Real girls in their own place.
Not too crazy and just a pinch of naughty...
Before meeting Katelyn in person I didn’t appreciate what an absolute firecracker she is. Personalities are rarely fully recognized through facial expressions in a photograph. You only ever get just a hint. Dimples are synonymous with cuteness, yet also suggest a certain mischievousness. Her musical prowess on the piano showcased her obvious talents, while her blog exudes an intelligence and determination beyond her years. Maybe it was my over active imagination - or the the insistence of my Drag Queen confidant that I increase my watching of Beyonce - but as I walked into Westwood’s Le Pain Quotidien I immediately heard a familiar girl anthem as clear as day.
“Who run the world? - Girls!” (x4 for effect)
"Who run this motha? -Girls!" (x4 for effect)
“Who run the world? - Girls!” (x4 for effect)
And it wasn’t coming from the sound system.
I turned the corner to find a pint sized blonde holding court with the staff, impressing all with her music and social media acumen.
"Who run the world? Girls!" "Who run the world? Girls!"
I was amazed how such a delicate thing had the commanding presence of a Fortune 500 CEO! Her meinmyplace images boasted that beneath that mustard jacket and adorable mod outfit, was the svelte physique of an athlete. These folks had no idea hidden behind that innocent grin, was the impressive body that can only be achieved with a healthy lifestyle, youth and really good genes. And the kind of pert booty you could bounce quarters off of.
"Who run this motha? - Girls!"
This could all be the result of Katelyn’s “adventures in pursuing music as a career in Los Angeles and running stupidly long distances.” Once I spent the afternoon with her I knew why I couldn’t get that pop war cry out of my mind. My little, musical, long distance runner is on track to make a serious impact in 2012. Katelyn Benton might just be set to take over the world!
Katelyn Benton: You have to try this sauce, it’s really good. It’s awesome. It’s kind of like an Italian, Tomato-Basil soup - but sauce.
It was good, delicious even. I couldn’t help but notice the slightest twang in her speech.
Falene Nurse: Where are you from originally?
Katelyn Benton: Louisiana.
Falene Nurse: So you know all about The Bayou?
Katelyn Benton: It’s so much fun down there.
Falene Nurse: A lot of Creole peeps there?
Katelyn Benton: Yes, I am.
Well that could explain the bum too.
Falene Nurse: No way!
For some reason when I think of Creole people, I think of the women of “Interview with a Vampire” fame, like Thandie Newton and Indra Ove. Who in actuality are both English - so what do I know.
Katelyn Benton: My grandmother has always gone by Mamere, but I don’t know how to speak French. We use a few little words here and there, I was between there and Colorado growing up. Now when I talk on the phone I like to throw in a “y’all”, the southern drawl just comes out naturally.
That drawl is like butter I tell you.
FN: But you don’t just sound like a southern sweetheart, you look the part too.
KB: Does that make a difference?
FN: Well I sound like a British school ma’am, but look like a member of the New Power Generation. There’s a bit of a disconnect.
KB: But don’t you find people can be so much nicer in general, when they hear an accent?
FN: Not when you look like Sideshow Bob.
KB: You don’t!
FN: I’m kinda fascinated by Louisiana.
KB: It’s where a lot of my roots are, it’s a really interesting part of America.
FN: Who are you loving musically right now?
KB: Florence and The Machine. I’ve been listening to them a lot.
FN: Gimme your top 3 music artists?
KB: Ben Folds, the composer Debussy.
FN: Who’s that?
KB: Have you seen Ocean’s 11? At the end, you hear "Clair De Lune" playing on the piano, he composed that.
She begins to softly sing to me with "dom de dom’s" replacing piano keys. Hearing her version is quite haunting and yet still I want it on my Ipod. Preferably on a loop.
KB: Kinda dorky to pick a piano composer but, Debussy it is. Fiona Apple too, she’s a great lyrical writer - I loved “Tidal.” Specifically when she partners with Jon Brion. The idea of a film composer working with a singer/songwriter really affected me, I didn’t realize how much at the time. I think that’s why I’m working with a film composer now. I can write songs and lyrics, but a film composer creates atmosphere - puts this whole mood to it. The Jon Brion produced “Extraordinary Machines”is so good!
FN: Where has she gone? Where is Fiona?
Part of me genuinely believes Ms Benton will know, or at least have some type of lead.
KB: She’s still performing, but she’s more of an artist than a star.
FN: Top 2 favorite movies of all time?
KB: “Some Like It Hot” and “The Muppet Christmas Carol.”
FN: How about top 3 Christmas movies?
KB: “A Christmas Story.” Did you know the kid that got his tongue stuck to the pole does porn now?
FN: Perhaps that was a sign, an omen of things to come. My tongue is stuck and it won’t come off!(lol)
KB: Ew right(lol). Oh Lord!
FN: I’m sorry, did I make you feel unclean for a minute there?
KB: “A Christmas Story”, “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas”(she speeds through the list).
FN: Do you have 3 favorite muppets?
KB: Oh yeah, Kermit, Rowlf the piano playing dog. Rowlf’s my muppet crush and of course Miss Piggy. You should see the most recent film. I appreciate people who like The Muppets.
FN: Have you been surprised by the online response since the MIMP shoot?
KB: Yes and it seems ongoing. When I did the photo shoot I thought that might be the end of it, but you never know where these things can lead. I mean now we are doing this interview and there is talk about a MIMP app. It’s kinda fun to see what could happen next.
FN: What’s your go to outfit to feel super sexy?
KB: It’s all about the underwear. I like to do a short run, because it makes me feel awake, loose and excited. Then pick out the lingerie, I take my underwear very seriously.
FN: What should I know about ME(the photographer)?
KB: He’s a special type of person. When you meet him you can immediately understand why he is the one doing this. He’s the perfect person to shoot MIMP. He walks into your house like you guys already know each other, a good looking guy, super friendly and he has a “metro” vibe. And the shoot was so much fun, but initially I was nervous. I had severe stage fright!
FN: What were you frightened of?
KB: Well I started performing when I was around 13, so I’ve always had this “family friendly” image. So…
(she begins to chuckle)
FN: And this was just a lil’ saucy, but nothing too risque.
KB: I know, but it was something I hadn’t done before. The thing I was the most nervous about, is that my family would be ok with the image that I was presenting. I was stepping out of the norm for me. I told my producer first and he was relieved!
KB: Yeah, he was like "I’m so glad that you decided to do this, because I was going to have a conversation with you about letting loose - just a little bit." But no one ever taught me that part. I’ve just been doing my music, I didn’t realize how much of a clean, wholesome, image I had.
FN: Not that that’s a “bad thing”, you just seem to have a very professional approach to being a musician.
KB: I’m also kind of a private person. Besides I didn’t feel like I knew what to do, being sassy for the camera(lol). I’ve done photo shoots before, but nothing like that. I don’t traditionally even like photo shoots. I tend to get really anxious and self conscious, but not this time. This was different.
FN: The pictures looked really good, your body looks amazing!
KB: It had a lot to do with me being really comfortable. I never thought that a shoot could be that much fun. And I called my sister afterwards, because I felt the whole experience was very empowering. I was gushing to her about it and she was so happy for me, it must have been really apparent how positive it had been. I could hear her beaming.
As she tells the story she too is beaming. This seems to be the common denominator amongst all the MIMP girls, it’s not just a shoot - it’s an experience.
FN: What did your boyfriend think about the pictures?
KB: He loved them! He was super encouraging leading up to the shoot. Pisha came over after her shoot to let me know what to expect. You know because I’d never met the photographer before, I wondered should someone else be there? But Pisha was right, it wasn’t necessary at all.
FN: Do you get to choose which pictures get posted?
KB: No ME chooses them and let’s you see. He actually did a bunch of art nudes for me as well, just for myself that won’t be published.
KB: I know and I have those pictures for the rest of my life. I love those shots so much - but they are just for me.
FN: I’m finding everyone connected to the MIMP project has this keen intelligence. No one is flakey, all the girls are incredibly driven and centered.
KB: No I know what you mean, I’m friends with Pisha outside of the site also. That was one of the things that I liked so much. I had little mini crushes on ALL of the girls. Everyone has their own natural character, charm and beauty.
FN: What are you excited about for 2012?
KB: Really excited about my new album, we’ve been working on it for a very long time and we had to halt production for abut 6 months recently. Mostly because we were trying to get the album backed, but now we are ready to go. I’m also working on a “kindness” project in February.
FN: What do you do to relax?
KB: Silly breaks. When we’re working all day on a project and it’s getting too stressful. We’ll take time out to make weird noises and dance around.
FN: Is it hard working with your boyfriend?
KB: It’s really not, I think some people were nervous for us. I mean we really do spend 24hrs a day together but it’s great! We start early because we have clients on the east coast, so we get up at 6.00am.
FN: So your business is primarily social media?
KB: We aren’t a PR company but we do consult businesses, companies and individuals. I love doing it.It’s such a powerful medium, politically, with brands, with uprisings. It’s constantly changing every aspect of the world. So I think all artists should learn as much as they can about how to use it well. We want to help others who might be new to building their own online community.
FN: You are in a unique position, you have your own company and you can also do your music.
KB: And I enjoy both. It can be the wild west online, but that’s what makes it amazing. Music will always be my main thing, but I have a great interest in social media too. I started doing music when I was practically a child still, at the time you did demos, booked gigs and tried to get seen, before Youtube. Later when I was studying at Berklee, I realized there was a shift. Apart from the booking and distribution, if a musician can get powerful enough online you really can have success. If you’re realistic about that success and don’t measure it by numbers of hits and followers. That helps of course, but I think building a loyal online community is more important.
FN: Kinda like that “Friday” girl, whose song was so bad it got millions of hits and a record deal. Which makes no sense really.
KB: That’s what I mean, there is a realistic career in the music industry and then there’s that. Things are becoming muddy. That isn’t a success story for musicians, that wasn’t a great song shared, it was just sharable content. Knowing the difference is important. But musicians can harness that same power for good(lol). I read a recap of John Mayer’s lecture at the Berklee College of Music and he was advising students to "manage the temptation to publish yourself online."
FB: Maybe he’s using his Tweets about his personal life as a gage?
KB: Maybe.Don’t get me wrong I think “it is” important to hone your craft as well, but if you want to pursue a music career right now you have to embrace technology and social media. If you don’t, you’ll either fall behind your peers or you’ll have to hire someone else to do it for you.
Suddenly I want to see John Mayer and Katelyn have a debate, or better still a fencing battle. I’m pretty confident that Katelyn would have him beat - at both.
FN: There is a way to use it well.
KB: Definitely. You can make a living, have a supportive fan base and a strong community if you use the tools correctly. Study how to promote your shows online, share your music, how to create a Kickstarter campaign.
FN: Gaga seems to use the tool very well?
KB: She’s also a huge, huge, star, but yes she really understands the positive aspects of the medium. Her followers are especially attached to her, but there are other smaller artists that have that intimacy with their audience too. Don’t feel that you have to have a Lady Gaga type Twitter following, that’s very rare. But you can have a similar version of that, on a much smaller scale and it’s really fulfilling. Community building is my favorite part of social media.
FN: As a musician, what are your thoughts on illegally downloading music?
KB: It’s a conversation that keeps coming up online. It isn’t for me to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do, but maybe find different music as well.
FN: What do you mean?
KB: Well, if you feel it’s ok to download music illegally don’t listen to music already on labels exclusively - expand. Maybe buy another song from an unknown artist. Or go to a show and buy some merchandise.
FN: Sort of musically paying it forward.So what are you listening to right now?
KB: I’ve loved Ben Folds since I was 11 or 12, him by himself just piano and vocals. He’s such a great storyteller.
FN: I was impressed by that thing he did on Chatroulette.
KB: That was so cool! I went to Bardot in Hollywood on a Monday night(School Night). And my friends’ band Lady Danville was playing and during their set Ben comes up and plays. To see my music idol and my friends, it was like watching a shooting star land on the person next to you. Like what are the odds. It was a moment.
FN: There are certain people that have that mysticism about them. I felt that way when I saw Magneto at a hotel.
KB: Ian McKellan is amazing.
FN: Godlike status! And I don’t get starstruck out here very often. But the angels sang, the skies parted and he floated down the staircase of The Downtown Standard.
KB: Just like a shooting star.
FN: Yes! Yes! All I could think was,"you Godly Gay man you!!" So regal. If you could be a well known male, living or dead, who would you be?
KB: I’ve never thought of that before, who would you be?
FN: Jim Henson.
KB: Jim Henson! He’s one of my favorite people. Let me think.
FN: How about Amadeus?
KB: Brilliant, a genius for sure, but no I wouldn’t want to be him. He was clearly a tortured human being.
FN: Debauchery is only appealing in theory. Didn’t he die of syphilis?
KB: So Mozart’s out(lol). I wouldn’t mind being Louis CK for the day.
KB: He’s a comedian.
FN: I like how you differentiate - just for the day.
KB: I would be him for one night only, not forever(lol). If I was going to be a man forever I would be my dad, he’s got a magic about him.
FN: That’s really sweet!
KB: My dad is like John Denver and Kermit rolled into one. Everyone likes him. But back to Louis, he went off the beaten path recently and did a comedy special online instead of on HBO. You can watch it for a couple of bucks. I like that he thinks out of the box. I really like his humor. It taps into the fact that he’s actually a very, very, intelligent person and just happens to be hilarious. It must be therapeutic to get up on stage and talk about life and how you really feel about issues. And put it in a way that is so relatable, that everyone just accepts it and laughs.
FN: I’m gonna look him up.
KB: Get a glass of wine, invite a friend over and watch his comedy special - it’s so worth it. You know what, just come over to my house.
FN: You would like Eddie Izzard too I think.
KB: Good comedians are pure geniuses.
FN: You really like comedians eh?
KB: Well my boyfriend is a comedian, so you could say that. I just think that they are like musicians, the goal is the same. They want to make the audience feel something. Crafting each set, having this organic conversation that the audience is a part of.
FN: Sometimes I leave a comedy show feeling a little smarter.
KB: It’s definitely an art form.
FN: Do you think because it’s so hard to get a paying job in the entertainment industry, that can be all consuming sometimes?
KB: I know what that is like, but I can’t let myself do that. If you get too affected by what’s going on around you, like other people’s expectations it will start to take the enjoyment out of what you are doing. You know?
FN: Or deciding when to take the next step, or the plunge?
KB: When I did my first record I had lost my other “day job” and in a way it encouraged me more. I think everybody is having to adjust their expectations to what it is that they are "suppose" to be doing with their lives, especially with the recession.
FN: It’s true.
KB: I mean money isn’t easy to come by whatever you do for a living, not just if you are pursuing a creative path. If you are waiting for a fast pay check or that final lucky break, it’s probably not gonna happen. The best you can do is find what will satisfy you, even before the financial relief comes.
I think in a past life Ms Benton may have been a Rally Rowser or a leader of men.
FN: What do you think of the fans of the MIMP site?
KB: They are really great, by doing this shoot I saw how many people love this site. It’s really created a community of it’s own.
FN: It also doesn’t hurt that the MIMP girls are all naturally beautiful.
KB: I guess, but in different and unconventional ways I think. And if I was a fan of a similar website with guys, I would reach out to them online too.
FN: Oh yes! I would definitely reach out to the MIMP boys. Mmmmmm MIMP boys. Do I sound pervy?
KB: No not at all.
FN: I’d say "Why Hello little MIMP boy, would you fancy some candy"?
KB: Well now you do, when you say it like that(lol).
Before we leave one of the waiters invites Katelyn to check out his music online and I suggest he take a look at MIMP. I have a feeling he will be pleasantly surprised.
"Who run the world?