Kat Edmonson started live-streaming a weekly variety show out of her living room during the pandemic – a surprising but necessary adjustment after the singer-songwriter's touring life was locked down, leaving Edmonson with little to no work. It was a blow at first, but she's come to really embrace the format.
"I guess you could say my inner child just woke up and was like, 'Yes! I've always wanted to do a show!' Like, this is harkening back to when I was a little kid, you know?" Edmonson says. "Adults would come over to the house and I would make an announcement: 'There will be a show in five minutes!' And I'd just, like, run and come up with something to do."
Usually, artists collaborate with the Song Project team to find and choose a topic to write about. Edmonson was asked to imagine her final curtain call, when the pandemic was finally over — what she would say to the fans who have been tuning in. "We've been through these challenges together, now, but we've had wonderful moments in the meantime," she says.
However, after making that plan, Edmonson's life got in the way. Her mother, who lives in Texas, fell ill and underwent a major surgery – just a few days before an ice storm ravaged the state. Aiding her mother from N.Y., Edmonson put her feelings into words — which became the lyrics to her Morning Edition Song Project entry, "If You're Scared."
Kat Edmonson spoke with NPR's Rachel Martin about growing closer to her fan community, struggling to aid her mother through the pandemic and processing that through song. Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read on for an edited transcript. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Rachel Martin: Can you talk about, first, what was the song going to be about?
Kat Edmonson: I've grown so close with the community that has been watching the show — The Kat Edmonson Show. And it's been the greatest surprise out of everything: I've grown closer to these people. I've gotten to know them in this way that I've never known my fans ... And it's been the gamut. It's been hardship. We've cried together. We've laughed together. And now, we're facing — moving on — into a new period, where things will be different, yet again. And even though we're all looking for relief from the pandemic and being locked down and being apart, change is always hard. And there's some amount of courage, even moving into a better phase, that is required.
So, you set your songwriting intentions in that place. And then, what happened?
My mom went into the hospital, very unexpectedly. She was just feeling sick for a number of days. And one morning, I woke up to find that she had been rushed to the emergency room. And she was going into surgery for a hole in her stomach that had come by way of an ulcer that she didn't know she had.
And she doesn't live near you, right? She lives in Texas, you're in New York.
Yes. I felt completely helpless. I wanted to get into my car and just start driving, but I wasn't completely ... stable, if you will. Like, I knew I needed to stay and find out what was going on and talk to her doctors and be there. Because my mom is a single woman and I'm her only child and I need to take care of her.
She lost her power. Her apartment was freezing. And she had to leave home and find warmth. I actually spent an entire day looking for a hotel room for her, while she drove around looking for hotel rooms. Her friends all had lost their power.
She's still recovering, right? From this major surgery? And she gets home ... and there's no power. And she doesn't have a place to say.
Yes. Right. And at first we thought it was just gonna be for — maybe — 48 hours. But, of course, we just kept getting the news that it was lasting longer and longer, and then there would be no water, and they're turning off the gas. It just ... the news just kept coming that there was not gonna be a reprieve from this. Ultimately, she found a hotel. But then, after 24 hours, the hotel lost power and she had to go back out – and fortunately, she found a friend's house that had gotten power back.
But in the meantime, she had to board her dog, Miss Merry Christmas. The relationship between my mom and Miss Merry is one of 14 years, and Miss Merry's like family to us. And after so many days without power, my mom was finally able to go home and she couldn't wait to bring Merry back home ... and within a period of hours, Merry just didn't seem well at all, and within less than a day, she had to take her to the emergency animal clinic. And Merry ultimately passed away. So, through all of this, I haven't been able to be with my mom in circumstances which — not even collectively, any one of them I would have dropped everything to be with her.
I'm so sorry. It's so hard to not be able to hold her through all of that.
Yeah. So, when I was writing this song for the NPR project, I was going through all of this other stuff and processing what was happening ... And this song, "If You're Scared," just was writing itself. It was everything that I wanted to say to my mom at the time.
Has your mom heard it?
She's heard pieces of it, when I was writing it early on. It made her cry. It seemed to upset her because we were apart. And so, I didn't wanna show it to her. But I'm quite eager for her to hear it now.
Do you have any idea when you'll get to see her?
Thankfully, she just got her first vaccination yesterday. And she's scheduled to get her next one in mid-March and I don't know when I'll be vaccinated but — as soon as possible. As soon as possible.