Kat Perkins hopes Willmar Christmas show begins an annual tradition

There's a hint of weariness to Kat Perkins' voice as she answers the phone. It's understandable. Her life has been an invariable whirlwind since her appearance on NBC's reality singing contest "The Voice" two summers ago sent her music career int...

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Kat Perkins will perform in Willmar today. (FORUM NEWS SERVICE)

There’s a hint of weariness to Kat Perkins’ voice as she answers the phone. It’s understandable.
Her life has been an invariable whirlwind since her appearance on NBC’s reality singing contest “The Voice” two summers ago sent her music career into fifth gear and introduced her to life on the road.

But on this day, Dec. 3, Perkins is making the most of a brief respite, notwithstanding a bevy of calls from media types seeking the scoop on her latest venture.
“It’s going to be blast,” Perkins said of a six-gig Christmas tour across Minnesota that kicked off Tuesday at the century-old Pioneer Place on Fifth in St. Cloud and features a performance at 7:30 p.m. today at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.
Perkins hopes the tour will add another layer to the “rock chick” persona she cultivated on “The Voice” and begin a tradition that makes Willmar a linchpin for holiday performances for years to come.

Doing her thing
Music was the underlying theme of Perkins’ childhood: her dad was a music teacher, her mother an organist.
She grew up in Scranton, a North Dakota hamlet of 280 residents, but a nest for country music’s golden years: the anthems of Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash incessantly humming across the airwaves.
At home, she was introduced to the arena rock and pop scene of the 1980s, and some of its grandest stalwarts: Heart, Journey, Van Halen and Pat Benatar.
Perkins knew she wanted to sing from the age of 4, when she took the stage for a rendition of Tom Paxton’s “What Did You Learn in School Today?” during a school musical program.
“I was completely hooked,” she recalled.
When high school gave way to college, she bolted and headed for the big city. She’s been based in Minneapolis since, the confluence of art and entertainment making the city a fervent music epicenter. She’s played coffee houses and clubs, arenas and stadiums. She opened for Bon Jovi before 13,000 fans at Target Center during the band’s 2005 “Have a Nice Day” tour and belted out the national anthem ahead of a 2014 Minnesota Vikings game at a packed TCF Bank Stadium.
Then there’s “The Voice.”
An online video of her rendition of Adele’s “Someone Like You” garnered the attention of the show’s producers and she was selected for blind auditions. She turned heads when performing Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Women,” and under the tutelage of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, she rode the contest to a Top-5 finish before being eliminated.
“At first, I was relieved,” Perkins recalled of the end of her time on the show. “You know, I was aware that at some point everyone goes home. Even the winner goes home. There’s an end to this thing. But then the next day I was angry because you do get wrapped up in the competition. And I was sad because I wanted to see the friends I made. You make fast friends on that show. So it was relief, then sadness, then this overwhelming sense of awe that I’d done this for myself. Then I just got the sense it was the beginning of something bigger. Even my coach, Adam Levine, would say ‘this isn’t about what you can do on this show, but what you can do afterwards. You have to be motivated and smart and if you’re going to do this, you have to work harder than you ever have.’ And now I’m ready for that.”

Giving back
Perkins cherishes Christmas. She always has.
A December 23 birthday likely helps.
There’s something noteworthy about the recordings of the season, she said.
And now she gets to leave her own mark on them.
Her album, “Kat Perkins Christmas,” is available on iTunes and features covers of holiday classics and three original recordings. The record will be the foundation of her show in Willmar, one she hopes will inaugurate a holiday tradition.
“I definitely can see myself coming back to Willmar,” she said. “I think Willmar is going to be absolutely perfect for these shows. Every time I picture the show, I picture it in the WEAC. I can see this whole thing happening there. It’s very theatrical. And that stage will cater perfectly to the theme of what we’re trying to create. We’ve done the footwork to continue this year-to-year and make it the tradition I want it to be.”
Perkins also plans to invite a local singer on stage at each gig for a solo performance and duet. Erica Ellingson, a senior at Willmar Senior High School, gets the honors for today’s concert. Ellingson is active in theater and has been involved in a number of community and school productions.
“I come from a long line of teachers and spent some time as a nanny in the Cities, and one thing that’s near and dear to me is the opportunity to foster young talent,” Perkins said. “And these Christmas shows give me another avenue for that. I hope that translates in the future to some kind of music camp for kids or school or rock. I think that would be a great opportunity for kids to not only give back as a musician, but also to also find an audience. That’s all I ever wanted to do was sing in front of people. Now I have a platform to offer that to others.”

Any remaining tickets for Perkins’ show will be available at the doors of the Willmar Education and Arts Center, 611 5th St. S.W., after 3 p.m. today (Saturday). Cost is $22.

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