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Karen Atkins discusses musical frequency, 70s music, and her creative aspirations

Posted: September 5, 2018
Category: Interviews
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Singer-songwriter Karen Atkins‘ love of classic American songwriting is imminent throughout her music, especially with her cover of Paul Simon’s 1977 Top Ten Hit, “Slip Slidin’ Away.” With Simon’s last show taking place this month (he’s retiring from performing), it’s only suitable that Atkins’ pay homage to one of her favorite singer and songwriters. With Simon’s music having such a profound impact on Atkins, it’s only fitting that she cover “Slip Slidin’ Away” as an ode to Simon’s musicianship and artistry.

Atkins is not only a musician, but also a healer; all of the instruments “she uses dispense with standard Western frequency in which A = 440, and are instead calibrated to A = 432,” and is used to relieve stress and evokes internal harmony.” With her music video for “Slip Slidin’ Away,” Atkins is shown playing guitar, singing and enjoying nature. The video also features an idyllic treehouse, where peace and calm collide against the backdrop of sunshine and rain.

In our interview with Atkins, she discusses her admiration of Paul Simon and his music, her work as a natural health expert, the unique frequency she plays her instruments on, and our classic five fun questions.

It’s safe to say you have a deep admiration for and of Paul Simon. Why did you choose to cover his song “Slip Slidin’ Away”?

Karen Atkins: Yes, I definitely admire Paul Simon and feel that he is among the greatest songwriters out there.

I was looking for a song of his to cover that I loved, but would also lend itself to interpretation, so I could really make it my own. “Slip Slidin’ Away” has such a strong chorus, but the arrangement has space for something different, so it was the perfect song for me in that regard.

Even though I’m not generally much of an acoustic player, I thought that a slightly more acoustic version of the song could be really interesting to produce.

Are there other songs by him or other artists you’d like to cover?

Karen: I always loved “Homeward Bound”, “America” and “Kodachrome”, so perhaps I’ll do a cover of one of those at some point in the future.

As far as covers of other artists, I just finished recording “Make it with You” by Bread. It was one of my favorite songs when I was growing up.

I would love to record a cover of “I Saw the Light” by Todd Rundgren or pretty much anything by America.

You are a natural health expert, as well as a musician. How do each give you the creative freedom you desire?

Karen: That’s a great question! Creativity for me is so essential. Being creative is what makes me feel the most free, connected and fulfilled.

I am very clear that the combination of creative expression (especially in the form of music) and the healing arts is a central part of my purpose here on earth.

As a young musician and songwriter, writing and playing music gave me the outlet I needed to express my deepest feelings, frustrations and anxieties which I didn’t know how to express in other ways. It also helped me express my angst around the complexities of relationships.

In more recent years, I’ve been using music as more of a way to express my visions, realizations, and experiences, to work out and express my feelings about the current state of our planet and our place as spiritual beings in this material world, as well as all of the ways love manifest in our lives.

I’ve received a tremendous amount of feedback expressing gratitude for how my music has helped people identify feelings that they were having trouble expressing or even acknowledging in the first place and processing those feelings in a productive way. I’m very pleased that my music is able to help people in this way.

Spending the last 20 years learning and teaching about ways to build our energy and stay youthful and healthy has given me loads of opportunities to create!

In addition to my music YouTube channel, I also have a YouTube channel centered around education and practices for a healthy, vibrant lifestyle. I LOVE making videos on these topics and have been doing that for years. The popularity of that channel is what led Good Morning America to interview me as a “health guru.” (And incidentally, that interview was the catalyst for my father to finally start listening to my health advice after 15 years of resisting my suggestions).

I’ve also put together a keynote concert series incorporating stories, healthy lifestyle education and my original music, which has been super fun to create.

Most recently, I’ve been working on writing a book which will include tons of tips, strategies and practices from my 20 years as a health/vitality practitioner and educator combined with my experience in using music and creativity as a powerful healing tool. I’m very excited to share all of these practical tools and strategies with a wider audience!

I love how all of the instruments you play have a unique frequency…can you expound on this?

Karen: When I came back to recording music after 15 years of being a health educator, I was very interested in capitalizing on the healing properties of music by finding the most effective ways to use music as a healing tool.

I researched a number of different ways to use sound frequencies for healing and I stumbled upon the A = 432 Hz tuning, which is said to have a more harmonious, rounder sound, more aligned with nature.

There are researchers who have studied the effects of music in 432 Hz. One study in particular demonstrated that, after 7 days of exposure to music in 432 Hz, the participants experienced reduced stress, insomnia, depression and pain levels, as well as increased concentration and calmness.

Despite the research though, there is still a lot of debate out there about whether 432 Hz is indeed more healing than 440 Hz.

I wasn’t too stuck on how “sound” the scientific evidence is. I was more interested in the fact that when I play my music in 432, I intuitively feel that it has a softer, more relaxing effect.

Nevertheless, I was curious to see if my music would have a similar effect on the listeners, so I conducted a field study using my music recorded in 432hz. I was excited to find that after listening to only 1 or 2 of my songs, over 75% of the participants reported reduction in their stress level and over 55% reported a reduction in their pain and discomfort levels.

Was the idea for “Slip Slidin’ Away” yours or was it mostly collaborative?

Karen: It was my idea to cover the song, but the production was a very collaborative effort with my co-producer, Xeno. We worked on the arrangements together for all of the instruments, especially the vocal harmonies, which we both LOVE to do!

My favorite part of the song is actually a layered guitar picking pattern that he primarily masterminded. I have a tremendous amount of respect for his musicality and we have very similar aesthetics, so we work extremely well together. We are also both very open to each others’ ideas and he generally doesn’t get bent out of shape if I veto one of his suggestions.

Five Fun Questions

Who was your first concert?

Karen: U2 for the Unforgettable Fire tour. It was a great show!

Which female musician has had the most impact on your music?

Karen: That’s an interesting question for me because, other than R&B and old blues/jazz singers, I tend to listen to more male vocalists than female vocalists.

When I was a freshman in college, though, I had the good fortune of meeting and being friends with Lisa Loeb, who was a senior. She had a singing duo with the lead singer from my all-girl band in High School, which was how we met.

I loved what they were doing. I followed them around like a puppy dog and went to EVERY one of their shows.

At the time, I was mostly playing the guitar and had not found my singing voice nor was writing and singing songs. I was writing instrumentals with my band or playing covers and bringing other people in to sing the lead vocals.

But when I saw Lisa doing her thing, I thought to myself “if she can do it, I can do it,” and I started writing and singing my own songs.

So I guess you could say that Lisa has had the most impact on my music both as an inspiration to write and sing and also as a stylistic thing at the beginning. I loved Lisa’s quirky and intriguing lyrics and jazzy chord progressions and I ended up writing a bunch of songs along those lines at the beginning. My writing style later evolved quite a bit, but I’ve always been super grateful for that initial inspiration.

What was your first album on vinyl, cassette, and/or CD?

Karen: My first album was The Doors Greatest Hits on Vinyl. My camp friend turned me on to Jim Morrison and specifically the song “Touch Me.” I was completely obsessed with the song (as well as Jim Morrison) and listened to it so much that I think I eventually broke the record and had to get a new one…

Which five artists and/or albums would you not want to live without?

Karen: Sorry! Can’t pick only 5! Simon and Garfunkel, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Bread (the Best of Bread) Pink Floyd, Cat Stevens, Todd Rundgren, James Taylor, Billy Joel (His albums from the 70s), Chicago, Joni Mitchell, America, Queen…

Do you have a guilty music or entertainment pleasure?

Karen: That would definitely be indulging in 70s music 90% of the time! It’s a music pleasure for sure, though I can’t say I feel too guilty about it!

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