A musician bred on The Avenue

A musician bred on The Avenue

Kate Moran grew up on The Avenue. Locals know that means Mt. Vernon Avenue, the corridor of the Del Ray neighborhood that has transformed from a somewhat dilapidated area of the city into a vibrant destination for both families and nightlife. Moran, a 1994 T.C. Williams graduate, has gone through some transformations of her own personally and musically and uses them as fodder for her first album On the Avenue.

Its evident from talking with Moran that shes always had music in her. Though she majored in theatre in college, her first solo musical performance was singing Amazing Grace at her aunt Nancys funeral. Nancy Dunning, who was well known in Del Ray and throughout the city, was murdered in her home in 2003. How Moran grappled with her Aunts death was one element of inspiration for her 5-track CD, but it doesnt define her music.

It took Moran and her producer and co-writer Paul Ottinger (of Alexandrias Virginia Coalition fame) to finish the album. Not that they were slacking; Moran is busy with a job at the Department of Education and with coursework for her doctoral degree.

But she had time to sit down with the Alexandria Times and discuss her past crushes, singing at a not-so-glamorous-but-satisfying gig and morning-time drunks all of which have been merged to help create the soothing and poetic On the Avenue.

ALEXANDRIA TIMES: You grew up on Custis Avenue, so you have seen Del Ray transform, right?

KATE MORAN: I have. It has changed a lot. I used to ride my dirt bike every day to school at St. Ritas and I wrecked right in front of [the now defunct] Mackeys Pub. But there was this really nice drunk that helped me out. I love Del Ray, and loved it then. It was great, and Ive seen it change a lot.

How has your neighborhood influenced On the Avenue?

I think I Dreamed is most like Mt. Vernon Avenue, even though theres no indie record store that would be a good idea, though and its just about all the things Ive experienced. Since I grew up here I just felt like a lot of these songs happened here, whether its crushes, unrequited love   all that crap.

How did you get started singing?

At my aunts service I sang Amazing grace and it was like this outer body I dont even know how to describe it but it was just a really powerful experience. After that people started talking to me and said, Why dont you sing?

At T.C. they have all the trade industries that you can get degrees in so I sang two songs at the nursing programs graduation: Waiting for My Life to Begin by Colin Hay and I Will Remember You by Sarah McLachlan. They really liked them!
I formed the band in 2006 so Ive been playing around in this area since then at Vermillion, Evening Star. In April I got to play at Iota [in Arlington].

How did the memory of your aunt, Nancy Dunning, inform the album?

You learn so much about yourself when you go through situations in life, whether its with a love, whether you lose somebody, whether something works out. Every experience we have, we learn something from, and I definitely get a lot of my lyrics and my thoughts from feelings that I have, so it all comes from a true place. 

With Carry On, that was the first one that we worked on. Ive had the chorus in my head for a while after everything happened. It was such a good experience to kind of work through it and realize, I am in a different place from when it happened, and I have come out on the other side. And it was just a great way to see and build a song that could be very dark and sad and make everyone want to jump off a bridge, but it [ascends] to a place where we move on.

Kate Moran performs at Fireflies, 1501 Mt. Vernon Ave., Saturday from 9 to 11 p.m. Find out more about her music and listen to some tracks here or download her album from iTunes.