Kait B is devoted to music, but it hasn’t been an easy relationship. To arrive where she is today–preparing to record her second album–she’s failed repeatedly.
Creatively and personally, she’s had to take risks and make difficult decisions to move forward. She’s moved from Nebraska to Boston to Austin and back again. In that time she’s graduated from college, recorded an album, and started her own small business (only to shutter it shortly thereafter).
In all of the travel and false starts, she hadn’t let setbacks get in her way. Beyond her experience with music is an impressive superpower: her ability to turn failure into personal growth.
Making her first album
After graduating from Berklee College of Music, Kait moved to Austin. Her mission was to use money she’d saved to produce an album from the many songs she’d written during her time at school.
Kait’s proud of how Conservation, her album, turned out. But she had severely underestimated the cost—not only the financial cost, but the time and energy the project consumed.
Sapped, she fled Austin (with a box of several hundred unsold CDs) to do what every good midwesterner does when they’re down on their luck: move home.
Starting a business back home
Kait came up with her next gameplan from her sister’s basement in a Nebraska suburb. Having moved from a city where coffee is considered a cultural pursuit, Kait was struck with a romantic desire to introduce her home state to latte art and single origin beans.
The process paralleled that of her recently wrapped album–dragging on, over time and over budget. It started to become apparent that her coffee dreams weren’t going to pan out. “I did not know what I was doing,” she admits.
Her parents gently urged her to look for something more stable and lucrative. Kait moved to Omaha, and found a steady job training baristas at her local coffee shop.
Finding secure footing
Around the time that she moved back to Omaha, she started to take a closer look at her situation. She had taken some lumps, both creatively and financially, and it felt like time to take control.
“[My parents] are super generous and supportive,” she says, “but at the same time it was like, ‘I’m 26! I don’t need your money!’” It was also time to move on from her parents’ bank: Kait was using the same account her parents had set her up with when she was young. It felt outdated and complex, but even more, it was time to grow up.
After some research, she started with Simple. Now, looking at her Activity, she feels her spending is starting to tell a new story: “I remember when I was in college and I used to get my bank statements, and I would always feel so guilty. Now I look at it and see I’ve grown as a person.”
Kait found strength in her growing independence and stability. She gradually began to play music again.
That two-year period of silence feels foreign to her now. “Why would I do that? If you’re really doing music, it’s got you by the heart strings. It’s not going to let you go.”
The seeds of her work began to sprout. This February, she won an Omaha Arts and Entertainment Award for best new artist of 2014. After all she’d been through, the award meant much more to her than being the best new artist of 2014. It represented years of hard work–not just on her music and her coffee career, but on herself.
Kait was using Goals to save for a car. The night of the awards ceremony, her boyfriend suggested she rename the Goal from “Car” to “Album Number Two.”
This thrilled Kait. She was nervous, but at the same time, “it felt like a really genuine thing for me to do,” she says. “Not that saving for a car isn’t important, but saving for something that I truly believe needs to happen was really empowering and exciting.”
Laying out next steps
All the risks Kait’s taken have led her to this moment. This is where the real hard work starts.
“Knowing that nothing’s going to happen unless I make it happen is really encouraging, but it also puts a lot of the pressure on me. But I think it’ll be worth it in the end,” she says.
Here are 4 lessons Kait’s bringing into the creation of her sophomore album.
1: She’s letting saving motivate her.
Putting money towards a project can help provide a little extra motivation. Kait says that using Simple helps her better visualize her savings, “ I can see that money’s there and ready to go. It kind of gives me a little bit of a push to make those decisions.”
2: She’s trying to see mistakes as opportunities.
Reframing failure has helped Kait continue through difficult creative work, like her first album. Kait recognizes that not everything she creates needs to be perfect. One of her favorite professors at Berklee always reminded her that bad work precedes great work.
It was a reminder to her, when things got difficult, that creating is a continual process of doing the work and reminding herself that it’s worth it.
3: She’s making smarter plans.
With any large project, there are hidden costs and other unknowns that keep things from moving along on budget and on schedule. Kait remembers, “I thought I had a plan the first time, but having seen everything that needs to be accounted for, I don’t think I did.”
This time around, Kait plans on getting quotes ahead of time for everything, to help make her budget more accurate. She says this will empower her to assign every dollar of her Goal to an expense.
4: She’s learned where to spend on quality, and where to save.
Like anyone who is experienced at their craft, Kait has learned where she can cut corners and where she should pay as much as it costs to get things perfect.
She’s learned that beautiful recording studios, CDs, and album cover graphics are all places where you can cut corners, but some elements of recording music are absolutely priceless:
“Find the best players you can find, and love the crap out of your band.” Kait is adamant that there’s no substitute for people that work well together. When she finds them, she pays them as well as she can and holds on tightly.
Preparing for her next project
Embarking on this creative project is yet another risk, but it’s one that Kait now feels uniquely prepared for.
She’ll have the money saved, and she’ll have the stability of financial peace of mind. She’s moving with the authority of failure; an underappreciated source of power. The rest is up to her.
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