Kathleen Elle's musical journey began early in life, marked by her innate love for music and performing. She was often singing nursery rhymes, Disney songs, and even her own whimsical compositions in home videos. Although she initially struggled with formal music education, including piano lessons and attempts to self-learn the guitar, her passion for music truly ignited when she received lessons from a local high school student at the age of 10. These guitar lessons opened the door for her to cover popular songs, particularly those of Taylor Swift, and her dedication to music quickly grew.
At the age of 13, Kathleen gained the confidence to perform publicly and started busking outside a popular Italian Ice store in Belmar, NJ, playing popular pop songs for hours on end during the summer. As she honed her skills and developed a deeper interest in music, she immersed herself in music courses offered in her Junior High School. Her talent for music composition became evident, leading her to an after-school course taught by Dr. Kenneth Lampl, where she learned the art of composing music across different genres. In this class, Kathleen discovered the structure of pop songs, chord progressions, and the art of shaping melodies. Her newfound knowledge led to prolific songwriting, with her completing numerous songs during the year-long course. The course culminated in a performance in front of the entire music department at her high school, where she received a standing ovation and unforgettable support from the audience.
Despite her growing skills and passion for music, Kathleen initially viewed it as a hobby through most of high school. She started to take songwriting courses in New York City, joined her high school honors choir, and even attended vocal lessons. Throughout her junior year, her plan was to attend college as a chemistry major, seemingly diverting from her musical aspirations.
However, a pivotal moment came when Kathleen returned home from school one day and found herself spontaneously crafting the chorus for what would later become her song, "Don't Let Them In." Initially, it served as a personal mantra during a challenging time, but Kathleen soon realized its potential to convey a message beyond her own experiences. The song evolved into an anti-bullying anthem, offering support and encouragement to victims, urging them to stay true to themselves and find solace in the love of those who accepted them as they are. Kathleen recorded the song at LakeHouse Studios in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and shared it on YouTube. The impact was profound, as teachers, parents, and bullying victims from around the world expressed their gratitude for the song's meaningful message. Most impactfully, a girl in the Philippines named Keira credited the song with preventing her from attempting suicide. This powerful experience opened Kathleen's eyes to the potential of her music to make a positive impact, transforming her perspective from music as a mere hobby to a meaningful calling.
Kathleen collaborated with a producer to record her first EP, "Helium," in her basement, and independently released it on all streaming platforms. With those songs, she applied to the National YoungArts Foundation and was accepted in the Singer-Songwriter Category in 2015. This recognition provided her with an invaluable opportunity to undergo a week-long mentorship in New York City alongside other YoungArts winners. The program encompassed writing workshops and masterclasses, as well as the chance to contribute to an interpretation of Peter Pan alongside fellow dancers, actors, singers, and songwriters, further solidifying Kathleen's commitment to her artistry.
Honing the Skill
Seemingly at a disadvantage against other college applicants who had been studying classical music for years, Kathleen Elle's determination and talent propelled her forward. In under a year, she composed three classical pieces for her auditions and diligently prepared her voice to perform classically in three different languages. Her hard work paid off as she secured a talent scholarship and gained admission to the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. There, she pursued dual degrees in Music Composition and Music Education, as well as studying classical voice, ultimately graduating in 2019.
During her time at Mason Gross, Kathleen honed her skills in arranging and composing for a wide range of classical instruments, including vocal and orchestral pieces. Leveraging these newfound abilities, she took the initiative to self-produce her first album, "Brainwaves," which served as her senior project. The album, consisting of ten songs, showcased Kathleen's versatility as a songwriter and storyteller, featuring a diverse blend of acoustic, soul, and pop genres. One of the album's singles, "Love Bandit," gained significant recognition when it was featured in the CW show “4400,” a sci-fi drama story rooted in highlighting black and other minority perspectives in America over the last century while raising questions about society’s treatment of marginalized people. The song's impactful use within the series, echoing its theme of confronting toxicity, served as an anthem of liberation, highlighting the broader societal issues of bigotry and the importance of standing up against them.
Breakthrough & Success
Kathleen Elle's music career soared as she performed at renowned venues like The Bitter End, Pianos, Langosta Lounge, The Saint, and the Asbury Park Yacht Club. Her talent and dedication earned her recognition as the "Artist of the Month" by The Bitter End and the New York Songwriters' Association for January 2020, promising a bright future filled with live performances.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Kathleen adapted to the circumstances by taking her music to social media. She began live streaming on the platforms Instagram and Facebook, initially thinking it would only be for 14 days. To her surprise, she ended up performing live for 100 consecutive nights during lockdown, connecting with her audience and providing solace through music.
The pandemic hit close to home for Kathleen, as she had four family members working in the medical field. Kathleen's aunt, a nurse with over 30 years of experience in the COVID-19 ICU, described the hospital environment as resembling a war zone. She felt like returning from her shifts was akin to coming home from the Vietnam War. Her sentiments highlighted the challenging and isolating experiences healthcare workers faced during the pandemic, making her feel defeated and underappreciated despite being heroes on the frontlines. These comments are what ultimately inspired the song ‘Superheroes in Disguise,’ written within 24 hours. Kathleen recorded and produced the song herself in her basement, dedicating it to frontline healthcare workers. This heartfelt tribute gained recognition when it was featured on ABC 880 Radio during their tribute to these heroes.
To continue growing her audience during the pandemic, Kathleen turned to the live streaming platform Twitch, where she engaged with fans and established a dedicated following of over 10,000, affectionately known as the "Ellefants." This supportive community helped fund the music video for her single "Nervous," which eventually became her first song to reach 1 million streams! Through Twitch, Kathleen received an extraordinary opportunity to record at Nashville's prestigious Blackbird Studio, thanks to a connection made by a young audio engineer who left his finance job in New York City to enroll in the studio's program. Kathleen recorded her original song "Magic" in the same studio where Taylor Swift had once recorded, marking another significant milestone in her musical journey. He has since been hired full time by Blackbird, and Kathleen recently returned to Blackbird to record her upcoming album, Memory Lane.