10 Questions: Katie Hasty of Numbers and Letters

Katie Hasty

New York-based Americana group Numbers and Letters released their first album earlier this year.

These do-it-yourselfers offer up melody and lyrics in a special edition release that is available exclusively through their website.

Between sending out CDs, playing live and writing for Billboard, band leader Katie Hasty took some time to answer a few questions.

See what she had to say about Red Lobster, Bryan Adams and the reason she was cut from the third grade talent show.

Q: Are you a full time musician or do you have a side gig? Where do you hope your music takes you?

A: Four out of five of us aren’t full-time musicians. I’m a web monkey and
columnist for Billboard. Joe and Tom work in publishing and Phil wears
goggles and puts colored water in beakers and things. Clifton’s the only
pro amongst us wanderers.

I hope our music lands us an endorsement deal with Red Lobster and a guest “appearance” on “The Simpsons.”

Q: What was the first instrument you learned to play and how old were you? Any stories about your first or favorite instrument?

A: I played piano starting when I was five until I was 18, at which point I was summarily dismissed as a student. I have an early memory of auditioning for the third grade talent show by singing and playing “Part of This World” from “The Little Mermaid.” I didn’t make the cut, probably because I didn’t wear a costume slutty enough.

Numbers and Letters

Q: Of your songs, which is your favorite to perform and why? Of the cover songs?
A: I enjoy playing “It’s Dead” a lot because the strumming pattern is fun.
Also, sometimes at the part in the beginning where I sing “You’re like a child, with your paws on my skirt,” I sing “You’re like a child, with your balls on my skirt” in order to reduce Joe into a fit of giggles.

My favorite cover to play is M. Ward’s “Sad, Sad Song.” I like the idea of killer whales suffering from their lovers.

Q: What does your creative process look like? How do you come up with ideas and new songs?

A: I keep a notebook on me and write down phrases, concepts or stories that I like. Separately, I’ll wake up with a tune in my head, or start whistling and come upon at melody I like. Then I’ll try and pair concepts with the melody and flesh out the lyrics from there. As for writing from personal experience, a good story sometimes can use great embellishments; lying makes telling hard stories easier.

Q: What was the first song you wrote and do you still play it?

A: The first song I ever wrote was called “Saving You,” from my freshman year of high school. I performed it at an overnight summer camp at Duke on the last night, when all those teeming juvenile hormones force their way to irritable teenage skin and tear glands. I brought down the house. That
performance can never be replicated and for that reason, I have retired
it. Also, it was such a crappy song.

Q: How has your music and style evolved over the years you’ve been performing?

A: I started (really) writing songs when I started learning guitar, which was
four years ago. I’ve gotten a little better at guitar, and that confidence
shows up in bolder lyrics, I think.

Q: What were your last five music purchases?

A: “St. Louis Blues” Etta James (single)
“Non Stop” Whitey (single)
“Bill Bailey” Sam Cooke (single)
“If This Thing Should Spill” Born In The Flood (album)
“The Phoenix” Renminbi (album)

Q: If you could sit down for an hour and play with any musician, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you ask them?

A: Tom Waits. After a few songs, if possible, we’d go thrift store shopping
and leaf through People. We wouldn’t even have to talk.

Q: What is your favorite meal on the road?

A: Fish tacos and iced tea

Q: What was the first concert you attended?

A: Bryan Adams, Waking Up the Neighbors tour. It was 1993, I was 11. I
distinctly remember screaming “I love you Bryan” and having a profound
moment realizing that I, in fact, did not love Bryan. I was living a lie.

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