University Jazz & Contemplative Studies alum Theo Katzman is a soulful staple in the Ann Arbor music scene. After graduation, Katzman transitioned to touring with My Dear Disco, then reestablished himself in Ann Arbor as a singer-songwriter and a mentor for nearly 40 music students through his previous faculty position at Ann Arbor Music Center.
Katzman’s debut full-length LP Romance Without Finance was released on iTunes today. Though he recently moved to Brooklyn, his album release show took place on Nov. 5 at The Ark in Ann Arbor.
The overall volume of the instruments was taken down for this performance so the audience could hear the lyrics. The intimate vibe was magnified by his band Love Massive playing in a more calm, acoustic register — Julian Allen on the cajón, Woody Goss on keyboard, Joe Dart on bass and both Allen and Dart on backup vocals.
“I wanted to make a statement with the live show that would be analogous to the record in terms of being able to hear the music,” Katzman said in an interview with The Michigan Daily. “That’s why I chose the (acoustic) direction for it.”
The room was filled with loving and familiar faces, and the album parallels that love. As the final track on Romance Without Finance sings, “I feel love (all the time), all around me (all the time)” — Katzman had his favorite people over for dinner to record group vocals and claps in a kitchen setting, which made the album more real for him.
The track, one of two that was recorded with a cassette machine, originated from a dark time in Katzman’s life. Through the means of “I Feel Love (All The Time),” he was able to sort through his emotions.
“There’s always this inherent appreciation for life that we can access at any moment,” Katzman said. “Sometimes it’s the hardest thing to find or to feel, but it’s there. So that’s what I’m hoping for in that song.”
This funky 25-year-old brunette has constructed a record of nine tracks with lyrics ranging from simply comedic to mantra-worthy. He explained his lyrics are a mix of personal situations and imagination, songs like “You Could Never Know” being far abstracted to the point where most listeners probably couldn’t perceive the meaning he began with.
Katzman’s lines are abstracted from real feelings into engaging concepts, like on the track “Called To Tell You”: “I missed my first real anniversary / ‘Cause I was drinking by myself / Being an artist.”
“I think the first anniversary line was from a time when I felt I was more into the idea of being the tortured artist than actually being happy,” Katzman said. “But that’s definitely a funny line. It’s supposed to be a joke, but it’s serious too. I’m putting myself on the chopping block there to say, ‘Look how stupid we can be.’ ”
Planning to release more tracks, including “Three Seconds” and “Someone For You” in the near future, and with future albums on the horizon, Katzman is committed to his love for music for a lifetime.
“I want to really impress music,” he said. “I want to take her out to dinner and I want to treat her right, I want to do it up real big … it’s that sentiment.”
Katzman was heavily influenced in his childhood by many things: his father’s professional career as a jazz trumpet player, working in the Los Angeles studio scene and the classic music produced by his mother’s parents. Though raised in that particular musical foundation, he found his own sound inspired by artists ranging from Cuban musicians to Led Zeppelin to Feist.
“People who care about you want to tell you what to do because they’re worried about you not being OK,” Katzman said. “I think that if you really play that game and let yourself get surrounded by that and controlled by that, you can go down the wrong path.”