Shout Sister Shout: Kate Wadey (IWD 2024)

April 01, 2024

Motherhood & Music – Not just the Lullaby

Approx. 9 minutes to read

Kate Wadey pours her heart into her music to deliver authentic sonic waves that stop you in the moment and get you in the feels. You’re missing out if you have not yet experienced her nostalgia-inducing voice and evocative music. There’s something comforting about listening to Kate singing- maybe it’s that she threads a little of her soul in each melody line. 

Singer, Kate Wadey

Kate became a mother 3.5 years ago during covid times. Becoming a new mum is a world changing for a woman- becoming a mum at a time when the whole world as we know it is something else all together. Kate tells me about navigating all this change and keeping her music ambitions uncomplicated and pure. She digs deep to share how she channels heart-break into her music.  

Sonia de Freitas: Hi Kate, how are you and where does our interview find you today?

Kate Wadey breast feeding her baby, Beckett, at her first gig back after having him. The gig was at Bennelong Restaurant. Beckett was 4 months old at this stage. 

Kate Wadey: I am currently living in Glenbrook in the lower Blue Mountains where I have lived for the last three years with my partner, Sam Dobson, and my two boys, Banjo- who is 3.5 years old and Beckett- who is just over 1 year old. We moved here when Banjo was 6 months old during Covid times. It has taken a little while to sink my roots in here but since having Beckett in this house and more seasons of the year here, it feels like home now. We also have family in the area so it makes it possible for me keep being a musician.

Right now, I am feeling pretty tired. Haha! I spend my time with my boys while Sam is doing a PHD and working a lot right now. I am actually looking at my diary this last week and it is most certainly the quietist I have been, musically, for a long time. I think having taken some ‘time’ to have children has really pulled me out of doing those lower paying, regular gigs that are more about being part of a community- the jams, the pub gigs, the meeting the locals experience- that I just cant say ‘Yes’ to as easily. It is a big ask of myself and my support network to leave the house for the night to do a $100 gig that finishes after midnight with two little children… so I haven’t been taken those gigs as much since having kids. It turns out, it is not paying off with more work with the community and industry kind of forgetting about me. It’s a little hard to swallow but I am not ashamed to put my hand up and say, “Hi! Please book me again! I want to sing for you and with you. I am not too ‘busy’ with my kids allllll the time”. It is such a difficult balance to achieve all the time.

On a different note, I have been writing some music with my friend Aaron Flower (guitarist) we have been trying to meet once a fortnight or so. It’s a has been a perfect project for me. It’s free, open, playful and inspiring. Aaron is an incredible guitarist and song writer and I love working with him.

SdF: Can you tell me a little more about your life as a mother and musician?

KW: My beautiful partner Sam is a double bassist and we live together in Glenbrook where his family are close by. My two boys, Banjo and Beckett, are two very wonderfully enchanting and spirited kids. They have changed my world. I spend my waking days (and sometimes sleeping nights) with them, unless I go to a gig. I am mostly a Jazz vocalist and can work in many different environments for example, concerts, festivals, pubs, weddings, events. There is a a line of work that I have which is me performing my originals music, arrangements of Jazz tunes etc; and the other line which is more like bread and butter, where I’ll play background music for an event and I sing Jazz standards. Both are very fulfilling but both quite different.

Kate Wadey performing a selection of Jazz Standards at Phoenix Central Park

SdF: What, if anything, may have changed for you in relation to the way you thought about music and your ambitions as a musician once you became a mother? 

KW: It is always so hard to reflect on these things once you have gone through the powerful changes that being a mother brings. I come from a big family of 5 children and now 11 grandchildren. My mum and three sisters are all inspiring mothers. I always new

I wanted a family, when I met Sam I knew he was the person. We have very similar ideas about what is means to be a musician. It is in our veins and hearts and not really a ‘decision’ to be a musician. It’s like our life blood and religion in a way. So, when we decided to have children is was not going to change that fact. Although we realised how much we needed support- particularly me, when I need to go out for the night to perform. To be honest, my ‘ambitions’ as a musician have been questionable. I don’t set very high goals. I just make music, with people, in places. I am inspired and want to sing. It’s quite uncomplicated for me. What has changed is that I don’t prioritise my time before the kids, ever really. That means that I don’t listen as much, I am not as inspired, I don’t get to watch gigs… it does hurt sometimes. That constant giving of yourself with not much time for yourself draining.

SdF: How does the experience of motherhood influence your creativity and composition process?

KW: It is a wonderful thing to sing lyrics. When you go through becoming a mother, the world looks completely different. I have been broken in half and put back together, multiple times. I have a bigger heart than I thought possible and I really think that comes through in my performances now. I also ‘give less of a shit’ I feel a lot more solid in who I am, maybe that’s age too. But I tend to go for things, I write music and don’t worry about who is listening to it. 

Another huge thing has happened to me since my children is that I suddenly and abruptly lost my Dad when my first born son Banjo was just 10 weeks old. This has had huge effect on my life particularly at such a delicate and vulnerable time as having your first baby. I am still adjusting to life without him. I am still figuring just how deeply it has all impacted me. During the time we lost him, I remember saying to myself that I need to live my life for him- to continue to make him proud. That meant making music, staying true to myself and being the type or parent my Dad was to me. A bloody good one. So, I am working hard on it all.

Kate Wadey performing her original song The Moon Song

SdF: How do you maintain your artistic identity and career trajectory while raising your children?

KW: That’s tricky. I currently feel I holding on by a thread, to performances as least. Mostly because the world seems to forget about you if you don’t have a huge online presence and marketing etc. As I said earlier, being a musician is who I am so it doesn’t stop, it ebbs and flows when I prioritise it. I also have a supportive partner and family support who are there to be with the kids when I am working. I have to say, I struggle to let go of them.

I am fiercely independent, and I struggle to ask for help. I am getting better at it, but it is very much a working progress. I realise that trying to do it all on my own is not good for anyone, because I also become resentful and burnt out with the kids. Then feel at a loss because I haven’t been doing any music. It’s such a test of who I am and what I identify with. 

SdF: What role do societal expectations and stereotypes about motherhood play in shaping the public perception of musicians who are mothers?

KW: I always laugh when I go to a gig and someone says to me “oh where are your children” to which I reply “oh no, I forgot them, they are at home by themselves, whoops”. This is obviously a joke. To be honest, I don’t really buy into ‘social expectations’ too much so I don’t really know. There is definitely a feminine beauty expectation that seems to be subtle and always there, but not outwards. I can feel the gentle observations, the comments on how I am looking after babies that kinda shits me. This is a deeply ingrained perceptions that woman’s looks are so important. As I said, I don’t really buy into it and am quite happy that the Jazz Scene is not really as fickle. If I was in the contemporary music scene, I think things will be a hell of a lot harder.

SdF: How can the music industry evolve to better accommodate the needs of musicians who are navigating the intersection of motherhood and their music careers?

Behind Doors: Kate Wadey at Phoenix Central Park

KW: I want my kids to be there with us at the gigs. I want there to be more inclusivity of children and families in performance spaces. I often bring my kids to gig when the time is suitable for their lives. Sharing music with them brings me and Sam the biggest joy. We want to show them the music, the instruments, the environment, the stage, the feeling, the professionalism. Banjo sits on Sam’s lap while he does a gig. I carry Beckett on my hit while I sing. Want them to experience a glimpse of our experience. We are respectful of one another and the space we are in. If they begin to show they don’t want to be there, then they head home with our families.

SdF: What do you want for the future of music and for your children?

KW: I want nothing more than to make my kids proud of me. If I can achieve that, then their possibities are higher. They don’t have to be a musician or anything like that, but if they can respect and honour what it means to be a musician, and people who stay true to what makes them happy, then they will do the same. My Dad taught me that. X

To learn more about Kate Wadey visit: 

Subscribe to Kate Wadey’s Youtube channel here.

For more information on International Women’s Day visit: 

Sonia de Freitas – Author
Photo credit: Cathy Kirkpatrick

Keep an eye out for my next interview in the Shout Sister Shout: Motherhood & Music – Not just the Lullaby series where I interview Emily Wurramara.

Did you miss the previous Shout Sister Shout instalment? Read Jess Green’s interview here.

Thank you to Eastside Radio for making the Shout Sister Shout: Motherhood & Music – Not just the Lullaby interview series possible.

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the many lands on which I am privileged to work, learn, teach, create and perform. I extend my respects to all First Nations People. 

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