Karen Lee Batten’s “Too Strong” — “Not giving up takes strength, and fighting for something is hard.”
Karen Lee Batten’s first distinctive musical memory came at the age of 4, when she memorized her father’s vocals as she watched him in concert. Inspired to develop her own voice, the British Columbia native of Abbotsford sang in choirs at the elementary and high school levels, and entered vocal competitions using Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” as her reliable favourite. These experiences marked the early foundation for the passionate vocal delivery and dynamic range that would later come to define her.
Your vocal delivery and range foundation came, in part, from being part of school choirs and entering vocal competitions. With the pandemic shuttering the doors of many schools indefinitely, where can young singers continue to develop their skills?
I think what is so cool about today’s era that was different from when I was in school (without aging myself — haha) is that there are SO many online outlets to learn from. When I was in school, there was no means of hopping online to watch a tutorial on how to play something or how to sing something. This is such an awesome advantage that kids have today to keep their craft current and continuously evolving.
Congratulations on your multiple nominations — Female Artist of the Year, Fan Choice, Interactive Artist of the Year, and Don Adams Industry Supporter for KLB ENTERTAINMENT — British Columbia Country Music Association (BBCMA) 2020. You shared how your support system (fans, family, friends, team) makes you strong — it’s apparent it is mutual as you’ve been nominated as fan choice and interactive artist of the year. How have you been able to stay connected with fans as the quarantine continues?
Thank you so much!! We all know by now how social media can have its pros and cons. But I really feel like it’s a huge pro in a time like 2020 for keeping us connected when we have had to lose our connections to others in so many other ways. I am super grateful to be able to reach out, DM, post about positive current events, chat with others, hear others, feel their opinions, hear their struggles, feel the ways they have stayed strong. We all deal with things completely different and it’s a great feeling to not feel alone in the ways one feels or handles life in these times. It allows us to stay stronger together.
Your last major event before the lockdown was at Rogers Arena. If your first show post-covid is at your dream venue, where will you be performing?
Wow, that’s a tough one. On one hand, I would love to be back to Rogers Arena because performing in my home province means that all my family and friends would be there, and it really is one of my very favourite places in the world to be. On the flip side, who doesn’t want to get the heck out of town right now? Performing somewhere in the sun, near the ocean like on the Malecon boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta (one of my very favourite places in the world) would be wicked awesome!
“Too Strong.” “I confess That I’m a wreck for thinkin’ bout leavin’ you… And I confess that quittin’ this is somethin’ I could never do…” You shared that your hope is the single will be your “contribution of strength, understanding, and great music through these times.” The song, written before the pandemic started, is about staying strong through tough times while in a relationship. Can you describe what most influenced the co-writing process with Jeff Johnson, Mitch Merrett, and Chad Kroeger?
This song was really a beautiful and very happy accident.
We had all been recording and working on 3 other songs at Chad’s place earlier that day. When we decided we were done for the day and would start again the next morning, Jeff and I sat down — around 3:30am — and just started jamming “stuff”, noodling around while chatting a little about life.
Next, we had our phones out and had come up with the chorus. We made sure to record it because there was probably no way we would remember in the morning! Waking up that next day, we both had it playing in our heads. Walking back into the studio, we played what we had for Mitch and Chad, laughed at how it all happened, and decided that this was the song we wanted to finish and record right then. Two hours later, I was laying down vocals.
We felt like most everyone could relate to this feeling. Relationships are freakin’ hard — there are times when one wonders if it’s going to last. But giving up is the easy part. Not giving up takes strength, and fighting for something is hard.
Being an independent artist releasing new music can be challenging enough, but during a pandemic, what unique challenges came up as you released your new single?
I think the thing I miss the most about releasing a single during these times is the personal face to face interaction with radio and fans. Not being able to travel to radio stations, walk in with my guitar player, sit across from an on-air buddy and play this song live. Or not being able to have my whole band on the road playing shows, big or small. One of the ultimate feelings is seeing someone singing your words back to you. There really is no feeling like it. So if anything, I do miss that, but I am healthy, my family and friends are healthy, and we are in this together, so we’re not complaining one bit but everyone is allowed to miss the “good ole days” sometimes.
Now the song is on radio, your first new music since 2018’s album “Under the Covers in Muscle Shoals.” What can fans expect as follow-ups, with more singles coming and an EP coming in summer 2021?
It’s all really up in the air — no pun intended! I’m just going to keep making music, keep putting it out there, and as things change in the world, get back on stage playing any and all the songs that we are putting out during 2020/2021. I’m just happy to still be able to do what I love and am pretty humbled how people are loving it back.
Getting to sing the anthem for the 2020 ATCO Cup at the Thunderbird Show Park. Can you describe how it felt to perform live again?
I think what I loved the most about this was that my first live performance was the Canadian National Anthem. So to sing live in front of a crowd again was awesome, but it also served as a reminder of how unbelievably glad I am to be a Canadian.
Celebrating 41 with “your toes in the water, a** in the sand, not a worry in the world, a cold beer in your hand … life is good”. And your home wine tour. Which wines are your favorites?
Haha — well I do love my wines, and I do have lots that I love, but if I had to narrow it down, I would say I am a cab/sav gal. I do love Jlour and Caymus full body wines. While everyone else has a chocolate advent calendar this year, my husband found me a wine one, it’s pretty unbelievable. I might have some new favourites by Dec. 24th!
Earthya “Give yourself a moment of wellness.” What influenced your decision to start the product line that includes hand sanitizers, surface cleaners, soap, oil roller blends, room sprays, and much more in April?
I love this question — thank you!
I had been making a few things for about a year or so and really the only people that knew were my mom and a few of my friends that would say, “I need more lip balm, it is the best,” and I sold a few things here and there — like for Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc.
When our world changed and I had so many shows cancelled, my busy schedule was slowing down fast. I honestly don’t do very well unless I am busy, and I knew that I would find myself getting lower and lower if I didn’t create a new way to be busy. So I changed the name “KLB Blends” into “Earthya”, rebranded a new logo and added about 30 additional products, and boom, I was busy.
I have not made it an online store yet but I will. For now, I have orders consistently coming in across Canada and parts of the United States and just knowing that everything I personally handmade is 100% organic-made with premium organic essential oils and that I have healthy safe items for all ages, makes me pretty darn happy putting that into people’s hands and knowing they are so happy with it too.
“Best smell ever is… puppy.” Adopting “I’m pretty rad” (Italian Greyhound-Rottweiler-Boston Terrier-Siberian Husky) Whiskey this past March. What new adventures have you gone on with Whiskey and Lulu since the quarantine began?
I always say, “I will never not have a dog.”
Dogs bring my family and me so much joy that I don’t know what I would do without them.
Before I met my husband Mike, I had gone through a difficult marriage and break-up. When that ended, we had to make the difficult decision of separating our two dogs, probably the top 3 hardest decisions I have ever had to make but there was no other options for us as I wasn’t in a place to share them. So I took Bailey my chocolate lab and she got me through. I know other dog owners totally understand this — when you are down and out, your dog knows and all they want to do is cheer you up. If I cried, she would lay all over me, 80lbs of dog trying to sit on my lap and all I could do was laugh and she knew it.
When I met Mike, I brought Bailey and he brought 3 amazingly cool kids. Now they had a dog and I had an insta-family! Bailey was 9 when she got cancer and I lost her on our 1 year wedding anniversary, Lulu was 1 and guess who got me through… Lulu!! Of course my family, too but Lulu never left my side, and when I cried, she would try and lay on my head, lick my face and I had no choice but to laugh. As I said, I will never not have a dog, and they always have to overlap.
Lulu is now 8.5 years old, acts like she is 4, and it was time to bring in a new buddy. I really wanted to adopt this time, so I went on the hunt to find the one that needed us the most. We found Whiskey though CAARE Adoption, and just so happened that the one I had originally asked about had been adopted already but they said it was a litter of 5 found in a ditch in Manitoba and they had 1 male left, who was the smallest in the litter. He was the shyest and most scared of people, which was why he was the last one to be taken. I said, “That’s our dog!”
Whiskey came home 2 days later and I was told he was “maybe a Siberian Husky / Australian Shepherd” — well, not so much. After a doggy DNA test, he turned out to be 75% Italian greyhound / 15% Rottweiler / 5% Boston Terrier / 5% Siberian Husky.
Lulu and Whiskey are best friends, I am so glad they have each other. He has become such a good boy, definitely had his struggles in the beginning and we are still learning those. Doesn’t like most men, and gets super scared over plastic bags. Who knows exactly why but everyone has a past and everyone is allowed to have their own time to gain trust and understand love. We are so happy to have him. We might have rescued him but the feeling is mutual in what we gain back, too.
#bffs. Where will your bucket list trips with your best friends forever take you?
Every year, my GFs and I take a 5 day trip to the Okanagan. I can’t even tell you how much I look forward to it every year. My girlfriends rock and I love them to bits. Girls need Girls!! We joke though and say next girls’ trip has to be Mexico because we have a whole lot of making up to do after all this!! Haha — so we will dream of beaches, tacos and margaritas for now!