Karen Lee Batten’s “The Trouble With Friends” is a reminder to fans to never lose their sense of friendship and fun.

Donna Block
6 min readFeb 20, 2024

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Langley, British Columbia-based. First distinctive musical memory came at the age of 4, when you memorized your father’s vocals as you watched him in concert. Canadian Idol finalist — from Idol to award-winning artist, your sound has evolved over the years. Can you trace this evolution and what factors have influenced your musical growth?

You are correct. When I was four, I started really looking up to my dad when he was on stage in his Christian band called Assurance. He played bass guitar and sang lead and background vocals and I just thought what he did was so cool.

From there, my parents always made sure that I was able to join any choir or band that I wanted to so there were a lot of auditions over the years. The church had a lot of opportunities as well, and I stacked my calendar as full as I possibly could with band practice before school, choir practice after school, church choir on Wednesday nights, and then, of course, on Sunday performing. I definitely had some amazing mentors in school. My band and choir teachers were brothers, Larry and John Nickel, and they were incredibly talented. I know that Larry Nickel is still in the music industry and has written scores for the Vancouver orchestra. He was definitely one of the largest influences on me in the music industry growing up. I just thought he knew absolutely everything there was to know about music and I still do believe that. I played saxophone and band and in high school I was in two bands, and two choirs.

After high school, I auditioned for Canadian Idol and made it to the top 10. Following that, I started recording my first album with producer Tom McKillip, who is an outstanding musician himself. We still work together to this day. He definitely helped me get my foot in the door in the country music industry. John Ellis produced my second album, another unbelievably talented multi-instrumentalist and friend. We have had many projects that we have worked on since.

Mitch Merrett co-produced my third album down in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Mitch has been a friend of mine since the beginning of my career as well, definitely a mentor and super talented musician, and producer.

I think for me, there have been so many people along the way that have influenced my career, including my mother. Anytime I am in the studio I can still hear her in the back of my mind telling me not to forget to articulate. This might sound hilarious, but I do get people that say to me that they so appreciate that they can hear every word in my music. And I giggle because that’s literally where this has come from — my mother reminding me!

You’ve been vocal about the importance of supporting up-and-coming female artists in country music. What advice would you give to aspiring women in the genre?

It’s not a competition. Learn from talented people around you — men or women.

We all went through school and saw the bullying that can go on. It’s awful. It’s now our opportunity to lift each other up. Don’t get involved in those that aren’t committed to that. Everyone will have their down days and the best thing that you can ever have is a friend in the industry that you can call who you know will lift you up and keep you going. We need to stick together and support each other and lean on each other for advice, love and laughter. This career path is a blast. It might not always seem that way, but keep going because the “storms” do make sense once they clear.

“The Trouble with Friends,” co-written with the song’s producer Jeff Johnson, is a reminder to fans to never lose their sense of friendship and fun. What trips are on your bucket list to take with friends?

One of my very favorite trips that I plan every single year is a girls’ trip to the Okanagan. We have a summer home up there and every year for the past eight years, we have had our annual girls’ trip. Between seven and eight of us, depending on who can make it every year come up for a week and we do all sorts of things from shopping to brunch to Sea-Doos to wineries to crafts to beer pong to just laying in the pool or going on a pontoon or jet boat. It is by far one of my very favorite trips that I look forward to every single year. I have a really tight group of girlfriends and we don’t always get to see each other throughout the year as much as we would like but we always try and make time for this trip and get a lot of catch-up time in over that week. I love my girlfriends so much and they all know it!

The song’s video was directed by Meaghan Gipps. “The premise for the song is that friends never let you leave. You’ll meet one early on and next thing you know, it’s last call and you’re with the rest of your regulars. For the video, I surrounded myself with many of my friends to put the message forward that the ‘trouble’ with friends is that they are truly indispensable. In life, we need to live a little and enjoy the company of friends as much as we can.”

Exactly. One of my favorite parts about this video is that I know everyone in it. So it really played on the actual meaning of the song. My brother is the guy in the white shirt who looks like he drank too much, my sister-in-law is there, one of my neighbors is in it, three of my closest girlfriends are in it by the way. A couple of band members are in it. My stepson’s best friend is in it and a couple of his friends. And then to top it off, a group from our favorite local watering hole is in it as well. And that’s literally where I met them. So that just puts this video into the perfect perspective because we’re doing exactly what the lyrics of the song describe!

What dreams and aspirations do you hold for your musical journey?

I feel pretty lucky to have had the journey that I have had so far. I love making music and recording songs and the fact that people still love the songs I put out makes me feel pretty awesome. I definitely have some on my bucket list that I will create sooner than later. I have always wanted to record a Christmas album. So I feel like that’s coming up pretty quickly. I will keep you posted when I start writing and recording that one!

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