Gulf Coast Records released powerhouse blues and soul singer Kat Riggins‘ new single “Cry Out” on Friday, May 22nd, 2020. The album Cry Out will be Riggins’ debut album on the label and will be released later this summer.
“Cry Out is a call to action,” says Riggins. “It’s no secret that as a country we don’t practice what we preach. America is still said to be one of the greatest nations in the world, but we ain’t walkin’ the walk. In writing it’s, ‘The land of the free’ and ‘All men are created equal,’ when in actuality we still fear our differences, slight though they may be in comparison to all that we have in common! That fear turns to hate…the hate into greed or even violence. If you recognize the fact that the doctrines we’ve written and the principles that we live by are in complete contradiction to each other, this is your time to cry out. Don’t be afraid to CRY OUT!”
EVAN: I like “Cry Out” a lot. You said that it’s about racism and equality, is that theme present on the rest of the CD?
KAT: Not completely. For me, I wanted to write “Cry Out” about everything that I feel is a hindrance for humanity, which is racism, hate, superiority complexes, and discrimination in any way. Not just for race, but in any way that you tell somebody they aren’t good enough to be around you and yours. Or they’re not good enough to do, or be, or say, or experience things that you and yours are experiencing, to me is a hindrance. That is a handicap. So that’s why I wrote, “Cry Out.” It’s not necessarily all about race, but it’s about discriminating against another human who bleeds the same color blood as you do. There’s no reason that anyone should feel that they have rights that somebody else doesn’t have. As far as the rest of the record is concerned, there are a few other songs that are consciousness songs that I want people to think, you know, I want people to say “huh, maybe that does need a little more attention.” Or “maybe there’s something that I can do from where I am,” because a lot of people feel too small to make any sort of big impact. I get that.
I wrote a song on the album called “Meet Your Maker,” and I wrote it because there are some people in my family with addiction issues, and it’s a song to say “hey, you’re moving too fast, and if you keep moving in this way you’re gonna meet your maker sooner than you planned.” Then there’s another song called “Heavy.” It has more of a slower tempo and it’s about the idea that we are stronger together as human beings, and that if we work together to make this world that way that I feel God intended it, then we’ll be more successful. But if we continue to divide ourselves, then we’re not going anywhere. We’re just gonna stay in the same cycle of hate and ugliness But there are fun songs on the album, so it’s not all that way. A lot of it is me trying to be more honest.
EVAN: I love the fact that you are singing songs about these issues because Mavis Staples won’t be here forever, and we need people to carry her torch. Some artists are, but not a ton of them.
KAT: Right, I agree.
EVAN: I saw Shemekia Copeland a while ago, and she sang a song called “Would You Take My Blood.”
KAT: Oh my gosh I love that song! And that is so accurate! I know you don’t hate me because we look different, but if you were on your deathbed, and I’m the only one with a matching blood type, would you really not let me save your life?
***For those who don’t know the song,”Would You Take My Blood” is about a dying white man. Shemekia is willing to donate blood to him, but the dying man didn’t accept her offer because he didn’t want ‘black blood’ in his body.**
EVAN: Exactly! I remember her singing that song, and everybody in the room just sat there, and looked at each other in amazement. She touched everyone that deeply.
KAT: Right. I love it. And I’m inspired by people like that. I commend musicians who risk a fan base and income because we’re risking the possibility of our songs offending somebody. But we’re in positions where we need to be responsible and we need to say stuff. That’s how I feel about this gift of music. It wasn’t given to me just because I like to sing or whatever, it’s given to me so I can say what needs to be said.
KAT: I got a text message from my booking agent, and he said that Guy Hale (one of the label’s co-owners) was looking for me and he wanted to talk to me. At this time I was in Europe on tour, so it’s the end of that tour and I was in France. Guy called me on Facebook Messenger and we had a conversation, which we did several times before I was officially signed, so we spent some time just getting to know each other. I’m sure he was making sure that I was a good fit before he gave me an offer.
And then at one point, he said to me “I’d love to work with you, and I know that Mike Zito (the label’s other co-owner) would love to work with you.” And I’m stoked at this point because we were looking for labels to back this current project. I didn’t look at Gulf Coast because I knew nothing about them, and they’re still relatively brand new.
At this point when Guy said that, I was stoked because now I know that they sought me out because they genuinely dig what I do. So I’m happy about that because I love working with people like that who work as hard as I’m working to make a success out of the project.
I also heard a rumor that Albert Castiglia is the one that called them and told them to check me out. I don’t know if that’s true or not, it’s just a rumor I heard, but I’m grateful for him for turning them on to me if it is true!
EVAN: One of my favorite things about that label is that they’ll take topics like Cry Out.
KAT: Yes, Gulf Coast has an ear. And I’m not speaking against another label at all, but from experience, I know that Gulf Coast not only has a good ear but a heart for the music. They want to put out music that moves them.
EVAN: Those are my favorite kinds of labels, the more independent labels that have the mindset of having a heart for the music, like the mindset Gulf Coast has.
KAT: Gulf Coast is new and they’re already blazing trails because it’s not only blues. They have a huge blues roster compared to the other genres that they do, but it’s all music that they care about and they like, and that’s what will make them successful because, well obviously it’s a business and a numbers game, but it isn’t only that for them, and I think that will make more artists want to sign with them.
EVAN: I’ve never met Guy Hale, I don’t know him, but I know that Mike Zito has been in the business a long time, so I know that’s a big help. And he knows what he’s doing.
KAT: Exactly, that is very helpful. Mike knows the business and he has connections. Guy Hale loves the music, his heart is in the music, and he’s also hilarious. Watching Guy and Mike in a room together is like watching two brothers that are so at it. It’s really funny.
EVAN: My next question is about being a woman in blues music. What is your hope for the future of women in the blues genre?
KAT: I keep a constant hope for us because I feel that women have contributed hugely to the genre itself, and there are a lot of names that are famous and recognized, but there are a lot of names that are unknown to many people that should be recognized, like Annika Chambers. She’s growing, her fan base is growing, but in my opinion, she should be way more well known than she is. Another is Keeshea Pratt. She’s an incredible performer.
EVAN: Both of them are fantastic.
KAT: Right. So my hope for the future of women in blues music is that we can to open more doors and earn more respect. I want to see more women on festival stages, more women headliners. I want to hear more women on the radio, not just ‘today from 5 to 6 is our women in blues segment.’ You know, no! (laughs)
I still respect and adore all the men in blues who have done the damn thing and raised the bar and spread their love of the blues, but there are so many women on that list whose names people need to know. That’s my hope for the future.
EVAN: I agree with you, it is a shame that some women with great talent don’t get recognized.
KAT: Correct, and we work just as hard.
EVAN: Do you think there are as many women in blues as there are men? I think that there are, but they just aren’t as well known as the men.
KAT: I agree, I think there’s the same amount, but the men are more widely recognized.
EVAN: But at the festivals that I’ve been to, I’ve noticed that a lot of people in the crowd find that the female performers stand out more than the men.
KAT: That’s exactly what it is, people think we’re a rarity. We’re kind of a special treat because we aren’t there all the time. It’s like “oh wait, this time there’s a woman! That’s cool!” However, this woman has probably been in the game for 20 to 30 years.
EVAN: You’ve been nicknamed the Baby Doll of the Blues. Where did that nickname come from?
KAT: I had a drummer who named me that. When I first moved back to South Florida and started gigging on a full-time basis, the drummer I had was a man named Doc Allison, and Doc just started calling me that. He’d welcome me to the stage as “the Baby Doll of the Blues, Kat Riggins.”
I usually let the band do one song to get them in the groove and warm up. One day after their opening song, he grabbed the mic and said “ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage, the Baby Doll of the Blues, Kat Riggins!”, and it stuck.
Evan do you know Alonzo Townsend? He works on the team with Marquise Knox.
EVAN: I know Marquise but I don’t know Alonzo.
KAT: Marquise is my dude! Him & Alonzo have a record label together. Anyways, Townshend called be the Heiress of the Blues, which I liked, I thought it was really cool. But by that time, people already had started calling me the Baby Doll, so I just rolled with it. The Heiress fell backward and the Baby Doll fell forward.
EVAN: This is my last and most difficult question. If you could sing “Cry Out” with anybody, who would you sing it with?
KAT: You’re right, that is a tough one. There are so many. I feel like Marquise Knox fits, I feel that he’d do it justice. I would love to perform with Eric Gales. He’s another one that’s got a conscious mind I feel like. Let’s see, who else…oh, (gasps), Ruthie Foster!
EVAN: She is amazing. I love the John Prine tribute she did.
KAT: She’s magic, and it’s an effortless thing with her. I feel like it’s more than just her music, it’s more than just her voice and the way she plays guitar, it’s just her being. She emanates this magic. So when she sings something, it reaches right inside of you and that’s what you feel.
I would like to thank Kat Riggins for letting me interview her for Virtuosity Worldwide. Songs like “Cry Out” give me so much hope. We need more people like Kat and more songs like “Cry Out” to help us unite and love one another through the power of music.