Kathy Kosins: An Uncovered Soul

It is that intersection of jazz and soul that defines native Detroiter Kathy Kosins’ unique sound. She is a multi-award-winning vocalist that has maintained a global presence for several decades as a singer-songwriter, collaborator, and versatile interpreter of song. Via her recorded body of work on Maristar Records she’s garnered international acclaim with songs like “Uncovered Soul,” “A to B”, and “Can We Pretend.” Her voice and style is distinctive, yet chameleonic, in how she can stealthily shape her phrasing and approach to fit whatever genre she is immersed in.

Kosins has shared the stage and studio with a number of contemporary and legacy musicians such as Don Was, Was Not Was, Earl Klugh, Michael Henderson, Peabo Bryson, Mitch Ryder, The Rippingtons, Randy Brecker, Kevin Mahogany, JC Heard, Cyrus Chesnut, Gene Dunlap, and many more. She’s also an educator, music clinician, and a celebrated abstract painter. A regular performer at jazz clubs and festivals in the U.S., UK, Canada, France, Germany Spain, Netherlands, China, and Switzerland.

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Her latest project is a fresh and modern Motor City foray into contemporary jazz and soul, with long-time musician/composer/producer and associate Paul Randolph called “DetroitCentriX.”

Eric Harabadian: What is your earliest recollection of working as a professional in the music business?

Kathy Kosins: Probably the early ‘80s. Between 1982 and 1995 I did a ton of work. I did session work as a background vocalist. I was in the band Was Not Was and writing for other people’s projects. And one thing led to another and then to another.

What We Want sung by Kathy Kosins and Paul Randolph

EH: So, those were your first professional gigs? You also sang on commercials too, right?

KK: Oh yeah. I was already in bands at that time singing on stage. And then things started branching out from there into all this other work. A lot of the members of Was Not Was had their own projects, and I found myself being a part of those working at different studios. At that time I had my own group working too. I was also singing in a big band jazz orchestra and doing a lot of corporate and private gigs. And then there were the national TV and radio commercials. It was all happening at the same time. In ’95 my solo career started taking off, with jazz on my first album “All in a Dream’s Work.” My second album came out in ’02, then the third in ’06, then the fourth in 2012 and then 2013 and 2018. I have six commercially recorded albums. In 2018 the record label I record for didn’t wanna put out albums anymore. They wanted to just release singles.

EH: Your record label is called Maristar, correct?

KK: Yes. It’s a small independent label out of Commerce Township. And this new project that’s coming out is an offshoot of Maristar called DCX Records. It’s distributed by Distrokid. And there’s a video coming out soon too as well. But that’s a whole separate project. That’s not my solo career. That is a joint venture with Paul Randolph.

EH: What kind of music is it?

KK: It’s alternative jazz. It’s a combination of funk, soul, and jazz. Paul Randolph and I got together a couple years ago and started writing a body of work. And we recorded eight songs. He was the producer and arranger on these tracks. Maristar decided to put it out on the DCX label, which is spelled , with caps, DetroitCentriX. The first single is called “What We Want.”

EH: Can you talk a little more in depth about working with Paul and what led to this new music?

KK: We had been writing together. We wrote a bonus track on my 2018 “Uncovered Soul” album called “Could You Be Me.” It ended up being played on BBC6 on Giles Peterson’s show. It got a lot of attention. A lot of DJ’s and musicians took the stems of the basic tracks and created their own versions of the song. And the eight songs we recorded together were cut strictly in Detroit, with Detroit musicians. My other albums were done in New York, L.A. and Chicago. But this project is 100% “Detroit Centrix” So, that’s why we called it that. And our brand is music, art and fashion.

EH: You said you’ve shot a video for this new song too?

KK: Yes. The first video for “What We Want” incorporates a lot of the great big, beautiful murals that are painted on the buildings all over downtown, by Eastern Market and on Woodward. The song is all about everybody searching for something and fighting for a place to stand and a reason to be. And as songwriters we also recognize our responsibility to be social commentators and give others hope and perspective.

Won’t Look Away sung by Kathy Kosins

EH: What can you tell me about the song and what are your plans for airplay?

KK: It’s got a funk groove, a synth bass line and Nile Rodgers-like guitar. The production is very lush and roomy. We wanna get airplay in Detroit. Our U.S. radio promotion man is out of North Carolina and most of the radio he services is on the internet. That’s where I’ve been getting all these awards and airplay. But I’d like to see this particular project move over to terrestrial radio. It’s gotta be marketed and have the right promotion behind it.

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EH: What are some of your favorite venues or places you’ve been?

KK: There are too many to list. I have a big following in the U.K. and I love playing there. I had a really good experience playing the Blue Note in China. One of the best gigs I ever did was the Blue Note Jazz Cruise. The band was incredible and I had this really great agent at the time that was getting me a lot of great gigs like this one. And then COVID hit!

EH: Yeah, but we’re all coming back from it now, right?

KK: I hope so. I seem to be really busy.

Uncovered Soul sung by Kathy Kosins

EH: Talk to me about painting from the stage and “synesthesia?”

KK: Synesthesia is when a person can hear color or, even, see color when they’re singing. When I’m singing and hearing myself live I can associate colors with that. And a lot of my art work comes from the genesis of having synesthesia. It’s just a condition, it’s not a disease. A lot of people have it and don’t even know it. Also, by the same token, a lot of people can see sound. I teach a class called “Improvisation on Canvas,” and it’s the ability to hear color and see sound based on music that I bring in and program for these art classes.

EH: What about painting on stage?

KK: I always let the band play a tune at 98% of the venues where it’s instrumental. I’ll take that time to do a small canvas piece on stage as I’m listening to the band. I can’t paint anything large but, in four or five minutes, I can certainly get a small 12” square canvas done. And I love it. I’m two sides of the same coin. I’m art on one side and music on the other.

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EH: When did you start painting from the stage?

KK: About 2014. I suggested it to somebody and they thought it was a great idea. So, I just started doing it. There was no rhyme or reason.

EH: Wow! That’s a totally original concept. So, basically you’re painting based on what the band is playing?

KK: That’s exactly what I’m doing. I am painting a visual of what I’m listening to. I call it “Jazz in the Abstract.” I’m painting a visual solo with the use of color, paint and a canvas.

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EH: Are you formally trained as a painter?

KK: No.

EH: Do you play and other instruments in addition to being a vocalist?

KK: No, not really. I use a little bit of piano to do my writing. But I don’t play out with it. I usually work as a co-writer with others. And I’ll let them play the main instruments. I can hear what I need them to do. In other words, if I need them to do a different chord progression or change a note or chord, I can communicate that. I don’t play an instrument per se, but I have a great sense as a songwriter and bandleader of communicating with the other musicians.

From A to B sung by Kathy Kosins

EH: Finally Kathy, what’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten in your life?

KK: Don’t be in the music business. Actually it was don’t quit your day job. But I never had a day job. I’ve always been a musician. My father didn’t want me to pursue music full time. He just thought it would be my demise. I’ve had many ups and downs, but I’ve always managed to support myself. My mother, now, was incredibly supportive. She died recently. But when she was alive she came to everything, as long as she could, into her early 90s! She was pretty incredible. But, yeah, if you wanna know what my next steps are, I just put one foot in front of the other. My own advice to myself is—never take your eyes off what you’re doing and there’s no such thing as “making it” in this business.

EH: Wow! That’s huge!

KK: It’s always, what’s the next thing? Adele and Beyonce can say they made it, but they’re still continuing on. You just can’t stop. If you stop, it’s over! And I’ll say this categorically that I’ve never even thought about retiring. Look at Tony Bennett—he didn’t stop. So my next steps are I’m just gonna continue.

Contact Kathy Kosins

For more information on all that Kathy Kosins has going, please visit her comprehensive and very entertaining website @ www.kathykosins.com .

Also visit Kathy Kosins’ art website @ https://www.kathykosinsart.com/#artwork .

Kathy Kosins on AllMusic @ https://www.allmusic.com/artist/kathy-kosins-mn0000359487

Kathy Kosins Jazz Albums

All In a Dream’s Work, 1995, Schoolkids Records

Mood Swings, 2002, Chiaroscura Records

Vintage, 2006, Mahogany Jazz Records

To the Ladies of Cool, 2012, Resonance Records

The Space Between, 2013, Mahogany Jazz Records

Uncovered Soul, 2018, Maristar Records

Eric Harabadian
Eric Harabadian
Eric Harabadian has been a freelance journalist for over 30 years. He’s written for several publications, including Media News Group, Progression, Music Connection, Detroit Metro Times, Big City Rhythm & Blues, Downbeat, and many others. He is also a singer-songwriter/guitarist, public relations consultant, and documentary filmmaker.

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