When Kat Brock drives with her 3-year-old son, Ezra, in the car, she'll put some music on. Hank Williams and Green Day have been big hits, as is anything with a good beat. One day, Ezra was getting into the music and asked, "Who is that?"
It was the performer also known as "Mom."
"That's Kat Brock," responded Brock.
Since then, Kat Brock has become one of Ezra's favorites.
It's a cliché that parenthood changes you because for most people, it's true. The experience certainly has changed Brock, but it's also helped her reconnect with her music. Brock fronted Dixie Dirt, one of the more popular bands to come out of Knoxville in the past decade. They never found much fame beyond their beloved hometown, but in Knoxville, Dixie Dirt had a fanatical following. The band called it quits two years ago.
Brock was going through her own life changes. The year of Brock's pregnancy was a period of depression. She bought a four-track recorder and focused her energy on her music.
"I noticed my songs turned more tender, more heartfelt," she says. It's a mood that has stayed with her. "This is my life, but this is how crazy it is and how beautiful it is. Now I have a reason to start taking care of myself, because I have a huge responsibility. The last few years have been tenderness. I'm a mom. I don't have to put on this persona of being tough. I can just be who I am, which is this shy, goofy person. It seems more real to me, since he's been around."
After Ezra was born, Brock and her partner moved to Nashville. She works in a home for women with eating disorders.
"A lot of flushing toilets," she says. "I give them their meds and keep order in the house. I have nine at one time. It can get pretty hairy."
A benefit of the job is that it allows her to get all her hours for the week in two days, which means she can spend the rest of her time with her son and making music, or doing whatever she wants. Her life these days is mostly domestic. She bought a house, no longer drinks, and doesn't have much interest in the club scene.
"I'm in my pajamas at nine at night and ready to go to bed," she says. "Playing a show at 11 sounds kind of terrible to me."
But Brock is no less fanatical about music. She upgraded to an eight-track digital recorder, which she uses "any time I have any free time." She's releasing a three-song EP, called C, a letter that emerged when she was doing artwork for the project—and the three songs happened to be titled "crooked space," "city," and "colors in the trees." She plans on regularly releasing songs online and through iTunes.
The recordings were made with Simon Lynn, Dixie Dirt's first drummer and the best in a string of three great ones. Live, the two play with Joe McLemore, the guitar player in Brock's first band, Subbluecollar, whom Brock calls a "musical genius."
Fans of Dixie Dirt will certainly recognize Brock's plaintive, emotive singing. But there's no angry fuzz of guitars or long, operatic punk rock movements. The angstful yearning has been replaced with a hopeful one, as on the delicate "Sad Song," where she declares: "I can't live in a sad song/where the skies are covered in gray/where the song birds seem to gossip about each other so in pain." It was a direction Brock had wanted to take her music anyway.
"I don't have that rock 'n' roll in me much any more," she says.
She's still proud of those old Dixie Dirt songs, but in retrospect she thinks her writing back then was "a little blurry."
Brock admits she sometimes worries how stability and happiness will affect her creativity. For so long, pain, depression, and angst were the sources of her material. But while those emotions no longer dominate her existence, she's found she can still draw on them in her writing.
"Now I can still write about some of that stuff, but I can stand on the outside," she says.
There's no chance Brock will hit the road in a beat-up van to play dingy punk clubs or coffeehouses—that life is over for her. Still, she hopes to find an outlet recording.
"I've had a dream of playing music professionally since I was 16," she says. "So no matter what I do, it's always something I want out of life. I've never been so in love with anything like I have been with making music. I do it because I love to do it and I have to do it. If you do things because you love them, good things will happen from it. If good things financially happen from it, that's fabulous, but if not, I'm going to do it anyway."