In this series, mica – music austria and Austrian Music Export focuses on the experiences and perspectives of female-identifying people in the music business – because there’s still a long road ahead. Kathi Kallauch is a Vienna-based singer-songwriter and concert promoter; her songs have been played in Austrian radio since 2014. In 2021, she received the Austrian Songwriter Award and founded her own label, Roodixx Records.
Which people, institutions, and funding programs helped you progress in the music business?
Kathi Kallauch: Time and again I met musicians and producers who believed in me and opened doors for me. One great institution is the Österreichische Musikfonds – with their help, I was able to release three singles in 2021. But I had to do a lot for myself; I had to fight my way up. That’s why it’s so important to me to support and encourage others.
“A lot of people will come along and try to tell you what you should do. It’s not always easy to keep your own counsel and trust your gut feeling.”
Where and how did you get your experience in the music business? What were your biggest challenges, and how were you able to overcome them?
Kathi Kallauch: My most important experience was definitely playing with live bands. I learned more on every gig than I ever did studying jazz voice. And to this day I still learn from working in the studio and writing songs with other people.
I think the biggest challenge is to finance productions as an independent artist. But when I was younger, the biggest challenge was just finding out who I am and how I want to sound. A lot of people will come along and try to tell you what you should do. It’s not always easy to keep your own counsel and trust your gut feeling. That took time for me to learn. And that the Austrian radio industry is more difficult than it is elsewhere…let’s just not talk about that.
In what ways did people support you in your career? Where would you have wished for (more) support?
Kathi Kallauch: There were some people who saw my talent, who recommended me or worked with me. But I didn’t get anything for free. It was a hard road, but it also made me the self-made artist that I am today. From the beginning of my concert series “Live im 25”, I’ve tried to create the kind of stage that I wish I’d had when I was starting out. It makes me happy when I see the respect and the joy of the young artists who play there.
Did you have role models around you whom you could look up to? What role models are there for women in the music industry right now? What can you pass on?
Kathi Kallauch: Back in 2011, Clara Blume was someone who really supported the scene, with her Singer-Songwriter Circus – a wonderful concert series that I also got to play at. That was a great opportunity, and it definitely helped inspire me to get involved in that area myself.
Thankfully, the scene has evolved since then; it’s gotten more female. And there are great collaborations and platforms, like Ina Regen and Virginia Ernst’s concerts for International Women’s Day and Sara Filipova’s “0816 Acoustic” series in Loop. Carolin Kebekus, who I think is really cool, managed against all odds to organize a women’s festival in Germany; she’s been advocating for women’s issues for a while now.
I’ve been hosting Live im 25, a pop concert series for new artists, since 2015, and the women’s concert series “Lady.Zimmer” since 2019, in order to improve the visibility of women in the Austrian music scene. That’s very important to me, and I really enjoy the role of promoter and networker, especially to balance out my artistic activities. It’s become a fixed part of my job, and I see it as a great responsibility.
“Our society, and particularly our branch, can be extremely shallow and sexist.”
What role does age play for you?
Kathi Kallauch: I think age is an especially big issue for female vocalists. That’s partially because so many of us have often heard that there’s something like an expiration date for women on stage – you have to “make it” before you’re 30, otherwise it’s too late. Fortunately, that view is changing more and more. But our society, and particularly our branch, can be extremely shallow and sexist. It’s funny; since I turned 30, I worry a lot less about my age. Because I’m a happier, more self-confident, more relaxed person than I was when I was 20. I’m head of my own label, my own manager, booker, and promoter. It’s hard work, but it’s very self-determined.
“I’d like to see more female and queer artists and people of color represented in the charts.”
What would you like to see in terms of a more diverse music scene?
Kathi Kallauch: I’d like to see more female and queer artists and people of color represented in the charts. For instance, when you look at the Ö3 charts [as of 2. February 2023], out of 75 songs, only about 20 are by female artists, and on some of those they’re only featured. The festival line-ups need to get more diverse as well (not just in Austria). My awareness of that has gotten a lot greater in the past few years. Partially thanks to my young colleague Lena Hackl, who does the booking for Live im 25 with me, we have a far more diverse line-up now than we did seven years ago.
What questions do people ask you that they would never ask a man?
Kathi Kallauch: Age comes up a lot, as it did in this interview. I generally have the feeling that women either get questions that are shallower – for instance, about their appearance – or too personal, like questions about family planning. Mari Lang does a very charming job of dealing with this on her podcast “Frauenfragen”: she asks her guests, who are all men, typical female questions – which is often very confusing for them. I’d like it to just be about my music, my lyrics, and what I stand for. I’ve got plenty of interesting things to say about that.
Translated from the German original by Philip Yaeger