Kate Vargas // Nothing Turns My Lock
A reformed wild child, in recent years Kate Vargas has traded the party for meditation, yoga, clean eating and a renewed focus on what she values most—her music. The half-Mexican, New Mexico-raised, NYC-based artist is building ever more mindfully on her sound, and the music press is taking notice. Vargas has received accolades from a variety of respected outlets including NPR, Billboard, No Depression, and the Huffington Post, the latter assessing, “There is an unlimited amount of potential in this superstar on the rise.”
Vargas has packed houses from Ireland’s Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival to The Troubadour in London, The Mansion on O Street in Washington D.C. to New York’s Bowery Electric. She spent last year touring Germany with her trio, Kate Vargas & The Reckless Daughters.
Her upcoming single, “Nothing Turns My Lock” (out May 17th), is a new direction in regards to her Americana roots and her more folk-rock turn with last year’s For The Wolfish & Wandering. That acclaimed release featured Vargas’ moody and deeply personal songs that wove stories from her life with tales she soaked up from literature and also the rich oral folklore tradition with which she grew up.
“Nothing Turns My Lock” was born from a week-long February 2018 stay at the Holiday Music Motel in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Led by prolific songwriter Pat Macdonald, it’s the world’s only fully operational motel featuring live music, collaborative songwriting retreats and a radio station that exclusively broadcasts the music created within its own walls. While at the hotel during a songwriting week branded as “Love on Holiday,” Vargas co-wrote the jazzy treatise on being open to love in all forms with Andrea Wittgens and Jerod Kaszynski who she was paired with by the spin of a bottle, based on a piece of art that was also chosen by the bottle’s spin.
“We were inspired by the art piece, “Relations” by Chelsea Littman. It’s an installation with a bunch of frames and in each frame, there are different configurations of locks and keys – some are two locks and a key and then one lock and two keys, or five keys and a lock. I wrote it with Andrea, who also happens to be my neighbor and good friend and Jerod, who’s a killer sax player. We got to talking about jazzy stuff and decided to take it that direction. We wanted to play around with this really classic sound but make it a bit more current. Those old standards tend to be pretty hetero and monogamous and we wanted to expand that”
Not a big believer in monogamy / I go out with whoever I please / And if Iʼm drawn to his geometry / And his angles are right well thatʼs proof enough for me / That we could have a little
fun together / 20 minutes tops I ainʼt talking bout forever / Just know, even if it takes many men to satisfy my needs / Nothing turns my lock like your key / I donʼt discriminate between Johnny and Sue / He she they and you can come too
Vargas’ childhood in Corrales, New Mexico had a profound impact on the woman and artist she would become. This artist and farming village just outside Albuquerque was populated with Mexican-Catholic families like hers, as well as creatives and a variety of seekers. It was a community rich in oral tradition and folklore, steeped in tales of good and evil, ghosts and witches, sin, The Devil—even extraterrestrial visitors. “It was a strange and wonderful place that I’ve really come to appreciate as an adult. There was a culture of storytelling, and the stories were often dark—the way I write songs now is rooted in that tradition. The paranormal and the supernatural always seem to make their way in. It was a great place for an imagination to run wild. If I told my mother I was bored, she’d tell me, ‘Go outside and pretend something.’”
Still, the slow pace of rural small-town life was excruciating at times for Vargas, who longed for the action and possibility of the big city. She began playing the flute at a young age and by the time she was in high school developed an interest in jazz that led her to Boston where she studied music at Berklee. After developing her more pop-oriented songwriting skills, she is now returning to explore the music she grew up studying as she continues to round out her style and refuses to be encompassed by either musical or social boundaries.
“A soulfulness, playfulness, and sensuality midway between the classic blues and jazz of artists like Lucille Bogan and Eartha Kitt.” – PopMatters
“With those magical whiskey drenched vocals channeling Eartha Kitt, unlocking new doors and stepping into a new world filled of vintage jazz and blues might just have been the right key.” – The Dutch Guy
“Vargas’ appeal lies in her husky voice and her willingness to explore genres and avoid excessive production cleanliness in her sound.” – Post To Wire
“With outstanding instrumentation and her extraordinary voice, you’ll want to push open the swinging doors of the next saloon, take a whiskey and just listen to the sounds of this wonderful piece.” – Pretty In Noise
“A loving homage to early-twentieth-century Jazz, it’s updated with a radiant, modern wink…humorous, charismatic.” – The Autumn Roses
Publicist: Rachel Hurley
“It was a pleasure working with Rachel. She’s no bullshit and I love that, especially in a publicist. Rachel is also super supportive, standing behind music she believes in 100 percent. I can’t imagine a better PR experience for my album campaign.” – Kate Vargas