by Scott Roos
Like most of the business with the Zine, my first contact with Katelyn Lehner was via email. This was back in the fall of 2020. She had just released her debut single - a sultry, smoky, playful, flirty, Pop Country imbibed, hook laden track with just a slight tinge of the blues called “Red”. She had heard of us, although I have no idea how, and was wondering if we would give her some coverage within our digital pages.
COVID was still a raging dumpster fire of a pandemic, we were just starting out as a publication, and, as with much of our pieces, we wanted original photos. It's always been a hallmark of our publication to include our own unique and exclusive photos. So naturally, I asked her if she would come out to Little Red River Park to do a photoshoot. It would be the first staged shoot for our publication. It may very well have been the first magazine style shoot for Lehner.
Lehner spent about an hour with Deanna (photographer) and myself that day. The weather was perfect. It was autumn and the leaves were changing colours but the temperature was still pretty balmy. The photos turned out great. They captured a different side of Lehner and I’ve used them a number of times since. But this little event kicked off a strong relationship between NSMZ and Lehner that is ongoing to this day. We’ve followed her as she climbs the ladder of success reaching new milestones as she goes. It’s been a sight to behold.
“I'm super proud of what I've been able to accomplish over the last two years. I feel like I'm checking things off my list earlier than expected and planned,” related Lehner in our most recent telephone conversation.
She’s not wrong. In the last year in particular, she’s released her debut ep entitled 10 Bucks, played a set at the Calgary Stampede and also a set at the Labour Day Classic in Regina. Those three things, in and of themselves, are pretty impressive. Her songs are a big part of that. They’re humorous. They are light. They’re fun. In short, they give off a heaping portion of good vibes which, in these days where it seems like there is a constant barrage of negativity coming at us from all directions (thanks a lot internet), is probably a good thing.
“I want my music to be bright. My brand is colourful and light and uplifting and positive,” Lehner explains, “I want to keep things fun and I try to tow the line of having a little bit of comedy and lightheartedness and not take myself too seriously and just kind of be playful with things.”
Born and raised in the rugged, rough and tumble city of Prince Albert, Lehner took RCM singing lessons from age three. She also made use of performance opportunities in the area as they arose. Many singer-songwriters in Saskatchewan start out doing singing competitions and Lehner was no exception. All through this, she was singing other people’s songs and receiving all the accolades but still dreaming of one day having crowds of appreciative fans listening to her own original tunes. These last two years in particular, that dream became a reality.
“It's cool having my own songs and seeing people connect to them in different ways. It’s a special feeling when you’re the artist that's writing these stories and you can kind of connect to people that way. I love it. I think that it's always something that I wanted to do and I want to carry with me throughout the rest of my life whatever this turns into,” Lehner continues.
That’s really the key to Lehner’s success: connection. She is a natural performer. She’s an honest performer with, at times, a captivatingly unique stage presence. Nothing about what she does is forced. Lehner, the artist and musician is, simply put, a natural extension of who she is as a person. Relatability essentially permeates through everything she does. It’s carefully crafted and always on point. It’s music for her people and that specific group seems to be growing by the minute. She has enough of a following, in fact, for her to switch to doing music full time in October of 2021.
“I've been doing music full time for the past year. It was exciting, super scary. I didn’t know if I was making the right choice or if it was the right time. It was right around the time I started recording the EP (10 Bucks). I kind of just told myself that if I wanted this (the EP) to do well and if I wanted to put all my time and effort into this EP and into these songs and into my career this can’t be a bad time. I made the decision and it's proven to have been a good one,” Lehner says.
“I don't know what the perfect situation would be for you to be 'oh this is it. this is the time to quit and put all my eggs in one basket' but the music industry is hard. I feel like you have to be all in if you want to be in it. It takes a lot of work and you never know how things are gonna go. You just gotta take that risk and chance.”
Lehner has all the tools to be as successful as she wants to be and so far the sky's the limit. She’s self-managed, books her own shows and does a lot of her own PR. She’s intelligently crafted a strong image for herself in the country music scene that sets her apart. She’s a natural performer. And, above all else, she shows gratitude for everyone that has helped her along the way - including NSMZ. Humility and gratitude in the business go a long way.
“I feel like there's been a good buzz about what I’ve been doing. I’ve always been very grateful and so I feel super grateful for all the support that I've been given early in my career and over these last two years. I'm feeling support from everyone,” Lehner concludes.
Congrats, Katelyn on your well deserved NSMZ award for “Artist of the year”. We’ve been in your corner since the start and are excited to see what happens over the next few years. You're NSMZ family and couldn’t be more proud of your accomplishments so far.
Next up for Lehner will be an acoustic set on New Year’s Eve at the Dakota Dunes Casino opening for Tenille Arts. Great double billing. Gonna be a fun time I reckon.
"It's been so cool watching her over the years. I'm excited to play that show opening for her," Lehner said of the up and coming gig with Arts.
Tickets are available for that show here: