Best known for her acting roles in Resurrection and other hit TV series, Kathleen Munroe has expanded to recording artist, debuting her 7-song EP on May 12. I saw Munroe play her first show in her home-town of Hamilton on May 1 at This Ain’t Hollywood as part of I Heart Hamilton’s fourth annual fundraiser.
Her beautiful, haunting melodies had me seduced. With her electric guitar, soft vocals, and emotive lyrics, she captivated the crowd with just enough power and changes in dynamics to maintain her signature sweet sounds. Eyes were on Munroe as she ended the set with the powerful lullaby Bloodlet and left us with an eery feeling, in the best way possible.
Munroe moved from Hamilton to Los Angeles in 2007. The down to earth Westdale high-schooler is now between Toronto and Hamilton for an acting role while promoting her EP on Hamilton’s Hidden Pony Records, co-produced by Michael Kiere and Munroe. We chatted about California, her favourite music, and her time in Hamilton.
You have been writing songs since you were a kid. Why did you decide to release an EP now? Have you struggled to find balance between singing and acting or have they always coexisted for you as a performer?
They’ve always co-existed, in that I’ve done both for a long time. Songwriting has just been more habitual and private than acting for most of my adult life. I decided a couple of years ago to record some songs with more focus, to see if I could fully execute the ideas I had in my mind that I couldn’t realize alone. Also, I finally found some time I could take between acting jobs to really commit to a collection, rather than just writing songs periodically on my own. I met Mike Keire (Threshold Studios in Hamilton) and we teamed up to produce the EP. Once we started working together in the studio, I knew the product would be something I wanted to share.
Have your acting roles or the travel associated with them influenced your taste in music or your own musical style?
I’m definitely impacted by the places I get to see through work. Often I will be shooting in a location for an extended period of time, so it’s impossible not to absorb the culture of a place while I’m there. It’s something about my job that I really value. The American South (Georgia), the Canadian East Coast (Nova Scotia and Newfoundland), the Canadian North (Churchill Manitoba), as well as a variety of other urban settings have all impacted my world view and artistic interests. By virtue of that, I guess they also impact my output. I don’t necessarily try to write to reflect a certain place or style, but the influences are there. It’s inevitable.
What is it like living in California compared to growing up in Hamilton?
I love Hamilton, and I love California. They’re vastly different. It took me awhile to adjust to LA; I kept looking for Southern Ontario in it. I hated the amount of time I spent in my car, and I reacted strongly against the pervasive superficiality. But when I dug deeper and started to explore the possibilities, I found a really rich cultural scene, and a solid community. And the desert, and the coast. Hamilton and LA are similar in that they’re fertile breeding grounds for artists. There’s a lot of cross-media collaboration in both places (artists in different fields and traditions working together and supporting each other), and I respond well to that. It’s exciting. I’m always thoroughly Hamiltonian; that won’t change. I come back home as often as I reasonably can. I still keep a residence in Ontario, and I think of the “move” to LA more as an expansion that an exclusion or a firm decision. I’m lucky that I don’t have to choose one or the other. I get both.
What are some of your favourite albums?
Right now, I’m listening to the new Etiquette record all the time, and last year’s Leonard Cohen. Life-long loves would include Blue by Joni Mitchell, early Rolling Stones, Ready to Die by Biggie, The Smiths, and Radiohead (esp The Bends through Kid A). My favrourite song of all time is Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells.
What was it like working with Hidden Pony Records?
They came to me after hearing some early mixes of the record, and were willing to take me on. So it made the difference between releasing something now, and not. It means something to me to have a connection to the Hamilton music scene, and they’re based out of Hamilton and Montreal.
Hamilton was only your second show performing this set. How did it feel to be playing back home?
It felt great. The Hamilton music scene is so vibrant these days, and it felt great to connect with that a little. I was really happy Kristin of I Heart Hamilton asked me to be part on the fundraiser bill. It felt like the right way to kick this off.
What are some of your favourite music venues in the city?
My first show ever was at the Casbah, so that always warms my heart. I had a good experience at This Ain’t Hollywood and have seen some good rock shows there. And Baltimore House is doing some exciting things these days too.
During the next month between Hamilton and Toronto, do you have any favourite spots you hope to visit?
In Hamilton, I’ll definitely need to get a Weil’s Bakery chocolate bun. I always buy something (or multiple things) at White Elephant while I’m home. And Dr. Disc. I recently found a great silk jacket at Girl on the Wing, and will be back there. The Brain. I’m also looking forward to trying some of the new places. I just went to Brux House and Two Black Sheep for the first time. Good stuff. In Toronto, I live in Chinatown, so I need to get the dumplings around the corner at Rosewood. White Squirrel for coffee, AGO for art, Done Right Inn for drinks, VSP for clothes.
Where can we see you next?
I’ll be promoting the EP in some form or other for the next little while. There are some upcoming videos and other things that I’m really excited about. I’ll do some radio and TV spots to promote it. Otherwise, I’m shooting a movie in Toronto that I’m really excited about. It’s the first dramatic feature by acclaimed Canadian documentary filmmaker Peter Lynch. I’m playing the lead, and working with a tremendous group of Canadian actors. It’s a cool neo-noir murder story. Very different from what I usually get to do.
Thanks for featuring me! Nice to meet you.
Thank you Kathleen!