Kat Edmonson Hopes This Song Project Entry, 'If You're Scared,' Will Comfort Her Mom

Mar 3, 2021
Originally published on March 3, 2021 6:21 am

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.

YouTube

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?

Not yet.

No?

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.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Today, we're back with a new installment of the MORNING EDITION Song Project. It's our series where we ask musicians to write an original song about the COVID era. So here's the way it usually works. We talk with the musicians and come up with an idea, and then they go and write about that idea. But in this case, we made our plans and life kind of got in the way. Our guest today is the singer Kat Edmonson.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUCKY")

KAT EDMONSON: (Singing) There's a place in time and space where we can all be free.

MARTIN: That's Kat performing in the weekly variety show she livestreams from her living room. She started it out of necessity when the pandemic shut down her tour. It was a blow, but eventually she came to really love it.

EDMONSON: 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, and, like, adults would come over to the house and I would make an announcement - there will be a show in five minutes. And then I just, like, run and come up with something to do. I found myself in the same situation. I was basically like in my home, in my living room, just performing on the fly with very little.

MARTIN: Now, Kat's not planning to end her show, but for the song, for this project, we asked her to imagine a last curtain call when the pandemic is finally over, what she might say to fans who've been tuning in through all these difficult months.

EDMONSON: We've been through these challenges together now, but we've had wonderful moments in the meantime.

MARTIN: So you set your songwriting intentions in that place, and then what happened?

EDMONSON: 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.

MARTIN: And she doesn't live near you, right? She lives in Texas. You're in New York.

EDMONSON: 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 I'm - my mom is a single woman and I'm her only child and I'm - I need to take care of her.

MARTIN: And as she worried from afar, Kat tried to put her feelings into words. Those words became the lyrics to the song she gave us. It's called "If You're Scared."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF YOU'RE SCARED")

EDMONSON: (Singing) Just a bad dream, that's all, that's what you hope someone might say to make it go away. But it ain't going.

MARTIN: Kat's mom made it through the surgery, but her ordeal was just starting because three days after she got out of the hospital, a severe ice storm caused power outages across Texas. Airports closed so Kat couldn't fly down to help.

EDMONSON: And 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 had all lost their power.

MARTIN: But she's still recovering - right? - from this major surgery. And she gets home...

EDMONSON: Yes.

MARTIN: ...And there's no power and she doesn't have a place to stay.

EDMONSON: Right. And at first, we thought it was just going to 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 and just the news just kept coming that there was not going to be a reprieve from this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF YOU'RE SCARED")

EDMONSON: (Singing) People have sold you out for fairer weather when you can't keep it together, oh, maybe it's all too much for you to bear.

MARTIN: Kat's mom eventually got a hotel room for a day, then moved to a friend's house. They'd gotten their power back. In the meantime, she had to board her closest companion, her dog named Miss Merry Christmas.

EDMONSON: 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 they - she picked her up, and they went 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.

MARTIN: Oh, I'm so sorry. It's so hard to not be able to hold her through all of that.

EDMONSON: 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF YOU'RE SCARED")

EDMONSON: (Singing) I would, if I could, make it go away. I'd fix it up and make it better than it was before.

MARTIN: Has your mom heard it?

EDMONSON: Not yet.

MARTIN: No?

EDMONSON: She's heard pieces of it. It made her cry. It seemed to upset her because we were apart. And so I didn't want to show it to her. But I'm quite eager for her to hear it now.

MARTIN: Do you have any idea when you'll get to see her?

EDMONSON: Thankfully, she just got her first vaccination yesterday.

MARTIN: Ah, right.

EDMONSON: 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.

MARTIN: We're so sorry for what your mom went through. And thank you for this song. We so appreciate you sharing it with us.

EDMONSON: I appreciate the opportunity to make it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF YOU'RE SCARED")

EDMONSON: (Singing) Together, and even when I can't be near, you know that I am here if you're scared.

MARTIN: Kat Edmonson's song is called "If You're Scared." You can hear it in full at our website. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.