Karen Lee Batten

by the partae
Karen Lee Batten

Where are you currently based?

I live in beautiful Langley, BC, Canada 🙂

How did you first start playing music?

My Dad was in a band when I was little. It was a Christian band and they used to play in church, so I would sit in the front row and with every song memorized, I would sing at the top of my lungs. I’m sure most people thought, “Can someone please shut this curly haired kid up?”

From there, I did piano lessons from ages 6 – 15, alto saxophone from grade 7 – grade 12 and was in every choir I would possibly have time for right into college. My Dad’s band came back together the year I came home from “Canadian Idol” and opened for me at my homecoming concert. Talk about full circle!

What’s been happening recently and how has your Covid experience been so far?

I think that like for everyone, I’ve had my ups and downs. So anytime I know I’m starting to hit the slide, I make sure to call someone, write something, organize something or make something. Anything to keep me going and feeling productive. It’s weird but it’s what we have right now.

Your new single ‘Too Strong’ is out now, what influenced the sound and songwriting?

This song was kind of a fluke and started after a long studio day. Jeff Johnson – one of my co-writer/producers on the single – and I were just chatting about life, and we ended up recording some rough late night musical bits and pieces into our phones. In the morning, we laughed and listed to what we had…. but that’s when we went, “Hey… this is pretty rad, I think we have a chorus here!”

Then Mitch Merrett (the other co-writer/producer on the single) and Chad Kroeger (the other writer) heard it and said, “We are finishing this song right now!”

We had it written and roughly recorded in less than 24 hrs. 🙂

How did you go about co-writing Too Strong?

Everyone on this project really equally brought their craft to the table. These boys are so talented that I’m amazed to be sitting in the same room as them. We all spoke our own truths and wrote what came naturally to us. It’s a testament to why I love co-writing so much!

Please tell us about the story behind the single:

This song was intended to give a message of strength to not give up, because we are too strong to let this break us. It started out as a message to anyone going though a tough relationship – there are so many of us who have had these kinds of struggles in the past. The easiest thing is to just give up, it’s really hard to be strong and fight when there is no fight left. But we can – we absolutely can.

I feel like as this year kept going, the meaning took on a second meaning to me, as we deal with this world we need to remember that we are in this together and we are too strong to give up. We need to carry each other.

Where and when did you record/produce?

We wrote this song in mid Dec. 2019 at Chad Kroeger’s place and recorded it in his home studio. Then Jeff Johnson took the track home with him back to the Okanagan and sent it out to a few key players to add some bells and whistles on it (not literally but hey.. bells and whistles and cow bells are cool too!).

How did you approach the recording process?

We were all so excited about this song there was no time to think. I was literally recording it as we were writing it. It was so cool!!

What programs/instruments did you use?

Avid Pro Tools, Drums, Bass, Guitars, Fiddles, Mandolins, Acoustic Guitars, Shakers, Tambourines and Vocals…. Along with Nacho Chips & Salsa, Perogies, Wine, Whiskey and Tequila!

Award winning producers Jeff Johnson and Mitch Merrett co-produced the single, how did this come about and how was the experience?

This team is amazing!! They are so talented in their own way I feel lucky to have them.

What I love the most about having both of them on this project is that they are so different. They both bring such unique ideas and lend their crafts to the project with such passion.

I have been buddies with Mitch Merrett for about 15 years now and when it came time to start my last project, “Under The Covers in Muscle Shoals”, I approached him with only the idea of doing a live off the floor record. He then took that idea and ran with it way bigger than I could have imagined. This lead to recording with some of the original Swampers, and at the world famous Fame studios in Alabama. Mitch and Mike Pyle (Bobby Wills) co-produced that record for me.

Fast forward to a year from that release and I really wanted to get back into writing and recording my own material. The “Under the Covers” album was an 11 song covers record and it was time to get creative again. I was singing at a fundraiser that Chad Kroeger was also attending and after I was done he came up to me, took my phone put his number in it, and said, “We are gonna work together on something, call me.”

So… I did and after a couple of meetings, he picked up the phone, called Jeff (whom I was friends with in the industry for years but had never worked with yet) and said I think you guys should record together. Jeff and I chatted, and got excited about writing. We then called Mitch and planned a writing weekend away at my place in the Okanagan, and the rest is… history!

I look up to this team big time, they have taught me so much.

How does Too Strong relate to the current Covid pandemic?

I hope it gives people a message of strength, a message of unity. We are going through this wild world together, and eventually it’s going to feel different. So we can’t give up, we have to stay strong because we are “Too Strong” to give up.

Please tell us about your experience recording your last album at the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama:

This was one of those “once in a lifetime” times for me. If I didn’t take this opportunity, I knew I would never have that chance again and I am so glad I did.

Mitch and I had talked about doing a live off the floor record when he called me and said “I think we need to go where this was done at its best.”

He made some calls, had me watch the amazing documentary “Muscle Shoals Live” and then called me and said, “Not only does Mike Pyle of Muscle Shoals want to work on it but he thinks he can round up some of the original Swampers to play on it.”

After watching the documentary and then hearing some of the recognizable names coming onto the project, I couldn’t believe it. We then decided to take this project one step farther and do an 11 song covers record with 10 of those recorded in Muscle Shoals, at Fame Studios and recorded with some of the same guys.

Let me tell you, standing in the exact same place, same isolation booth, as Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and Bob Dylan stood (to name a few), singing their songs while looking out onto the floor at these master musicians – which included some of the original players who played on the exact same song from back in the ‘60s & ‘70s (Jimmy Johnson, Clayton Ivy, Bob Wray) – was the most surreal moment of my entire life. Bar none.

Then to top it all off, the founder and owner of Fame comes in and stands on the floor for 30 minutes before going into the control room. He then throws some cans on and starts to talk to me through my ears. I just about died.

“Ok Little Lady, let’s take it again from the top.”

He produced ‘Respect’ with Aretha, and he produced ‘Mustang Sally’. How in the world am I standing here right now? Rick Hall passed away a few months after that session, and Jimmy Johnson shortly after that. I don’t know how I was able to grab onto this once in a lifetime opportunity but I thank my lucky stars I did. RIP friends and thank you.

How did Canadian Idol help kick off your career and what did you learn from the experience?

Exposure is always what one strives for in this industry, especially as an indie artist. So to be on a show that was watched by 6.1 million people was pretty cool. I am so thankful for that opportunity. Once it was done and I kept going, radio and TV kept caring about what I was doing next. It helped so much and I will forever be grateful for that.

I definitely learned that no one is going to come running to you. You can’t come home from something like that and sit on the couch expecting to get the “big call.” It can happen yes, but most likely not and it’s all in what you do with it. I tried to remember that moving forward and that has been a great lesson to keep in the back of my head all the time. It’s always hard work, you can’t sit down, how bad do you want to make music. Then do it.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

Jess Moskaluke’s new single “Mapdot” is so good. We release on the same day, always great to cheer a girlfriend on! I am also loving Brothers Osborne probably too much. My whole house has no choice but to hear them on repeat daily – haha.

What do you like to do away from music?

If I am not hanging out with my family or friends, you will probably find me in my kitchen making “Earthya”.

I started this little hobby company in April after the pandemic started. I was finding myself slowly sliding, watching all my shows cancel one by one, and thought, “No way Karen – create busy in a different way.”

So I took my little hobby that I had been doing for about a year prior, rebranded, renamed it and actually told people about it outside my family and close friends. So now I have over 100 products that I make from home. They are all 100% organic made with premium essential oils. Household and beauty products including lip balm, lip glosses, bar soap, surface cleaners, room sprays, etc.

What’s planned for the remainder of 2020 going into 2021?

My plan for the rest of 2020 is to just stay in contact with people, talk about my new single, and my new video. I also want to interact with people and through that, I hope that my music helps in some way. I also need to de-clutter, so that’s a goal of mine, too. Out with the old, create new. Then come 2021, I am looking forward to releasing my next single. I CAN’T wait!! It’s unlike any release or write I have ever done and I can’t wait to hear what people think. I hope to put a much needed smile on some faces!!

Favourite food and place to hangout?

Oh man, well where food is concerned, I do love sushi but I don’t really “hang out” at sushi restaurants – haha.

But my favourite place to hang out is of course, the stage. I love the people and the energy that goes with performing and I look forward to the day when we can go back and do it again!

Facebook: @KarenLeeBatten   |   Instagram: @KarenLeeBatten | Twitter: @KarenLeeBatten

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