brand and believe that sharing the human story is important. Tell us a bit about this approach.
Business communications can so often be distant, boring and impersonal – but they don’t need to be. My philosophy is that business is always personal, because business is done by and for people! I bring an artistic and empathetic sensibility to strategic business communications, finding and telling the human stories within the brand. I am privileged to work in the holistic skin space with Janine Tait of Janesce and Bestow and with Shelley Foster of Jamele Skincare. And to look after a Priority One skills-attraction campaign called ‘Wish You Were Working Here’, where I share the sea-change of homecoming stories of people who have moved to Tauranga.
You’re forging a new path now and following your heart-felt instincts. What’s in store for you over the next few years?
I have just begun a two-year study programme with Spiritual Growth Ministries, learning how to offer spiritual direction for people. This involves meeting with people once a month. Journeying with them as a companion and guide as they reflect on and deepen their own spiritual journey. It’s a real privilege to walk alongside people as they trust you with one of the most intimate parts of their lives, their spiritual life. I’m fitting that in around my business, which is a challenge, but a good challenge. I am also starting to be more brave about sharing my songs live with people in 2017. I think there will be more songs, more performing, more recording in the coming years. I’m happy just following the current I sense beneath me and seeing what unfolds. n
Download a free song from Not All The Leaves Are Falling