Breath of Clarity

Rising Musician Katie Barack

The vision to one day produce music is shared by many young adults who have developed a passion, but the determination to make this a reality is what can set true musicians apart from the rest.

Sophomore Katie Barack, for years, has played around with her passion, until about two years ago when she decided to centralize her energy into creating her own songs with lyrics, guitar, and electronic sounds. The GBS singer-songwriter has, so far, composed twenty- five original pieces.

The establishment of her purpose to play, according to Barack, has formed her unique identity as a musician.

“I’ve just had to make this about being an outlet for myself,” Barack said. “The minute that I start making it for other people more than myself, I’ll blend in with everybody else and fade into everything else.”

The first song that Barack ever wrote entitled, “The Girl Who Thought Tears Were Rain,” was where the evoking of emotion began. The piece was about the fear of becoming less innocent over the course of growing up, according to Barack. The product of this song represented a sense of growth for her that came from persevering through a rough period of her life.

“It felt spiritually like it was meant to be written,” Barack said. “Whenever I play it, this song just makes me feel a little bit stronger. Everyone has their battles, and I’ve always tried not to use mine as an excuse. […] I’m just very proud of myself for being able to put that down.”

Through her music, Barack has come up with an overall philosophy that explores the healthiest way to manage emotion.

“The lyrics stay with me,” Barack explained. “I wouldn’t have written it if I didn’t feel it, but I also wouldn’t write it if I knew I’d just be letting them go. […] It’s important to hold on to your emotions, not necessarily bottle them up, but just to stay true to them.”

Barack has found success in her career with this mentality. She has a regular gig at a cafe in Evanston called C.J. Arthur’s, as well as having performed at many South events including Hip Hop Coffee House and Spring Fling. Barack’s most profound performing experience was at her cousin Emily Diamond-Falk’s wedding, where she wrote a song specifically for the bride and groom. According to Barack, it is such an incredible opportunity to witness a loved one being emotionally moved by an artist’s own composition.

“It was really easy for me to come up with those lyrics,” Barack said. “When I played it for them at the wedding, she started crying. I wish I could have repaid her [for that feedback]. It was really awesome to get that sort of response.”

In between shows, Barack spends her time recording at Woodside Avenue Music Production Studio with Steve Rashid in Evanston. The work that she does in the recording studio of exploring the complications of the creation of music, according to Barack, has forced her to venture beyond her familiar boundaries.

“Katie is very young, so the whole process is one of discovery,” Rashid explained. “If you begin with a good song, it can be produced in many different ways. There are so many decisions to make […] so, it can be a very complicated process. […] It’s like anything else in life- if you learn a little bit, you start to learn pretty quickly that there’s so much you don’t know.”

Along with the opportunity to record, Barack explains that she gains a series of knowledge in learning methods of engineering and producing music, as well as information regarding music theory and composition. Barack works a lot with the computer as well, taking multiple takes of each aspect of her song, and tweaking them to the precise sound that she’s aiming for.

“It’s really awesome to just experiment,” Barack said. “It’s really cool to have a project and play around with it for a while. […] It really is synthetic. It takes a lot of work. It’s all about producing something to carry emotion, so it’s worth it.”

Rashid explains the ideal product Barack aims to create with every song in the studio.

“That’s the trick about making art,” Rashid said. “We’re putting together specific skills to try to craft something. What you want to try to do is create something beautiful. […] In the end, if it’s not beautiful and moving, then we have sort of failed.”

The biggest challenge that Barack has faced in her musical career has been establishing a sense of true confidence in herself. To tackle this problem, Barack’s father recommended that she put her songs onto iTunes as a test of confidence, not evening having to do with the music itself.

“I’ve never even looked to see if anyone bought it,” Barack said. “The idea of knowing that I was comfortable enough to leave it up shows that I’m taking some steps. In many ways, I’m a confident person, but when it comes to certain things I shut down. I’ve been really grateful that I haven’t done that with this because I really love it.”

Barack explains how this attitude has transcended into her daily life, having a positive effect on her overall well being.

“When I’m done playing the music, feeling comfortable with it has made me a confident person,” Barack said. “With the upperclassmen and teachers at South, you can see how confident a lot of them are and it makes me want to be more like that. The more time I spend at this school and do music, the more it makes me want to better myself.”

As a young musician, Barack recognizes that her musical aspirations of making it to the big stage are hard to make a reality, but emphasizes that she’d do anything to reach that spotlight. “The feeling of being on stage in front of people and having confidence is indescribable,” Barack said.

“When I imagine myself older doing this, it makes me want to cry sometimes. To me, it really does feel a little bit unrealistic, but I want it more than anything.”