chats with cath: kennedy shaw

As soon as I saw Kennedy Shaw perform at Sad Punk Press’ open mic night in January, I knew I had to shoot with her. At just 18 years old, she has a stage presence that draws the audience in and allows us to feel her emotions as she sings every word. That night I immediately reached out her and a little over a month later, we met up for this shoot! With just a $4 piece of fabric I had lying around my apartment and a cheap backdrop stand, we set up in a little park just a couple blocks from my apartment. The sun was shining, everyone was out & about enjoying the Spring weather (finally!) and there was an incredible breeze. It was the perfect day to just be outside and shake off the Winter blues. Of course, I couldn’t just shoot with this talented singer/songwriter without asking her a few questions so keep reading to learn more about Kennedy in her own words and check out the photos from our shoot!

Q: You just released your first music video, Heavy. What was that process like for you?

A: The process was so much more collaborative than anything else I’ve worked on, and more relaxed than i assumed. I’ve found that when you really respect and admire the people you’re working with, everything feels easy. The hardest part was sitting on it for so long i think.


Q: If you could summarize your sound in just a few words, what would they be?

A: Passionate, honest, and deliberate.

Q: When did you know music was something you were passionate about? How did you start making music?

A: I always knew ! I really wish I had a defining moment, but it was something constant since i could remember. I was a little kid thinking , “when i grow up and everyone knows my songs…” kind of thing, but it never stopped or seemed unrealistic, so I’m still thinking that now. I started playing piano at 7, I sang before that, and started performing my own music at 12 or so, at poetry readings.

Q: Who are your biggest influences?

A: so many! Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Nina Simone, Bjork, Joni Mitchell. I like to pull influence from other genres too, like Rage Against or Brockhampton.


Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

A: I have a real love for poetry, W.B Yeats is my all time favorite. I also really love taking inspiration from visual artists. My favorite artists are my closest friends, Jesse Castor and Reed Santos. For me songwriting is like craving a burger, when it happens it just does, but I’d like to think being knowledgeable of other arts aids my ability to communicate a feeling through song.

Q: How do you know when a song is finished?

A: A song is finished to me when the weight of it is lifted. It feels very physical to write a song, and I feel lighter when it's on the page and the piano.

Q: If you could collaborate with another artist tomorrow, who would it be?

A: Matty Healy. No question.

Q: What projects are you working on now?

A: I’m releasing a single, titled “Boys” in May, and then a remix of that single with Zo, (@trannibalecter). I’m also recording my next LP!

To see more of Kennedy, follow her Instagram @makeoutgrrl and check out her music on Spotify!

chats with cath: aylee

Music is intertwined into so many aspects of our lives. Whether it’s a little jingle on a commercial that gets stuck in your head for days or that song you blast when you need a pick-me-up, it’s safe to say most of us couldn’t imagine a world without music. Some prefer to keep their singing confined to their shower or car while others share it with the world. One of those people who share their talent with the world is Aylee, During our shoot at the Japanese House & Garden in Fairmount Park, we soaked up the serene atmosphere and made the most of the breezy autumn afternoon.

Keep reading to get to know Aylee for yourself.

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if you only had a few moments to explain what your art to a stranger, what would you say?

“My art is my testimony. I didn’t chose to make gospel music, God said the only way I could pursue music is to sing for him. My gifts of singing and songwriting are used for his Glory and I’m honored. Plus I get to tell my story and testify about the greatness of God all in one breathe and it’s magical.“

what’s your earliest memory of music?

“My earliest memory of singing is when I was 10 years old and I received my first solo in my grandmother’s church. I sang Silent Night and my grandma was so proud. I also got in a fight because a girl was jealous I got the part. She later became one of my best friends. Lol”

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what’s your favorite thing about the music/creative scene in philly? 

“My favorite aspect of music/creative scene in Philly is its diversity. There’s a tribe for everyone where one can feel at home and accepted. What I also appreciate is the growth that’s happened in the creative community. From local entrepreneurs thriving in business, to organizations like Rec Philly providing resources, to music of all genres playing in venues all over the city. Philly is the Mecca of creative performance at the moment.”

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as a creative person, do you ever feel a struggle to balance personal & professional work? 

“Yes, all the time. I work as a attendance coordinator for a charter school, run a hair styling business out of my home and write and sing on a daily basis so yes balancing it all is trying at times. On top of that I’m a wife, bonus mom, and active member of my church so a to do list is my best friend. I’m a planner, but I ask the Holy Ghost what moves to make often. So though life can be draining at times I’m enjoying it. I do however want to start yoga lol”

when you get a creative block, what are some ways you overcome those? 

“What I can say is I never force the music. I dwell in the space of creativity when it hits me. Whether that’s when I hear a dope beat I connect to or when I’m overhearing a conversation that inspires a song. When the juices start flowing, I give my creative side full range. Ideas come at the strangest times for me but I will say my bathroom is a place where hits have been created!”


what are some of the biggest challenges you face as an artist, especially as a woman?

“I’ve faced numerous challenges as an artist, first with accepting my sound as different as is it. Then finding the right creatives to work with. As a woman, when I first started in this industry I was combated with many sexual advances from my male counterparts. Being taken serious in the music industry takes talent and dedication, and in the past 10 years, I believe I’ve shown I possess them both. Budget has been a challenge as well but in the right season, God opens doors no man can close. Honestly I’m grateful for all the challenges because I’ve grown as an artist and a business woman. Even with this album, the lack of a team showed the necessity for one but these are all lessons learned.”

what are three things you never leave home without? 

”I never leave without my phone, a coat if needed, I’m always cold and lipstick."


what are you working on now? and what’s next for you? 

“I’m releasing my debut album November 30th so it’s all I’ve been working on this past month. I don’t know what’s in store but I believe greatness is here. I pray to be touring and doing a few productions come 2019. Oh, performing at the Essence festival is #goals.”

Chats With Cath: Samantha Rise

Over the last three years of shooting portraits, one thing has become clear to me; everyone has a story. Conversations with strangers don’t come easy but when my camera is in my hand, it seems to come naturally. Being in front of a camera can be a challenge for most people so I tend to ask a bunch of questions while shooting, partly because it helps the person on the other side of my lens relax but mostly because I genuinely love to learn about people. The creative community in Philly is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of and since a lot of people I shoot with tend to be artists themselves, I’m constantly inspired by each person I meet. While recently shooting with the talented Samantha Rise, it hit me that I often share just the photos taken during each shoot but I rarely get the opportunity to share the stories of those I shoot with. That changes now. Get to know the artists who live and create in Philly.

Meet Samantha Rise in her own words.

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If you only had a few moments to explain what you do as an artist to a stranger, what would you say?

“I would say I’m a songcatcher - that I listen deeply to the moments in everyday life that want to be melodies, and try to frame them with music.  I collect moments and sounds and puzzle them into songs with some of my best friends, and I love it. I’d also probably say something super awkward and weird, because, hey, story of my life.”


What’s your earliest memory of music?

”I come from lineage of singers, so music has always been a huge part of my life.

My earliest memory of music is probably singing the raffi song ‘down by the bay’ with my mom as a teeny tiny human outside on our sidewalk in California (we lived in the Bay Area for a minute when I was in preschool). She’s a beautiful singer and always my sisters and I laugh so much!

I remember that, every Christmas, my family would sing karaoke at my grandfather’s house...and I would run out o the room with my hands on my ears .. screaming, ha.”


What’s your favorite thing about the music/creative scene in philly?

“I love that Philly is really good at cross-pollinating… I can’t remember who came up with the language first, but I’m all about it. Where so many other cities have very specific, very isolated scenes/genres, Philly has a beautiful way of bringing together lots of different influences and scenes; not to mention lots of different mediums and performances styles.  I feel like my music doesn’t sound like any one thing, and. I love that I never have to apologize for exploring and incorporating my influences. So many brilliant Philly Artists represent that pollinator vibe, and I love it! It’s definitely a philly jawn.”

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Do you feel like your passion for music was something you’ve always had or was it something you grew into?

“I have always had a passion for music- I’m always singing and writing little melodies, recording wild sounds on the street, dabbling in new instruments, studying different records.  I can’t imagine living without music, so I aspire to build my life in a way that I never have to. What I’ve had to grow into is developing a kind of structure for making music - especially practicing, revising (the first try is the rarely the final draft), and figuring out the logistics of playing out.  It takes me so much effort to focus and work on booking and seeing things through. I have to remind myself that I love and trust the work enough to finish it, and get it out into the world. I think I’m in a new phase of growing up as a songwriter and performer, in that I’m learning how to take on more responsibility- learning to trust myself more to stay organized, and to ask for support.”

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As a creative person, do you ever feel a struggle to balance personal & professional work?

“Ugh. This is the biggest challenge of my life! Shameless plug: I’m still in search of a booking unicorn human who can help me respond to all the emails, keeping or dropping the follow-up ball, and get to one. Meeting. Or. Rehearsal. On. Time.

This question had really changed as I’ve work in different spaces and places. My job right now is absolutely amazing: as the Program Director at Girls Rock Philly, I’m grateful to work in a organization that believes that our creative work nourishes our professional work, so there’s lots of flexibility in terms of honor my responsibilities and making my music.  I do my own booking/pr/etc, which is the hard part- Emails are the vampire of my life energy, and it’s tricky to be persistent and follow through.”

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When you get a creative block, what are some ways you overcome those?

“I think my creative appreciates when I say “I’m not gonna rush you or force you, I’ll just come back and check in.” Finding a balance between committing to finish what I start, and to let whatever will Be take its time, by all skillful means.

I try to get a sense of how urgent a song or vision or idea is- this is always changing. sometimes an idea will come back after 5 years, sometimes it shows up and needs to be added in the last 5 minutes of studio time (both of these things happened working on our most recent release.  I think trying to be patient with myself and the idea is the hardest part.

I love taking a break and coming back to music- taking a walk, reading a book, calling my grandparents- trying to be grateful and sneak a little bliss helps me gain perspective on an idea that feels a little stuck.”

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What’s next for you? What are you working on at the moment?

“Getting excited to play at the Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia museum of Art and a bunch of other dreamy venues in Philly soon!

I’m releasing my debut album, Brighter Days, in a series of 4 EPs over the next year. Each one will be released on the Solstice or Equinox, and celebrating the seasons as they change with gifts and rituals.  I just released the first installment, Summer’s End, celebrates and mourns the summer season. Autumn’s End will be released on the Winter solstice, December 21. The second installment might be my favorite of the whole record, so I’m excited!

I’ll also be traveling to L.A. next week - my band won the grand prize of the coffee music project in New York, so we’ll perform at the Coffee Music Festival in LA, perform as guest artists at the LA competition and record our winning song.

Things are really rosy musically at the moment, and I’m really excited to see where we’re headed!”

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Check out Sam’s EP Summer’s End and follow her on Instagram for updates on her upcoming release!