Although she is rather new to most people, Madison singer-songwriter Katie Scullin has quite an impressive resume. In 2009 her band Rivalry won the emerging artists competition at Milwaukee’s Summerfest. The following year she joined one of Madison’s most popular and most missed bands Star Persons, which also featured members of Know Boundaries and Natty Nation. That band went on to win several Madison Area Music Awards and were the buzz of the city until their abrupt dissolution. Scullin came back after a hiatus that included the birth of her child. The respite has undoubtedly deepened her resolve.
In May of 2014 Scullin won the 105.5 Triple M Project M competition, ultimately triumphing over some sixty-five entrants and the eight finalists who competed for six weeks. That honor won her a neat thousand bucks and a return trip to Summerfest where she’ll perform with her new assemblage of musicians: brother DJ Scullin on guitar, Travis Drum (Orphan Bloom) on drums and percussion and bassist Darren Marabelli. Scullin knows how to surround herself with exceptional players and this group bears those hallmarks.
Scullin’s style is not unlike a host of other female performers from Susan Tedeschi to Neko Case. What may set her apart from the pack is her undeniable stage presence, her accomplished guitar playing, her incredibly powerful and emotional vocal delivery and a genuine authenticity that fuels her credibility.
She Smiled is but a teaser of things to come for Scullin and probably serves as a promotional tool as much as a serious musical offering at this point. But one can sense her burgeoning self-confidence as she develops into one of the area’s premier musical talents.
Scullin can add jazz flourishes to her brand of electro-acoustic pop and introspective storytelling as the opening title track suggests. All things gravitate to the vocal and Scullin excels at building musical drama. When she takes off her vocals are inspiring and exciting; soaring, fluttering and searing with passion. “Bitches” and “Winter’s End” carry on in the same fashion with tasty leads from DJ Scullin and nifty keyboard embellishments from Katie. “Hello” gives her a chance to turn even more introspective. This track centers on an uncomplicated piano chord progression and a deeply moving vocal delivery. “The Eyes” mines similar territory employing a delicate acoustic guitar delivery.
All of the tracks are expertly elevated by the backing musicians making She Smiled a very pleasant listen but, more importantly, a promising indicator of what’s coming down the pike. Expect big things from this young talent who joins the ranks of Beth Kille and Katie Powderly as sublime artists in a city that is abundant with female musicians and happily so.