By Rebecca Godwin, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 27, 2013
If you were to ask University alum and musician, Theo Katzman, what effect the University had on him as an artist and as a person, he would tell you that it was the “single most influential experience of his life.”
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But Katzman, who has an upcoming performance at Ann Arbor’s famous nonprofit club, the Ark, developed a passion for music at a young age, which he described as an “evolutionary accident.”
“My father was a jazz musician by profession and he played on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,’ ” Katzman said. “And then my mom’s parents were both classical musicians, my mom’s father was in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. So I come from a history of music.”
Music came naturally to him, starting not with an instrument, but with his voice and his mom.
“I’ve been singing since I was a little kid, and I didn’t know it was a thing. I was just singing with my mom,” Katzman said. “My mom has a beautiful voice and loves to sing, so singing came very naturally to me. I was always doing it.”
Singing eventually transitioned into playing instruments: guitar, drums and bass. His interest for instruments pointed him toward songwriting, which started his “high school doldrums” phase.
However, don’t expect to hear any of his music from that time.
“They were just typical teenage heartbreak songs, which you’ll never hear,” Katzman said. “They’re buried somewhere.”
His abilities as a songwriter developed, and he spent several years in a variety of different bands, including My Dear Disco, which also included Michelle Chamuel, fellow alum and recent runner-up on NBC’s “The Voice.” But finally in 2011, Katzman decided to venture out on his own and self-released his album, Romance Without Finance.
“Quitting (My Dear Disco) in favor of starting my own band was a big step for me and that took a lot of faith and confidence,” Katzman said. “It was an attempt to conquer my fear that I wouldn’t be able to achieve my own identity in music.”
In a couple of years, though, Katzman has managed to make a name for himself and has consistently drawn large crowds to his shows. This summer, he toured across the country as the opening act for Darren Criss, a University alum and star of FOX’s “Glee.”
“It was a super, awesome, joyous time (to open for Criss),” Katzman said. “To open as an artist was incredible. By the second show, I felt like all the fans knew all the words to my songs, some of them I hadn’t even recorded yet.”
Katzman has decided to introduce a couple new songs, beyond his own personal experiences, for his next album, which he hopes to put out in 2014.
“My whole catalog (of songs) up to this point is all personal experience as opposed to storytelling,” Katzman said. “I’m starting to move a little bit more into the realm of storytelling with some of my new stuff that isn’t released yet.”
Those include his newest single, “Pop Song,” which he debuted on the tour this summer with Criss. The song was officially released Sept. 19, but fans all over the internet had been waiting anxiously for a while to purchase the official release. Several mishaps on Katzman’s part (“My bad, guys”) had led to the single being delayed for several days.
Katzman intends to release a couple more singles before putting out his second album, but his overall hopes for the future range from the simple — which basically involves him maintaining his status as an independent artist and playing music to people who want to hear it — to the ambitious.
“I feel inspired to recreate the demand for consumer-supported music. As we’ve transitioned to the new internet model, people are saying that, ‘Oh, the music industry is failing,’ ” Katzman said. “I don’t agree. I think it’s just changing and I want to be one of the guys out there flying the freak flag of ‘Hey, it’s all good, we’re still doing it.’ ”