We get it. Lawrence is one of those towns that, even with a robust music scene, artists come and go. Some even come back (the Lawrence boomerang). But this goodbye is a little harder to swallow. This musician not only grew up in Lawrence, raised on the Lawrence music scene, but heavily influenced it. She’s a creator, a collaborator, a trendsetter, and a leader. But most of all, she holds all of our hearts in her hand. With heavy hearts, it is time to say goodbye to one of our most iconic musicians: Katlyn Conroy.
We grumpily plopped down in a coffee shop booth to have our final conversation with the indie musician. She arrived, as always, in fantastic style— sporting a fuzzy lime green vintage coat that trailed behind her like the wind. Eyes bright, hair wild, eager to talk about anything related to music. We’re going to miss this energy.
Katlyn Conroy, the instantly recognizable face around town, made a big splash here in the scene. Even her first show made a big impact. She stepped foot on the Granada stage when she was well underaged, demanding a place for her junior high band The Ultraviolets (and inviting other junior high bands out as well). Hundreds of people showed up, and it was the spark that lit a fire under her intense desire to perform. Growing up and fanning out on dramatic productions like “Les Misérables” on PBS set the tone for her moody approach to songwriting, amplified only by her exquisite skill and training in piano and voice (she also attributes a hefty dose of Bright Eyes to her sentimental art style).
Since then, she’s shared stages with big names like Daniel Johnston, played Austin City Limits, played with an orchestra, and won over fans all across Middle America. Now, 20 years after she first set foot on a Lawrence stage, she’s preparing a big exit with a farewell show in Lawrence (March 10 at the Replay). “I have a lot of mixed feelings, to be honest,” Katlyn laments, understandably. “It’ll be extremely bittersweet because I’m so ready to leave Lawrence, and I love Lawrence very much. I think it’ll also be a reflection of what I sort of wished the last 15 years of my music career would be and has been. But I’m excited to start over essentially. Start over from a place of knowing what I’m doing and being confident at what I’m currently doing.”
Katlyn is so well-connected, you can expect a host of guest artists appearing at her farewell show before she hits the road with her latest moniker, Cheery. She recently married a nice Irish fella, and is headed to Liverpool to start her new family life and new music career. But anyone with half a brain cell can see the impact she made not just as a musician, not just as a collaborator, not just as a leader of youth camps for young rockers, but as a human being who feels real human emotions. This is what has made fans desire to be so close to her, that relatability that she painstakingly faces and puts into a song (so that we don’t have to).
In a way, Katlyn is aware of her impact, though she’s hesitant to admit it. She’s also keenly aware that the younger generation of up-and-coming musicians turned to her for guidance, and Amplify Lawrence / Girls Rock was a major avenue for “teaching confidence” to young musicians. “No one believes in my music more than I do. I wouldn’t do it as much and often as I did if I thought it had value and was worthy of people’s attention,” she says. “It’s more about the actual product.”
When Katlyn plays a Lawrence stage for the last time, she’s doing so knowing how much music she’s put out into the world (and how much more she’s going to create in her new life). “I really enjoyed my time, there is so much stuff of mine out there floating around to listen to,” she confides. “I just hope that if people like my music, they take a day and explore it. Because there is a lot, and more coming.”
Before you head to the farewell show at the Replay, please take a moment and enjoy our latest list:
Top Five Most Badass Katlyn Conroy Moments:
Don’t come for us. Now that some time has passed, we can reveal how irritated we were seeing bands never really recognize Katlyn fully. She was always a voice leant on albums, appearing for a song or two on stage. But her essential contributions to Cowboy Indian Bear were finally cemented when they released Live Old, Die Young. This was the band’s great masterpiece right before calling it quits, sort of like how a star burns bright right before fizzling out. Yes, we know, everyone looooooooved Cowboy Indian Bear so much. But it never felt 100 percent until Katlyn was permanently on the bill.
If you spend a lot of close time with Katlyn, you’ll notice just how amazing she is with children. This not only includes young kids when they’re adorable and bouncy, but also tweens and teens when they’re hysterical and obnoxious. Katlyn just speaks their language, and watching her lead the Girls Rock program into Amplify Lawrence was a beautiful thing. It’s not just about providing a service to these young Lawrencians interested in playing music, it’s knowing what’s best for them and helping them move at their desired pace. There will be a big empty hole in the program this Summer, but Katlyn’s effects will be felt long after she’s gone with the newer generations of bands.
You can’t be a good musician without being a music fan, and Katlyn has always been well-versed in fandom. It’s probably why she was able to so easily convince some of the town’s most talented (and elusive) musicians to work on projects with her. One of those moments came when she gathered musicians for a tribute to women of the 80’s. Predictably, it was a visually stunning show with lots of flair and all the fantastic fashion of the 80’s. Katlyn, of course, took on Kate Bush.
We don’t see a lot of artists going out on a limb anymore when it comes to adding visually stimulating aspects to their work. Not Katlyn. Our resident Kate Bush (a nickname we’ve always bestowed upon her), she recruited dancers for Cheery’s music video “Concept of Love.” It was a bright red affair we couldn’t take our eyes off of, complimenting her sultry vocals over exotic synths with a visual style to match. We once got some hate mail from a musician stating that all we cared about was fashion, but this music video shows that fashion and music very much go hand-in-hand.
Katlyn Conroy’s Bowie tribute was one for the books. In addition to knocking out the tribute show so quickly after his passing, Katlyn already had all of the unique musical stylings, channeling Bowie’s fashion-icon status with a homemade getup and shaved head that absolutely shook us to the core. 2016 was a goddamn awful year, and the news of Bowie’s death hit like a ton of bricks. But this tribute show took the sting out of it, and also solidified Katlyn’s icon-status in town.
Bonus Badass Moment: Her contributions to I Heart Local Music
She may not be aware, but Katlyn was essential in getting I Heart Local Music off the ground. She was always available for a quick interview, a special project, standing in as a model while we tried to improve our photography skills (apologies for that milk bath incident, Katlyn), even experimental videos while we were launching the site. Would you believe she even stepped in to babysit a young toddler at the drop of a ht so we could go and cover shows? We are not only eternally grateful to Katlyn for her contributions to the local music scene, but the unquestionable support she provided to a young, out-of-work mother getting a music publication launched. Gracias, amiga.