Kathleen Munroe left Hamilton almost a decade ago to pursue a career in actin and she has done very well for herself. She worked in the Canadian movie industry and eventually moved to Los Angeles where she found a great career. While she’s acted in many things you may know her from her current work on Resurrection. While Kathleen’s acting career is impressive we are here to talk about Kathleen as a musician.
Q – I understand that you have a Hamilton connection – can you tell us a bit about that? When did you leave Hamilton?
Well, I was born and raised in Hamilton. I’m actually talking to you right now from my parents back deck near the escarpment. I got into acting after high school, and after working in Toronto for a few years I moved to Los Angeles. I have a place in Toronto and I do come and visit my friends and family in Hamilton as much as possible. My acting schedule can get hectic but I try to make it out to Hamilton at least once a season.
Q – What high school did you attend in Hamilton?
I went to Westdale. That school has produced a lot of talent including the wonderful Jessy Lanza, Caissie Levy, Nick Cordero, and many more. Going to Westdale was amazing because we were always aware of the great talent that came before us. People like Martin Short were celebrated and it made me feel like it was possible for me to do amazing things.
Q – What’s it like acting in Toronto and Hamilton for American productions?
It’s neat and I’m always happy when I get to work in the cities that I love. It’s important to me to maintain a presence in Hamilton, and Toronto. In general I think that Canadian crews are great and there are many talented people who work in the industry around here. Because I’m from here I sometimes feel like an ambassador to my American costars. As far as shooting for American cities, I think that its neat when a city is versatile and when it can look like many different places. I’ve been in productions where Hamilton was shot as Jersey, or even South Western US.
Q – Your record is being put out buy Hamilton based label, Hidden Pony Records, and you worked with Hamilton based producer Michael Kiere. How did you decide to make this album in Hamilton, rather than in Los Angeles or any of the other cities you spend time in?
I just really wanted to do it here! It meant something to me.. to have the record rooted in Hamilton. Because I’m from Hamilton I have ties to so many amazing musicians and I wanted to work with people like Julie Fader (Etiquette), Steve McKay (YerYard), Ben Muñoz (New Hands), and Noah Fralick (Young Rival). The right forces aligned and I’m happy that it worked out how it did. This project means enough to me and I’m so happy that I was able to do it here with people that I respect. The community here is so strong and great. I’ve been so touched by the welcoming community… Hamilton is a hell of a town! I grew up listening to Sonic Unyon bands and I always knew that we had something special here.
I loved working with Michael Kiere. He is incredibly talented.. he can do anything. I described the vision I had in my mind for this album and he was somehow able to always translate my ideas into music. He took abstract ideas and made them sound how I imagined. He found the exact tone I was after. Having Ben (new hands) recording on the floor below us was very cool. He is stupidly talented and it was such a privilege to be able to call him from the floor below for input and for his suggestions. I had a chance to hear the music he is working on now and I was just blown away.
This project means enough to me and I’m so happy that I was able to do it here with people that I respect. The community here is so strong and great. I’ve been so touched by the welcoming community… Hamilton is a hell of a town!
Q – What inspired this album?
I’ve been writing songs since I was a little kid. It is something I’ve always done with varying degrees of quality. It wasn’t all great! I’d rather not revisit the teen years. Throughout the years I’ve contributed to other musicians and I eventually felt like I had something do say on my own. I didn’t want to make a vanity record. I had a collection of songs I’ve written previously and I recorded some new ones for this project. Sometimes I will read a book, or watch a movie, and I’ll feel moved to write a song. I wrote a new song after watching The Jinx, for example. I also travel a lot of work and feel sort of transient and lonely and that tends to spark songwriting, too. This album pulls from a few different areas but it all has the same vibe. Sort of creepy.
Q – Was the creepy, gloomy, sound something that you consciously went after?
Not really, it just felt really obvious for some reason. We didn’t try out several different ‘vibes’ before settling on this one. The songs were always sort of sparse, pared down, and creepy. There were no other plans. The darkness is a unifying thread that runs through the album. Mike was great about figuring out exactly what levels of dark and gloomy I was after. I would sometimes throw out really abstract ideas and he somehow went to that place with me and figured out how to translate that to the music. I’d say things like “Let’s make it wetter. Bottom of a bottle wet. And the bottle is in the other room”.. and Mike somehow got that.
Q – You travel a lot as an actress and you mentioned earlier that you’ve spent some time in Georgia. They have a very rich music tradition there – can you tell us a bit about what that was like to spend time there?
I didn’t play any shows or anything while I was down there but I did a lot of exploring. They have such a rich music community and I loved that. I got really into bands like Black Lips, and Deerhunter. It was also neat to learn more about the history of that part of the country. Learning more about Georgia’s involvement in the Civil War, Plantations, and things like that. As a Canadian I found it very interesting. I was also around a lot of Atlanta hip hop and that was awesome. I met Rae Sremmurd , and some of the other young guys coming up right now. I got to hang around Young Thug, and he has a really great album out right now.
Q – You have a great acting career and you are now releasing beautiful music, I’m wondering if you have any other creative outlets?
I have an interest in photography. I have a photography Tumblr and some older film cameras that I work with. I’m also just getting into screenwriting, and that’s very new and exciting for me right now. At the end of the day what I’m interested in is storytelling and using media to tell stories in different ways. The acting, music, photography, writing, and whatever else are all fulfilling the same thing. Telling stories.
Q – What are you listening to these days?
I’ve been listening to Etiquette non stop these days. That’s my number one. Otherwise, I really like the latest from Mac Demarco, Leonard Cohen, Young Thug, Kendric Lamar, and Viet Cong.
Q – You played a show in Toronto recently and are playing the I<3Hamilton fundraiser this Friday, can we expect any more Hamilton, or even Canadian shows from you in the near future?
It is a matter of scheduling for me. I’m not a superstar actor, but I am busy with my acting and don’t really have time for a conventional tour. I’m lucky that the people at Hidden Pony have been so patient with me. I hope to do one off shows here and there but a formal tour will have to wait.
Q – Let’s do a word association game. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the world HAMILTON?
Honest City. I guess have LA to compare it to and it is always so refreshing to come home. Hamilton is without pretense or bullshit. It doesn’t deal with some of that surface level shit that LA has going on. The priorities and expectations are different here and I find that very refreshing. If you suck – people will tell you, and if you do something great you will have the genuine support of the community.
Thanks a lot!