The 20-year-old Quebec singer-songwriter unveils her soul on Rock Island

While most free and sprawling sites alternating currents this weekend is in downtown Davenport, two of Rock Island’s brightest musical lights will also be shining.

Singer-songwriter Katherine Shewell, known as Kas (an acronym for her initials), will perform twice with pianist Andrzej Kozlowski — an outdoor concert at Arts Alley (next to Quad City Arts, 1715 2nd Ave., Rock Island) Fridays at 5 p.m. and Cool Beanz512 24e St., at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Shewell, a 20-year-old Rock Island High alum, will perform mostly her original songs, including the first one she recently co-wrote with Kozlowski (she did the lyrics and he did the music).

Kas Shewell is a 2020 graduate of Rock Island High School.

She sang in a choir throughout middle school and high school (including Rocky’s elite chamber choir) but never took private voice lessons. Shewell attended the grand opening on March 1, 2022 new sound conservatory (owned by Kozlowski), at its first location 2225 3rd Ave., Rock Island, and soon began weekly voice lessons with him.

“I knew I was chasing music and I thought it was good to have a classical base,” Shewell said this week. She has been writing songs since she was little.

“I used to tell my mom what to write, because I couldn’t write but I had stories,” she said. She didn’t start playing the guitar seriously (self-taught) until high school and really got into songwriting early in high school.

Shewell’s greatest musical influences are Hayley Williams of Paramore and Jack Antonoff groups Bleachers and Fun (which writes and produces many big names, including Taylor Swift, Lorde, St. Vincent and Lana Del Rey).

“I’ve always liked the idea of ​​writing for people bigger than me,” Shewell said, dreaming of Antonoff recording one of his songs.

“I have extensive experience accompanying opera singers, Kozlowski said. “It was pretty easy with Kas. The fact that we can put this song together in an hour, did we just finish a song in an hour?

She gave him chords for the verses, and he made music for the chorus.

A view of the new music school and store at the Sound Conservatory, 1600 2nd Ave., Rock Island (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“Writing a song can be quite laborious,” Kozlowski said. “It was very quick.”

“I couldn’t write lyrics to save my life,” he said. “The lyrics and I don’t get along. I can write piano music, a full symphonic score, but you ask me to write lyrics and tell me there’s a million dollars waiting for me, it’s not gonna happen.

The lyrics come easier

Shewell said the words were much easier for her to write. “The amount of lyrical content I have versus the finished music is insane,” she said.

The lyrics of this new song that she had composed about 18 months ago. “I wanted it to be bigger; it’s something that I know I can’t write music for,” Shewell said. “I had like a three-chord progression, and he took it way further than I expected.”

Shewell and Kozlowski at the Sound Conservatory, 1600 2nd Ave., Rock Island (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Kozlowski also used music he wrote about 15 years ago. He mainly wrote music only, in the classical style (like his favourite, Chopin). Shewell didn’t know he wrote music, and she gave him the lyrics to a song, “Intervention Please,” which he put to music in 90 minutes, and will be doing this weekend.

She described it as a powerful ballad, about relying too much on someone you love. When they’re gone, you’re looking for all kinds of endorsements you can get. (LISTEN to it in the video at the top of this page.)

“I draw on comparisons to addiction struggles in my songs,” Shewell said. “I have struggled with an eating disorder for the past two years.

This affected her, wanting to enter the music industry.

“It’s almost like you can’t get out of it. When you’re in the entertainment business in any form, you’ve commodified yourself to some degree,” Shewell said. “There is always this concern. I can get by, but how much?

For Alternating Currents, they will also do a cover of “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman” and “Falling Slowly” from “Once”. Shewell will play many of his originals, accompanying himself on guitar.

He called his voice unique. “There’s a power behind it, but it’s soft,” he said. “She is able to sing without having to belt and make it sound forced. There’s a naturalness to the voice, with this style of music, you couldn’t ask for a better voice for it. It makes the songwriting process easier. You don’t have to write to fit the music. It goes with it. »

“You have to hear her classical stuff – she can sing classical,” Kozlowski said.

Inspired during COVID

During COVID, stuck at home (finishing her senior year in 2020), she was inspired to write more.

“Once I got out of high school I wanted to keep playing, but obviously gigs were out the window. There were no open mics, nothing,” Shewell said. to sit, write and look within. Everything happens for a reason.”

Kozlowski and Shewell will perform at Rock Island’s Arts Alley on Friday at 5 p.m. and Cool Beanz in Rock Island on Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

“Once things started to open up, and I could go to open mics, that’s when I came out,” she said, noting that she had produced at Unimpaired in downtown Davenport, O’Keefe’s in Moline and Bent River in Rock Island. Shewell has also performed at Gypsy Highway, Davenport and Old Oaks Winery in Milan.

“I never did gigs like this in high school,” she said. “We have such a great music scene here. There’s a part of me that thinks I need to move to a bigger city — like Nashville or LA or something. Then some of my unique sound disappeared and I would blend into the big city.

“Nowadays you can record at home and there’s so much promotion,” Shewell said, noting that she wanted to do professional recordings of her songs.

Writing songs is a form of therapy.

“Writing in general is such a thing for me,” she said. “I have no idea how other people will relate to it. At the writing stage, it’s definitely a therapeutic outlet for me.

Once it’s over, people connect with it emotionally.

The more precise the better

“Especially with poetry, the more specific you are, the more universal it becomes,” Shewell said. “People identify with specificities. When you give them these concrete images, they will see it better. I think I’m trying, how can I make this as personal as possible? It can attract more people. »

For example, she wrote a song called “Cherry Chapstick”, which is specific in its title alone.

“I remember writing it, this scent is our strongest thing. You smell something and it brings back memories,” Shewell said, noting that she remembered her grandmother’s funeral when she was early in high school. “I remember buying Cherry Chapstick at a gas station, going to visit her, and that concrete memory is what tied all that emotion together.”

The song is about her grandmother and a complicated friendship she had at the time.

“The only thing that bothered me so much was losing my best friend,” she said. “Everything was falling apart and you just tell yourself that if this relationship was just fixed, things would be better.”

Coming out of COVID, we all have a “strangely common trauma from being alone for so long,” Shewell said.

Shewell is not going to college, but wants to do music full time.

“How many people do you know who don’t have music in their lives?” asked Kozlowski. “They are always drawn to music. You kinda need us, so don’t disapprove of people wanting to be that professional.

“You turn to art in this time of distress,” Shewell said of the importance of music and entertainment during COVID.

After opening in downtown Rock Island in March 2022, the Sound Conservatory renovated the ground floor of a much larger building at 1600 2nd Ave., which opened last month (photo by Jonathan Turner) .

Kozlowski plans to have performances in the new Conservatory of Sound in future ACs. He recently opened the music school and store in a much taller three-story building at 1600 2nd Ave., Rock Island.

Downtown Rock Island director Jack Cullen asked him if he wanted to perform this year, and Kozlowski recommended Shewell.

Shewell sang for a Sound Conservatory scholarship in April. She said prefers to do all originals.

“I’m really bad at doing a lot of covers that people will recognize,” she said. “I’m stubborn, like I want to do what I want to do.”

For more information on Sound Conservatory, click HERE. For the full list of Alternating Currents artists, click HERE.

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