Rough River

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Rough River

If you are unfamiliar with the sounds of singer-songwriter Kate Skinner, hop in as we take a short car ride with the songwoman making a name for herself under the moniker Rough River. We’re off to alternative folk-country land.
Hi Kate, thanks for taking the time to chat with Forte. How are you and what are you up to at the moment?
Hi Amanda, I’m good. I brought out my debut album earlier this year with help from some very gifted people. My brother (Lucas Skinner, Atolls) and I recorded it over 2013, some at his place and some at my folks’ in Geelong, and was lucky enough to have Pascale Babare (Pascal Babare and Teeth/Aleks and the Ramps) mix and master it. Since then I’ve been rehearsing with the band for live shows.
You’ve got some really beautiful folk/country-infused tracks. Where do you get your inspiration from?
For some reason it’s just the most natural genre for me. I grew up playing violin and had a really influential teacher who always got me playing lots of Irish folk music. I think subconsciously that plays a part in it. All of my biggest influences have been female solo artists that had such a huge impression on me growing up – Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Ani DiFranco, and as I’ve gotten older they’ve become more alt-country influences like Gillian Welch, Sharon Van Etten, Neko Case, Nina Nastasia [and] Angel Olsen.
There’s something about folk-country that just has the ability to rip your heart out of your chest. I’m lucky to have a lot of musical influences in my family and they are probably what keep me inspired the most.
What’s generally the response to your music? Have you ever had people come up to you having been touched by your music?
I’m still taken back when people I don’t know come up and say they’ve enjoyed a set. I sometimes forget that music enables you to make a connection with people. It’s still hard for me to believe that I can do that for other people.
Is there a story behind the name Rough River?
It’s about a time my older brother and I were walking his dog along the Yarra (after a massive rainfall) and she slipped in at Dights Falls and almost drowned. She was struggling to swim so he had to jump in and save her. To me it symbolises a lot of what my music represents – family, a yearning for the natural world, unconditional love and loss. I like playing under a moniker, I feel it can represent so much more than my name – and I can hide behind it.
You just launched your debut self-titled album. How did that go?
Really well. The Grace Darling is such a homely, warm venue to play. We had a good turn out and it was nice to see so many supportive faces in the crowd. It’s been a totally different dynamic for me to play with a band, but it’s nice to let the songs grow after playing solo for so long.
It’s got quite a simple yet beautiful cover. Who did the artwork for it?
The artwork is actually from old 1800s natural history dictionaries. I’m a bit of a nature nerd and originally wanted to use a botanical drawing, but after looking around I found heaps of beautiful speckled eggs and feathers. A close friend, Sarah Hopfer, did the graphic design.
How do you feel knowing that you’ve now got an album to call you own?
I’ve been playing for such a long time in my comfort zone – violin for friends’ projects and solo shows in little bars – that I decided it was finally time to make it happen. I can be pretty critical of myself though so I have to stop and remind myself that it’s an accomplishment. It’s already got me planning what I want to improve for the next album.
You’ve just been announced as one of the musicians playing Kennedys Creek Music Festival. Have you played there before?
No, this is the first time, which is pretty exciting. There are so many talented musicians in Victoria, and I’m pretty happy to be playing alongside some old friends. And I love being deep in the Otways.
It seems like you’ve been ticking off quite a few music career boxes. What’s next for you?
I want to record another album over summer – I just need to get some funds together to make it happen! I just want to keep writing, playing gigs and recording. Ultimately I’d love for my music to be self-sustaining.
When&Where: Some Velvet Morning, Clifton Hill – September 24, Pinnacle, Fitzroy – October 8 and Kennedys Creek Music Festival – October 25 & 26