Kate Voegele was miscast—quite literally.
Voegele’s career hit the fast track in 2005 when she gained a strong following on the social media site MySpace. That same year, MySpace and Interscope Records teamed up to create MySpace Records, and Voegele became one of the label’s earliest signees. She released her first major label-backed full-length record Don’t Look Away in 2007. The record caught the ear of producers on the popular teenybopper show “One Tree Hill,” and Voegele was cast to play one of her songs under the name Mia Catalano. The character ended up sticking around for the next four years.
Voegele was a pop sensation. She had Christina’s pipes and Brittany’s swag. She was ready to set the world on fire.
But it turns out that’s not really who Voegele was.
The now 27-year-old said her music has always had a grittier soul than viewers of a show on the dubba-dubba-WB might have assumed. She has a connection with the music of the people, and she just couldn’t be tied up in a pretty pop bow forever.
“I grew up in Ohio and I have a huge love of folk and bluegrass music—anything with a rootsy vibe,” Voegele said in a recent phone interview with C-VILLE Weekly. “But I always felt like I wasn’t allowed to use certain instruments when I was on a pop label.”
Now that the gloss of “One Tree Hill” stardom has begun to wear off and Voegele has switched over to ATO Records (founded by a team led by Dave Matthews and Coran Capshaw), she said she’s free to explore the folksier side of her musical talents. She’s writing songs with deeper lyrics. She’s using more varied instrumentation—the banjo is featured on her latest EP, and she’s learning to play the mandolin.
Heck, she even married a good ol’ UVA alum (former lacrosse star and 2012 graduate Brett Hughes), left Los Angeles, and settled in Nashville.
“My last two years were spent sonically soul searching for how I wanted to evolve into my next record,” Voegele said. “That’s a necessary part of every artist’s process from record to record. It got to a point where I learned to find my authenticity as a writer.”
When Voegele plays the Southern Café and Music Hall on November 5, it will be the first date of her fall tour and her new release Wild Card will be only several hours old. So whether she’s truly found her authenticity at this point is an open question. One track leaked from the EP, “Just Watch Me,” indeed points toward a more mature sound. In it, Voegele highlights the twang in her voice as she wrestles with her future: “Everybody’s telling me who I ought to be/Who am I and where I got to be…I don’t even know yet who I want to be/I got miles and miles in front of me.”
In another early-release track, “Carousel,” Voegele seems to slip back into pop diva mode, with a defiant Taylor Swift-esque chorus and slick imagery, but the song also features that varied instrumentation she promised, employing the banjo in a unique way.
Voegele said for the upcoming tour she’ll be taking the stage with two backing musicians, Eric Montgomery on keys and guitar and Noah Denney on percussion. The plan is to keep it simple, rearranging some of the new tracks in the absence of a banjo. “It will be a mix of an intimate living room-type show and moments that are more upbeat and energetic,” according to Voegele.
Voegele said she’ll play a good number of her old favorites on the current tour, but also wants to “give fans a taste of what’s to come.” What is to come for the songstress in transition is a full-length album sometime next year. She said the record may feature a few of the songs from the current EP, but for the most part will be all new music.
“These are different sides of my writing and arrangements,” Voegele said. “It’s a broader scope and a more colorful mix of things. I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m excited to continue to work on getting it conceptualized as I’m on tour.”
The Charlottesville stop should prove to be an interesting opener. Fans will get their first look at the new Voegele, and the singer-songwriter will get another chance to play to her husband’s college town.
“I love Charlottesville. We are big Wahoo fans,” Voegele said. “I’ve been a few times for reunions and played a few shows there —I love the music history.”
Even while looking forward to the upcoming tour, Voegele doesn’t look back on her start with MySpace Records and her days on “One Tree Hill” with any negativity.
“I feel really fortunate to have been at the forefront of social media with my MySpace deal and I learned early on how crucial social media was,” Voegele said. “I’ve made it a priority to stay in touch with fans and be consistent with my updates.”
MySpace has become a punch line in the post-Facebook era. Voegele, it seems, refuses to be one herself.
Wednesday 11/5. $12-15, 8pm. The Southern Café and Music Hall, 103 S. First St. 977-5590.