Down in the Hollow with Kate Schimke

Down in the Hollow with Kate Schimke

We recently chatted with music-lover and all-around artist Kate Schimke about local music, house concerts, and a lifelong passion for music.

Folk New Hampshire: You’re a wearer of many hats — singer, songwriter, artist, proprietor of house concerts, (are we missing anything?) — how would you describe yourself to someone who knows nothing about you? 

Kate Schimke: I don’t fit in a box. I am one of those people who appreciate most things in all genres. I love art and I am also excitable, enthusiastic and basically live to experience live performances and witness the power they hold over an audience, large, small or individual. 

Folk NH: You’re in a band with your partner, Aaron, what can you tell us about that?

KS: Darling Hill manifested in 2014 when I moved onto said street in Greenville and picked up the ukulele. I longed for an outlet that would help me cope with stress that did not involve drinking. Keeping my hands busy with the instrument and keeping my head busy with lyrics and timing while expressing myself was what it took for me to ween off the bottle. I moved onto banjolele and now to guitar. I had just moved to Darling Hill Rd when I decided to learn the instruments. I moved in with Aaron who has lived here for over 25 years. He was familiar with guitar and decided to grow with me. We play together in our cabin and on our deck weekly. We sometimes gig out when I find the time or courage to do so. We will be performing at the Milford Pumpkin Festival again this year so we are excited about that. I also hope to record a few original tracks this winter and share them in the upcoming spring/summer of 2020. 

Folk NH: What are some of the musical influences that have helped inform your art?

KS: My biggest musical influence would have to be my father. I was raised before cell phones and access to the internet became an everyday commodity. Most of my music knowledge and experience trickled down from him until I was equipped to search out music for myself. He played bass in our kitchen every weekend, blasted the radio and vinyl records while talking up his favorite music, performers and artists of the decades. I could sense my father admired what they brought to the table. I was intrigued and became enamored with music and performance art myself. The music that he played the most on Sunday mornings, and what I really took to, was folk. Classic folk like The Carters & Doc Watson. At a young age Johnny Cash and John Fogerty were men I considered  gods of American music. Out of nowhere I had a massive crush on Elvis and devoured everything I could find of the King. As I grew up I got sucked into grunge music and soaked my teenage angst in Nirvana, Pearl Jam and The Smashing Pumpkins. In my 20’s I fired my female ass up with The Cranberries, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Lauryn Hill and eventually Amy Whinehouse. I had also fostered a musical lust for Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine and White Zombie since middle school. You could say I ate up whatever was relevant in pop culture at the time.

What I reflect in my music is just that, I cover classic folk, pop and rock with some originals sprinkled in that kinda sound like a musical throw up of folk & 90’s pop that ain’t too hard to swallow.  

Folk NH: Living in rural New Hampshire, how would you describe the culture there as it relates to music and art?

KS: The first two words that come to my mind are natural and proud. I think the art scenes around here certainly vary, however a common trait I see is nature. Nature being a common theme but also making things yourself, doing it from scratch, growing your own foods, mixing your own paints or writing your own lyrics & chords, there’s a sense of pride there, and many New England artists are happy to let you know just how something they are sharing with you was created.  

Folk NH: Tell us: what’s Hippy Hollow, how long has it been going on and what inspired you to start it?

KS: The name Hippy Hollow came from a title we gave this street when I was a teenager. Our cabin is located in a commune, or land trust community. There are a handful of members sharing 100 acres of land. It was founded in the 70’s by bonafide hippies and us kids growing up called it hippy hollow. It’s where you could go to escape society, hang and be with artists and “free thinkers”. 

Hippy Hollow Recordings is a result of Darling Hill. Aaron is familiar with the guitar because he is familiar with music. As an Earthworks Microphone product development engineer for many years he has knowledge of sound and how to record it. Being a creative individual he took to music as a way to exercise his microphone making muscle. I started recording my cover songs on his mics and listened to them to gain insight on my sound. My friends wanted in on the habit and I started scheduling for them what would become live personal recording sessions in the bay window of my living room. I became comfortable approaching local musicians at open mics scattered around the area where I live, also while luring unique creative performers and artists from the festival scenes. Our cabin is ideal for getting lost in music and expressing yourself openly. Located 800 ft in the woods and is only accessible by foot. It lends itself to a safe, intimate, natural environment for artists to perform. We have a small stage in the backyard for outdoor house concerts during our warm months. I have hosted and recorded a slew of artists that range in all genres. Psychedelic, trance, blues, folk, indie, jam band, funk, spoken word, ritual sounds and dance. We even hosted the pianist Merry Ellen Kirk & Harpist Ruth Acuff a couple years ago. Both are also stunning ethereal vocalists and watching them get their gear down our trail to our house was adventurous for sure. Even though I book it, I never really know what is going to manifest. We accommodate folk the best. Something about fiddles, banjos, harps, foot stomping and sweet poetic vocals suits our location well.   

When I was too young to attend shows, local music was hard for me to connect to. It wasn’t until I saw Brian Viglione perform at our high school talent show that I discovered I had a hard on for live performances. His career is one that I have followed and continue to be inspired by. It continues to prove and validate for me that great music and performances can be found in your own backyard and for me that is quite literal. Since I have had this space and the ability to nurture, record and host local musicians in intimate settings, I have felt compelled to invite people to join me and celebrate.

I have never charged an artist for their recordings, and I have never been able to pay an artist directly for their performances. We on rare occasions ask for suggested donations at our house concerts, the donations go directly to the performers and if we do well, sometimes our soundguy. 

We have had though, some musicians and community members donate to our gofundme project that will hopefully someday pay for a more accommodating bathroom on our property. This will improve everyone’s experience when they visit us. We very much value and are thankful for this aspect of our relationship with the artists.

Folk NH: Hippy Hollow seems to be making a great effort in fostering a music community in an area that most musicians might not even know about. Is this is a conscious goal?

KS: You could certainly say it is a conscious goal in hopes that I can continue the ongoing trend. 

I think in order to sustain what I am doing and how I am doing it, I’m always going to need fresh interest and collaborations. I find kindred spirits easily when I share openly what next event or project it is that I am working on. That’s how I stumble upon the coolest little nooks and crannies of music. It’s also how I meet the most eccentric guests and artists. 

Starting last year Hippy Hollow Recordings was involved in and began sponsoring the Milford Pumpkin Festival. This year we were granted an additional stage and booked the line up on it  for it all 3 days. Each act that performs on it is affiliated with our community, I have either recorded them or featured them on our own stage in our woods. It’s exciting to now have a public platform to share their talents during such a popular and cherished local event!

Folk NH: You’ve had some very talented singers and songwriters grace your living room stage for your house concert series. Do you have some performances that particularly stood out to you?

KS: I don’t have enough fingers on my hands to count the sessions that had an impact on me. Every single one of them does. More than once there have been moments when a musician has moved me to tears with their vocals and lyrics. But for a change and something truly unique, I can sometimes lure my friend Adam Blake from Boston to our forest to perform as Kar’Nam for us. His set is unique in that it is just him with an experimental drone, bass and vocals. Creating and looping sounds he is able to find a rhythm and begins to vocally and instrumentally  trance out through his set providing an immersive and extremely meditative experience. Half the time he has collaborated with an interpretive dancer and that’s when a full bodied expressive performance manifests. If you are open and in tune with it, you are engaged in it. You become an active participant just witnessing it unfold. It can hit you on a spiritual level and leave you with a sense of wonder and wellbeing.

Folk NH: Are there any other favorite local acts that you’d recommend we hear? And any that you’ve yet to book for a house concert?

KS: Sometimes it’s not a local act that I ache to book but an “out of town find” that I would like to share WITH our locals. Bitter Pill from Lowell is a female fronted band I have been watching since I saw them perform last year. I highly recommend them, “Self-described as “bloody folk,” Bitter Pill plays a dark and anachronistic combination of Folk, Jazz, Blues, and Vaudeville – mixed with original spoken word as well as reading from classical literature.”-( Taken from their FB) 

They were nominated twice by this years New England Music Awards. I find them utterly enchanting and their lead singer Emily is a hot ticket. I have always wanted to see them perform locally and capture her sweet raw vocals with our high def mics. 

Folk NH: Got any favorite venues in the area? Harlow’s in Peterborough comes to mind.

KS: Harlow’s has got to be the one venue I have had the most memorable experiences in. The atmosphere is unique and the shows they book are always different and not something you would typically see in this area. Across the street from Harlows, events hosted by The Peterborough Concert Series have become popular and are growing. Once or twice a month they offer events featuring the best regional and national bands at Peterborough’s historic Townhouse. Stellar tribute bands, to legendary blues acts. It’s become a favorite of mine to get involved with. About 3 months ago I started an internship with the PCS. They have allowed me to peek behind the curtain and learn hands on what it takes to level up and provide quality entertainment for a larger community. By taking me on, in a sense they are supporting local music at “the root” level. So far I have learned many things and to have this opportunity close to home fills me with gratitude for its existence.    

Folk NH: What can you tell us about Uplift Music Festival? What was your experience and your involvement with the festival?

KS: So funny thing, the same people who run the PCS also run Uplift. It’s a super positive and generous festival in that the profits always benefit those in need. I have vended as an artist at Uplift the past two years, this was the first year I was asked to help promote it. It was a joy to do and to vend it as an artist for the third year was a success as always. It’s a great event and the Mason community was lucky to have it hosted by Marty’s Driving Range this year. Marty’s is another great local venue that is new and growing, about a year ago I got involved with them by booking the artisans who participate in their concerts. Every show so far has been amazing and I pinch myself thinking it’s a dream, it’s happening just down the street from Hippy Hollow and I get to see incredible headliners gracing a stage in my hometown.   

Folk NH: Any last thoughts about folk music in New Hampshire? The good, the not-so-good, etc. Anything we’re doing right or needs improvement?

KS: I can’t say for sure, all I know is I have just scratched the surface of the local folk scene. I have developed a sense that  it’s something that I can continue to showcase well from my stage in the hollow. So far the folk music I have stumbled upon has been magical, whimsical, humorous  uplifting and full of soul. It would be great to have a folk festival in these parts! Perhaps next summer?

Check out Hippy Hollow on Facebook for more info and upcoming events.

8/20/19 – The Dirty Double Crossers house concert recorded live – 7:30pm

9/19/19 – PHILEEP house concert recorded live – 7:30pm