Kala Farnham - 10 Questions Interview
Armed with a voice, entourage of instruments, and faith in the power of story, songstress Kala Farnham set out into the world with one vision: to inspire through the transformative power of musical storytelling. Farnham has garnered numerous awards and recognition, including 2019 Rose Garden Performing Songwriter Contest winner and alumni of the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project. Farnham's recent album, a heartfelt account of adventure and homecoming titled "Samadhi: Home Is Where You Are" was nominated for RI's Motif Music Awards "Best Americana Album" and hailed by Bill Copeland Music News as "soulful Americana" in "one of New England’s best voices in one of this year’s best written and best recorded works. Drawing from a classical education and professional career in musical theater, Kala presents hallmark reinvention of the folk tradition; her passion for fairy-tales, ancient history, and vivid storytelling draws her audience into imaginative re-creations of the familiar world.
Kala Farnham is one of the artists who will be featured on BWH Music Group’s ‘On Peace Street,’ a compilation album featuring 19 songs about peace and social justice.
What is the name of the song you have on Peace Street?
Beautiful Heart (Shine On)
What is the inspiration behind your song? Or, what is the song about?
In October 2017, social media was flooded with women and men all over the world joining together in one powerful voice: #MeToo. I was one of those women. The timing of the #MeToo campaign was fortuitous. I had just returned from a songwriting workshop in Chicago, where I had found a small, supportive community. They sent me home with a powerful message: “Write what you’re afraid to write about. Write from the juices.” Over the past decade, I’ve kept my journey of trauma and healing private, trying to navigate the post-traumatic effects in silence and isolation. But when the #MeToo movement took hold, I knew it was time for me to step out of the shadows and share my story. I know, first hand, how much it hurts to survive sexual trauma. I know there’s an inner child mourning in all of us who have survived, and it feels like we’ll never get our sense of trust and safety back. But we are not our shame. We are not defined by our pain or trauma. We are living proof of how much strength and resilience the human soul is capable of. We are courageous, resilient women. We are survivors. Through the writing of this song, I've found the courage to speak my truth - and I share it with the hope that I might offer at least one other survivor comfort or inspiration in their own healing journey.
How did you write your featured song? Or, can you describe your songwriting process?
My songwriting process has varied over the years; I like to experiment with different approaches to see what might flow best in each moment. Sometimes it's music first, lyrics second - establish the mood, then explore the story that brought me to that emotional space. Sometimes it's lyrics first, music second - share a story, then figure out how to best enhance its meaning through music. But this was one of those songs where everything poured out all at once; almost as though it had already been waiting somewhere out there in the ether, and all I had to do was pull back the veil from my eyes and ears to find it.
Who are your major music influences?
I have drawn much of my songwriting inspiration from the 60s-70s folk revival, and the singer-songwriters who have followed in their trail: Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Billy Joel, Jackson Browne. I appreciate any artist who can tell a thought-provoking story and leave a lasting impression through the simplicity of their voice and one or two instruments. I also come from an education in classical piano, and a career in music theater - and I'm sure this musical background has woven its way into my songwriting process whether I'm conscious of it or not!
When you wrote this song, did you have a goal in mind? For example, were you trying to raise
awareness about an issue that’s close to your heart?
As a performing artist, and as a contributor to this compilation album, I feel I've been granted the privilege (and responsibility) to share a message of my choosing with my community. Through the writing and sharing of this song, I hope to create a greater awareness about the challenges that sexual assault survivors face in seeking justice and support, and open up a dialog on how our justice system and society as a whole might better aid survivors in that journey.
How did you get started in music?
My musical journey began at the age of three, when I started taking classical piano lessons with a private instructor near my childhood home in CT. It wasn't until age twelve that I began writing my own songs, combining my musical education with my childhood passion for storytelling. Writing, for me, became a medium of healing and growth. Through the melodies, characters, and stories I explored, I was able to reach a place of solace and revelation within my own journey through the joys, sorrows, and lessons of life. In high school I established myself as a working musician as a theater accompanist; in college, I furthered my studies in music performance and composition, with a double major in psychology. Two years shy of completing my B.A., I took a break from my education to focus full time on music. Through my art, I learned that we have the power to rewrite and alter the dead ends in our stories - And performing showed me how sharing our stories can invigorate others to realize their own potential, that we all have the power to reinvent our stories. I realized that writing and sharing my story was an integral part of who I am and what I wanted to do with my life, and came out with my first full-length studio album, titled "Anahata: Wake Up Your Heart" in 2014.
Of all the songs you’ve written, what was the most challenging and why?
It's hard to pinpoint the single most challenging song I've ever written, but I would say Beautiful Heart is one of them. The most difficult songs to write have been the ones that were the most daringly honest and vulnerable, the songs that challenged me to shine a light on the most broken parts of myself and the world, and ask myself, "What can I make of this? Where can we go from here? How can I do my part in building something beautiful and truthful and healing from these imperfect pieces?" As it happens, the most challenging songs I've written have often turned out to be the most rewarding; these tend to be the songs that have reached deepest into our universal humanity and led me to a place of deeper healing, hope, and connection with the world around me.
How do you think music help promote world peace and social justice? Do you have a favorite social justice song?
The power of music is undeniable. In my own personal life, I have witnessed how music can create healing, motivate action, and create a sense of community and connection amongst strangers, whether they're sitting in the chair next to you or listening to a song from across the world. Music conveys universal feelings and bridges the gaps in understanding that are often created by the ambiguity of language or cultural differences. To me, music has a special power to inspire transformation and connection because it encapsulates a message in a memorable form that we can carry with us wherever we go: In my own life, I have used music as both a meditation and mantra, carrying it with me as a way of empowering myself to live according to my values and vision, and reminding myself of the universal humanity we are all a part of.
What’s coming up in the future?
I am currently putting the finishing touches on a brand new album titled "Your Spirit Is a Work of Art". Thematically, the goal of recording this album was to capture the idea that whoever we are, and wherever we are, we all have something of value to add to our world; that each of our spirits is a work of art meant to be shared. Each song is a sketch of a different character learning to face their own unique set of challenges with beauty and grace; including a traveling songwriter facing the loneliness of life on the road, a veteran of war battling PTSD, two ghosts bickering about their past love, and even an owl seeking connection within the animal kingdom! Keep your eyes peeled for updates on the upcoming release at www.kalafarnham.com
Tell us where fans can access your music?