In 1969 Woodstock took the country by hold and revolutionized the music industry. Peace, love and a sense of community colored the concer. Veteran sound engineer Karen Kane solidified the sonic trajectory of her life after attending that fateful concert at 18 years old. On Sunday, July 5, the positive vibes that permeated Woodstock will return for Kane, only this time it will be in the form of a local music festival held in her honor. The Karen Kane Music Festival will raise funds to help Kane with mounting medical bills she’s been struggling with since April.
The event comes courtesy of the compassion from Pine Valley Market owners Christi Ferretti and Kathy Webb-Ferretti. For the past 11 years, they have hosted private dance parties for charities and women who need financial assistance; they dubbed the group Carolina Girls T-Dance. After learning of Kane’s situation in early May, they hosted a dance in her honor at a local woman’s home.
“Many of the musicians who have recorded with her wanted to play, but the venue was too small,” Ferretti says. “It was truly kismet that shortly after Chris Gore and Tina Ablang came into Pine Valley Market, the idea of a music festival took shape; they offered the Watermark Marina as a venue. The musicians have all donated their time and talent, and friends have been working together to help organize the details. I don’t think we knew exactly how big this could be when we first started. The impact that this festival could have on Karen’s treatment is amazing.”
The outpouring of support comes as no surprise given Kane’s deep-seated ties and connections within the music world. She attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, and earned two degrees in audio engineering. Though she never pursued performance firsthand, Kane began working on the business side in recording studios. She quickly came to realize her passion lay behind-the-scenes in production. After only three years in studio management and familiarizing herself with audio engineering, she excelled into full-time recording manager. Fast forward a few more years, and she had acquired a skill set to label herself a producer. She even managed to work at a major New York City jingle-making hub, 6 West Recording.
Throughout Kane’s years in the biz, the vast array of talent she’s encountered has served as testimony for her intrinsic abilities. She worked with Tracy Chapman (on the demo for “Give Me One Reason”), Janis Ian, the Barenaked Ladies, Livingston Tyler (James Taylor’s brother), and others. She has produced and engineered over 200 full-length albums and countless live shows. She even was recognized by the Canadian Juno Awards, with three nominations for albums she produced while in Toronto. Plus, she’s been welcomed locally with open arms after moving here in 2002 to reside with her partner.
“We wanted a warmer climate and the ocean,” Kane says. “Wilmington was it! How wonderful it’s been to be so embraced by the Wilmington music community.”
Since relocating, Kane’s made her mark locally, too. She won Producer of the Year at the 2013 Carolina Music Awards and was subsequently nominated for the award in 2014 and 2015. She began working at UNCW as an audio engineering professor three years ago. This comes in addition to her continued work at her Port City recording studio, Karen Kane Music Productions and Wilmington Recording Studio. The ties she’s forged here in Wilmington have resulted in the onslaught of support for her medical challenges.
“I am continually grateful and brought to tears about how the Wilmington community has come together to do this for me,” Kane expresses. “I especially want to thank my new angels, Kathy Webb-Ferretti and Christi Ferretti, for their vision, passion and incredible hard work on this event.”
On the schedule for the Karen Kane Music Festival are Nina Repeta, Heather Rogers, Vanessa Lynch, Folkstar, and Laura McLean. The festival also will feature Nyla Cione and Costello’s country-crooning regular Chris James.
“I first met Karen Kane at the 2014 Carolina Music Awards,” James recalls. “We were both nominated for awards that year. She was nominated as Producer of the Year, and I was nominated as Country Male of the Year. I will be opening up for headliner Morgan Myles and then jumping onstage with her to sing harmonies.”
James was enlisted to help plan the event and book the main attraction, Morgan Myles—an up-and-coming country artist from Nashville. Myles has been singing and playing piano since she was 5 years old.
“Honestly I can’t recall when music wasn’t a passion for me,” she reports. “It gave me a natural high that drove me to sing all the time.”
She moved to Nashville after a stint with Sony Nashville’s vice president of audio and recording in 2006. This led her to transfer from Berklee College of Music to Belmont University, where she majored in music business. (Her father was a CEO and her mother was an artist, which gave her an inclination to merge logistics and artistry.) Nashville just clicked with Myles and presented more opportunities. Though sje is in the country capital of the world, her music blends genres and is derived from a divergent mix of inspirations.
“As an artist I get inspired by lots of genres and different artists,” she says. “My guitar teacher was a huge influence on me and he mainly had me learn late ‘60s/’70s music—Janis Joplin, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi, and so on. Blues was definitely my foundation, especially in learning to play guitar. My music is now a fusion of country-soul with R&B.”
As a female in the industry, she’s been inspired by the likes of Reba McEntire (who she opened for while playing for an RCA artist), Dolly Parton and Miranda Lambert. She lauds them for being a fighter for females in the country music sphere.
“As a woman, it’s been incredibly difficult in the country industry, since they are claiming they can’t break a female on radio,” Myles explains. “Also, women are under much more scrutiny than men. However, like I’ve said, I love a challenge, and I’ve hung in there when times were tough because music is still my therapy and gets me through life.”
Currently, Myles is trying to get her debut album off the ground. She’s in the process of pitching it to various labels. She recorded it over 13 months at County Q Studios with Rio Ville Music. “[It took] a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but I think that’s why the record feels so authentic—because we had to shut the world out and fuse this music together,” she says. “It doesn’t sound like anything you’ve heard in country music. It’s got a groove with a country flavor, sprinkled with a Southern soulful voice.”
Myles, along with a bill of local musicians, will fill out the festival, which gets underway at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 ($30 at the door and $100 for VIP). All proceeds benefit Kane’s medical bills that aren’t covered by insurance. They can be purchased at Costello’s (211 Princess St.), Pine Valley Market (3520 S College Rd.), or online (www.karenkanemusicfestival.com).