The Musical Path of Theo Katzman

An Interview: Tonina Saputo & Theo Katzman (2016)



Theo Katzman is an American singer, songwriter and producer based in Los Angeles, California. His musical style ranges from pop to indie rock, with multiple areas in between. He is a member of the funk band Vulfpeck and has contributed to the works of several artists as a songwriter and producer. Katzman has released two studio albums. In the Spring of 2016, Tonina had the chance to ask him some questions


Tonina: What came first? Vulfpeck or your solo stuff?

Theo: My solo stuff came first. I was in a band in college called My Dear Disco, and I left the band in 2009 to start my solo project. I released my first album, "Romance Without Finance" in November 2011. At the end of 2010, the Vulf guys and I got together and recorded a few tracks for a friend's senior thesis recording project. That became the first Vulfpeck EP. Over the years, the Vulf thing really started to get popular through YouTube, building up to the fanbase that Vulf has today.

Tonina: How do you balance the two?

Theo: Balancing seems to be one of the main challenges of life, doesn't it? Almost every professional artist/musician that I know is balancing multiple career opportunities/passions at any given time, myself included. The way that I find balance between my solo project and Vulfpeck is that I spend most of my time working on my solo project, and Jack Stratton (my friend and bandleader of Vulfpeck) spends most of his time working on Vulfpeck. I have found that writing songs, and working on my development as a vocalist and guitarist, is the most imperative thing for me to do in my daily creative life, so as long as I'm chipping away at that process, I feel balanced. Then when the Vulf guys get together to make music, it's fresh.

Tonina: What do you like most and the least about your career?

Theo: Hmm...I feel pretty good about my career, in the sense that I have acknowledged that I am a "lifer," so I plan to be on the music path for the rest of my life. That makes me feel a little more at peace with the process of being an artist, creating work, and learning along the way. In that sense, I feel like I'm right where I should be, given the choices that I've made. I also play and sing with an instrument-When did you start to merge your vocal, guitar, and drum talents?

Tonina: I also play and sing with an instrument-When did you start to merge your vocal, guitar, and drum talents?

Theo: Right on! I think singing is important for every musician, regardless of instrument. It seems to me to be very deeply rooted in our beings, as humans. I've been singing since I was a little kid. Singing probably came first, actually. I used to sing with my Mom a lot, and my Dad also. My Mom has a great voice. Drums were the first instrument that I fell in love with, but pretty much right from the start I was singing and playing drums in a band. I always knew I wanted to sing. Guitar came about 2 years after drums for me. I think I realized that I wanted a melodic/harmonic instrument with which to accompany myself as a singer, and also I wanted to write songs. Plus, I was deep into Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix, so it was only a matter of time. It was actually a bigger challenge for me to coordinate singing while playing guitar than it was for me to coordinate singing while drumming. And singing while playing bass is the hardest of all.

Tonina: Do you ever feel tired and uninspired? If so, how do you get out of that funk?

Theo: Yes, I can certainly feel tired and uninspired. Everybody seems to go through that at some point or another. I find that having a daily routine, especially one that prioritizes sleep, diet, and exercise, is the starting point for a healthy mind/body relationship. After that, I find that keeping a routine creative practice is essential. For me, I do the "morning pages" exercise from "The Artist's Way", every day. I highly recommend

Tonina: What career and musical advice would you give to an instrumentalist and vocalist like myself?

Theo: For career advice, I'm not sure that I can weigh-in on your career in particular, since everybody's path is so different. What I can say is that I think it can be helpful to try playing different roles in the musical process, and when you find one (or several) that feel really good to you, follow that/those. So for instance, if you find that you're most happy/fulfilled/inspired when you perform for other people, seek more opportunities to perform for other people. If you do that for a while, and then you find that you're even happier when you play your own original music, then seek opportunities for that. Everybody fits a different role. Some people love engineering and producing. Other people prefer performing. Some people just want to practice or theorize. All of it is cool, and all of it contributes to the world of music. But it's important for each of us to find what excites us the most, and then to really, seriously, feed that excitement, nurture it, and seek more opportunities to grow in that realm.

Probably the most important thing for your career is having a great community of people who you surround yourself with. Musicians, creatives, and good friends. The whole world is connected now. Find your people and make stuff with them! Build a scene!

Musically, as an instrumentalist and vocalist, I think you should work on your instrument, and work on your singing! It sounds obvious, but sometimes we forget, especially when it comes to the voice. People feel like you "have it, or you don't." But truthfully every singer can improve his/her voice. Strengthen it, work on intonation, work on your sound. And most importantly, record yourself singing, and practice singing into a microphone and hearing it come back at your through a speaker. Singing into a microphone and hearing it come back through your headphones/speaker is completely different than singing in the open air. And perform live for other people!

Tonina: Lastly, do you have a favorite candy?

Theo: I'm not really a candy guy. I love chocolate though. But I consider quality chocolate a food, not a candy:) If I had to pick a candy, it would definitely be that spicy Mexican tamarind candy. That stuff gets me every time!