In 2012, I applied to be a speaker for TEDxStJohns. I’ve always been a fan of TED talks and I wanted to be a part of the locally organized event in my home city. In classic Kathy style, I applied the day after the submission deadline. The organizers wrote me to say that my speaker submission was too late to be considered, but they wanted to know if I had an original song that might fit the evening’s theme; Overcoming Adversity. I didn’t. So I wrote one.
While my six year old son played outside in the backyard, and my toddler took a nap in his room, I sat on my couch and I wrote. I wrote line after line, imagining the struggles my ancestors faced hundreds of years ago, and the adversities they overcame while raising children and making life work on a rugged island in an unforgiving North Atlantic climate. Within thirty minutes, I was humming the melody line and before the hour was up, the song was completed. I recorded it on my old computer and sent it in to TED. They liked it, they picked it, and a few months later I was performing it on the stage of the historic Majestic Theatre in downtown St. John’s, during the province’s first independently organized TED event.
As a married twenty-nine year old mother-of-two, living my dream as a singer-songwriter in my home province, I hadn’t experienced much adversity. I had no idea that six months after that performance, I would be sitting in a doctor’s office, being told that I had cancer. Over the next year, I would face the greatest adversities of my life as I fought to survive illness, fear, anxiety, intense medications, and a host of unknowns. Eventually, I was in remission. I wish I could say that life went back to normal, but it took a few years to get my bearings. In the midst of it all, a song I had written in less than an hour, in the comfort of my living room, transformed into an anthem for cancer survivorship that I had no idea it could or would become.
In 2014, I sang “Overcome” at The Hope Ball, a Cancer Centre fundraising event, joined by members of The Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, playing a beautiful score created by orchestra director, Brian Way. Later that same year, I performed “Overcome” and shared my story of overcoming adversity at Holy Heart Theatre as the opening act for New York Times Best Selling Author, Gabrielle Bernstein. I’ve had the privilege of performing “Overcome” at countless fundraising events, retreats and conferences, supporting organizations like Young Adult Cancer Canada and the Daffodil Place.
In 2018, in the midst of an intense season of growth and change, I decided it was time to record the song that had brought me and others so much comfort and joy. I made plans to create my first album. I launched an IndieGoGo campaign to get things started, and through the incredible and generous efforts of my beautiful community, I was able to get the ball rolling.
A lot of monumental things happened during the year of recording. My marriage fell apart and reconciled, my children experienced peaks and valleys of their own, and when the recording was almost complete, I got very sick with an illness that caused both of my ear drums to rupture, deafening me for weeks and stopping my music career in its tracks. Ninety percent of the album was complete when this tragedy struck. The only song I had left to record was, you guessed it, “Overcome.” In true adversity overcoming fashion, I recorded the album’s title track while partially deaf and uncertain of my future in the music industry. It was an extremely challenging time, but it was also, oddly, perfectly imperfect. I’m still recovering from those ear injuries, and have some permanent hearing loss, but I’m getting there and am thankful to be singing once more.
Overcome was set to release in May, 2019 but my inner ear injuries postponed the digital release to September, 2019 and the official debut/kick-off tour was scheduled for the Summer of 2020. Enter: A Global Pandemic. Like many musicians, I haven’t been able to perform much since COVID-19 came on the scene, but someday Overcome will get the party it deserves…and you’re all invited!
This album has been a lengthy, emotional, labour of absolute love. Through this process, I’ve discovered so much about who I am as a performer and as a person. I have sung through struggle, pain, and celebration. I have written through heart break, sickness, deconstruction, and recovery. This album is near and dear to my heart and I hope that it will meet you exactly where you are. I hope the lyrics mean something to you. I hope the music comforts and inspires you. I hope that our shared human experience will connect us through these words and melodies. It is a daunting experience to share art with the world but you have made it possible. You have helped me feel safe to be me.
I don’t know if I’ll ever record another album but I am overwhelmingly grateful that I got to make this one. Thank you for supporting the arts. Thank you for supporting me.
Thank you so much for listening.