Interview with Kat Darling from The High Crest
How did you get started in music?
I always have loved music. All through school my music education continued. In college I became uninterested in the music other people wanted me to make and was introduced to a plethora of women singer/songwriters. This is when I began to pick up the guitar and write my own songs. After that I just knew that this was what I wanted to do. A few years later I met Aaron, my husband, and we played an open mic night at Java Joes. We booked our own show there and I remember so many people I loved showed up for that very first show. Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey were playing a show next door that night, walked in and watched our show on their break. They had to hear me while I was super green, but even then it was cool. I feel the universe has continued to inspire me musically. Music became the way I could connect to the world around me and discover just who I was and where I was heading.
What are your current plans in music?
It is a constant balancing act of career, family, schooling and now traveling. As many people know, Aaron and I have sold our house and are now working to do music full time. The transition is slow with lots to learn. We kicked off making music full time in Feb. with the Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City. In October we head to the regional conference, Folk Alliance Regional Midwest – FARM.
What are your future plans in music?
Traveling and making music! Because we would like to be able to travel more next year we are really focusing on building relationships with venues and becoming a multi-faceted music machine including The High Crest Folk & Roll, Family Music and Aaron’s solo music. That way we have more opportunities for work along the way. Aaron has a solo project in the works and will be releasing some older recordings as well. The High Crest will be taking the fall to record our family album. We are still working out the details. I am super excited to be working on our family music. It is a huge part of the puzzle for us. I think we will see our world come together once we have released the CD and are touring with our family show.
Who is your biggest mentor?
Aaron Earl Short is my biggest mentor. We both say that we wouldn’t be doing this without each other. It is a really hard industry to be in, starting your own business full time, learning how to travel and play music, being a family…throughout the years it has been build, build, build. He hasn’t stopped believing once. Aaron is a musical powerhouse and sometime I want to see just how many hours in a row this man can play, maybe some sort of Guinness book of world records test! Watching his passion as he writes songs and creates music has been my biggest inspiration. He never stops and my job is to make sure that he never has to. Aaron taught me how to play a lead on the guitar. He stood beside me when I first began playing my songs on stage, something we used to call “feeding yourself to the wolves.” Through all the musical ups and downs he has been there for me reminding me that the music is more powerful and important than all of it.
I also need to include another mentor – my very good friend, Grant Baetz. I met Grant before Aaron. He saw my passion and began to listen to the music I was making; oh do I feel sorry for him! I remember the first Bobby McGee I ever sang for him, ouch! Not only did Grant listen but he began to help me find my voice. His talent on the keys is unmatched, in my eyes. He taught me so much and kept believing in me, even when I was the worst! Since then we have performed some awesome shows together and he will always be one of my favorites to perform with. Grant is a huge reason The High Crest is where we are today.
What band or concert left you a first and lasting impression?
The very first singer/songwriter performance I saw when I was 19 was Brenda Weiler. At that point in my life I had seen very few live music acts, being from small town Iowa and all. I saw her perform at a quaint little coffee shop in St. Joseph, MO. I had heard her CD but it didn’t compare to what it was like to see her perform live. This show was truly intimate and transformative for me. It was the moment when I began to want to be a singer songwriter.
Special Note to Wendy Hull (Wednesday's Notes creator) - Hey, thanks Wendy for loving music so much to get the back story. It is always great to see you out at the shows, posting about the shows and your Wednesday’s Notes. I know I am not alone when I say, Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!
Doing an 80/35
by Kat Darling from The High Crest
Throwing these numbers around can be dizzying, especially when you are a musician. It might have even been a little surprising to be at 80/35, even for us. After a 10 year stretch for me and about 20 years of playing music in Des Moines for Aaron, we both found ourselves performing at one of the largest music festivals around – 80/35. How did we get here? We aren’t in Des Moines any more Toto!
And yet we were here, right in the heart of Des Moines, IA rocking out to some of the biggest bands, the most rockin’ hardworking locals and more music fans then I thought was even possible to fit into downtown. We were right there in the middle of this huge celebration of music in our home city. And better yet, we were playing it. Our name was on the schedule and being accessed by over 30,000 music lovin’ people.
I bet a lot of them were asking the question, who is The High Crest? I know I was asking who was on this line up and what did they sound like. This was our very first time experiencing 80/35. Summers are almost always booked full so our schedule never allowed us to line up attending 80/35. It is two days of straight up of non-stop really loud music. I loved it! Power to the music!
The major acts drew huge crowds. Wilco and Weezer were the end of the night headliners but so many more very popular groups were scheduled through out the day. You didn't know who or what you were going to see next? There was this feeling that someone just popped the lid off a container of crazy.
Two free stages allowed access to anyone and that is where The High Crest performed. Each stage had such a variety of music that sometimes you'd get music genre whiplash, but this effect also added to the fun. We also got to play Iowa Public Radio Studio One Stage. Love that crew! For an event like this you have hundreds of tireless and passionate people working hard to create this musical dream. It was an honor to be a part of this event.
Top two photos by Jeremy Kim
The picture I took right after we got done playing on the Nationwide Stage
Wilco in Des Moines, Iowa
Aaron and Abileen enjoying Wilco
Feeling good before our set on the Nationwide Stage at 80/35
16 Reasons I WILL go to the Iowa State Fair
By Kat Darling from The High Crest
1. The Music - I go to see the FREE music and every year my band, The High Crest, performs on one of the newly renovated free stages. The High Crest will perform again on Monday Aug. 17th at Noon on the Bud Light Stage. The free stages keep the entertainment running all throughout the fair. You have dancing, music, and street performers from local, regional and touring acts. I’m not a huge fan of the Grandstand selections but they always draw a crowd.
2. The Eastside – Yep, come to the fair because it is on the Eastside of Des Moines and there is nothing you can do about it. This is the time of the year when the eastside just blows up. Even the night before, families are prepping this side of town for parking, vending and more, all so you can park close and have fun at the fair. This is the best the Eastside’s got, so quit using it to slam the state fair.
3. Food On a Stick – There is a reason it is on a stick. Have you ever walked around in the 90 degree Iowa heat trying to eat anything? It isn’t easy. Food that is easy to hold for any age, in any capacity, is brilliant. We are not talking gourmet, here, just fried yummy easy to eat food.
4. Iowa Craft Beer – How about Iowa craft EVERYTHING! The Iowa State Fair is the best Iowa’s got to share with you.
5. The Heat – It’s Iowa! You are really going to let the heat deter you from enjoying the fair!? Don’t let it. There are many cool spots to stop and take a break. You are not going to see the whole fair so let these cool air-conditioned spots help your opinion of your trip. Drink lots of water and just sit back and watch the fair roll by you.
6. Free stuff - Free entertainment, free goodies for the kids, giveaways…so many companies are advertising for you at the state fair. Grab a bag and fill it up!
7. The Animals – If it smells like the fair, it must be the fair! So many Iowa families work hard all year round to represent at the State Fair. I tip my cowgirl hat to all that have dedicated themselves and wish them a great showing. Good luck on winning that Blue Ribbon/ Best of Show!
8. 4-H Projects and the Arts – What creativity!!! Competing to show at the fair isn’t easy. Over 1,000s of people of all ages compete. The winners are a great cross section of Iowa’s talent.
9. The Butter Cow – Imagine the time and passion to keep this piece of Iowa’s history alive! One woman is crafting this cow every year and she is really cool (and not just because she has to work in the walk-in cooler). We got to meet her!
10. Iowa History – Iowa’s years past are featured all over the fair. Learn a little bit about this great state of Iowa. It is fantastic!
11. The Classic Rides – I love riding down the sky glider from the top of the hill toward the midway at sunset, Des Moines sky line in the distance, lights from the midway, rocking high above the crowd, in a little moment of peace. That is my state fair moment.
12. The Volunteers and Staff – It takes a village! Even though there are 1,000s of people streaming through the gates, somehow these people remain friendly and helpful, all to make this huge event run smoothly.
13. Family and Friends – It is a time to come together for all ages. After walking through the crowds you might find yourselves apart, but there are plenty of familiar landmarks where you can reconnect.
14. The Fair Grounds – This huge area is opened and staffed all year round. It is always being renovated and updated. Its campground, during the fair, hosts 2,400 campsites (with expansion in the future) and has 500 people on their waiting list to get in. It is a true Des Moines landmark.
15. The Pain – You will come out of the state fair bearing some sort of pain: sunburn, blisters, headache, etc. You’ll be dusty and dirtier than you could’ve imagined and your skin will salty and your shirt will be wet from the sweat. But you will have done it – You survived the Iowa State Fair! And you can do it again and again for 11 days in a row.
16. Iowa State Fair Passion - You can’t help it! If you love it, you love it. And there are plenty of people who love it, so if you don’t…don’t feel bad about yourself or feel sorry for the people who love it. We know what we are getting into and that is the fun of it!
It was crazy pulling the camper that far with just enough funds to make it happen. All of this is on a wing and a prayer! Do you think luck plays a part in survival? Sometimes it sure feels that way. And I put a lot of faith into that luck - traveling that far with my family and tiny home in tow. Woah.
The inner workings of this job, the planning, the choices, the public (you) don't always get to see why. But the reason why this particular trip was scheduled was to see if we could do it. Yep! Just to see if we could. We had three gigs anchoring our schedule. We had the push off in Lincoln, NE and then just two days later, Sunfest in Sherwood,OR and then a Concert Window via the internet in Seattle, WA, and then that gig was canceled, and then changed to the Casey Family Reunion back in good ol' Massena, IA.
Traveling with a house behind you is serious business and I want to take this opportunity to tell you that Aaron Earl Short rocked it behind the wheel. "He makes that look easy." a lady said to me at Sunfest. "I know!" I exclaimed and I really mean it.
As new camper owners there was a lot of things we had to figure out. How far 8 miles per gallon is going to get us? Ouch! Is there electric? Is there water? Where are we parking the dang thing? Will it fit? We were tested right away on that last question. Will it fit? Aaron says there is only one way to tell if the camper is going to fit. The answer: If HE looks first.
Before leaving we had to get work done on the van. Two very important things weren't working, the stereo and the air conditioner. We got the radio fixed but the air conditioner, no such luck. The compressor was fixed but the line still needed repair and here is where the drama begins.
The garage ordered the kit to fix the line the week before. UPS said that it will arrive Tues. or Wed. We leave Wed. Of course the part doesn't show until right before I am cutting all hope (which is hard to do in 100 degree heat and humidity). The garage gets us in about 2pm before our gig in Lincoln at 7pm. Lincoln is about 3 hours away. The clock starts ticking. Will we get there in time?
The air gets fixed and we leave a little before 4. We know we are going to be a little late, but we know we can still make something of this show at Crescent Moon Coffee.
Thank you google maps/GPS! You help me so much!
I knew exactly where to go, but... not where to park. We were going to stay at a near by campground but because we were running so late we were in downtown Lincoln with the camper. The directions were to park in the back parking lot, probably if you have a regular sized vehicle. The pressure to just get ourselves to the gig in that tight time frame pressed and we got stuck, badly stuck between vehicles with only centimeters to spare!
Thankfully just as this happened my Aunt Jo and Uncle Lee Arellano, who live there in Lincoln, showed up. I hauled in the gear and Aaron and Uncle Lee worked on getting unstuck.
It took the guys longer than we hoped and I had to play the gig solo. Singing songs and telling stories to the small and loving crowd. Abileen even sang a couple.
Crescent Moon was great to us, thank goodness! I hope we get the opportunity to come back and do that stage justice. Thank you Crescent Moon and my Aunt Jo and Uncle Lee!
Pulling hard the next day we make it through Nebraska and far into Wyoming. We stay at an RV park and utilize the amenities.
The next day we head out of Wyoming, through Utah and Idaho all the way to the Oregon border. We stayed that night at a, yes, here it is, a Walmart. You knew it was coming, I knew it was coming - an overnight in the Walmart parking lot. When we are only going to be parked for a few hours, it works out really well. Didn't smell all that great but it was quiet and we got just enough sleep to excitedly head out in the morning about 5am.
We were in Oregon! I have to say - I love it! There is just a kind of beauty that, for me, can't be contested.
And we were were playing Sunfest that night! This is a festival that has been on our radar to play for over 10 years. It is a great community and we were so excited to get to perform our music.
Oregon music is a lot like our music, here or anywhere. It is abundant! And definitely we were received with a Portland style, "lets see what you got, Iowans". Aaron immediately got the crowd provoked with a potato growing joke. How strange it seemed to be away from home.
The crowd really responded to our music. We got smiles, thumbs up, and a few peace signs - very cool people. We'll be back next year for the big 20th anniversary, already plans are happening. We'll probably hit up that Oregon Country Fair they all were talking about too. Sounds like a crazy good time. This years Sunfest was a fun, dusty, sunny and hot hippie fest - It was a beautiful reunion of peaceful music-lovin' friends that we now consider part of our High Crest family.
It was time for us to park our home for a few days and we decided that the coast was the way to go. We headed to the Oregon Coast Hwy 101.
Again I pay homage to Google Maps/GPS. You make my wheels sing.
I spend a lot of this adventure on my tablet, searching for what I can tell to be the next stop, which I am just hoping will be cool. This is where I disclose that planning is an essential tool that I have underrated, at least by RV standards.
There is a lot of first come, first serve camping spots in State Parks along the coast - if you can get there. We snagged the last one at Beverly Beach State Park. It was ocean side, misty, cool and lovely. I was overwhelming grateful.
We actually stayed on the coast for two more nights at Seal Rock. We explored tide pools, stuck our toes in the ocean sand, played with the tide, watched the sun set over the ocean, saw whales jumping, window shopped in the local towns and loved it! We didn't take one minute for granted.
During this trip we lost a very good family friend, Jack Blythe. This was Aaron's Dad's old time partner in crime. These two performed in the duo, Pacific Quest, for many years. Later they performed with all three of John's boys, Aaron, Rob and Tony in a cover band called Generation Gap. Jack was one of Aaron's earliest and greatest influences in music. It was heartbreak in the middle of Nebraska when we learned he passed. We thought strongly of turning around and heading back, but Aaron said Jack would want him to keep going, keep playing music. In memory of Jack, Aaron sang I Shall Be Released by the side of the Pacific Ocean.
Turning and heading back home from the ocean was a struggle. We wanted to reconnect with friends up in Washington but we just couldn't afford it. Also navigating on the fly in tourist season was tough. We wiped the tears, said goodbye, and headed home. We had a Casey Family Reunion to get to.
Many of you following us on Facebook saw pictures of our daughter, Abileen, our dog Zapata and our cat, Mango. And some of you suggested that we make an Instagram page for Mango. We did and called it Mango_view. You can follow Mango on Instagram at https://instagram.com/mango_view/
We absolutely loved your feedback. Thank you to everyone who commented, shared with us, followed us...it helped us on the road so much. Thank you for being there! We will continue to try our hardest to keep the music rockin' for you.
We learned a lot, we have plenty of ware and tear on us, but that is what the journey is all about - finding your happiness. And we did it together as a family. Where next?
When we began our journey to the road…
I thought that we would leap right on that road and start travelling, but responsible planning, learning curves and a better foundation for income are necessary before we get to feel the breeze in our hair. Working jobs, fixing up and selling a house, homeschooling and parenting that was our life just a few months ago. Let me repeat, just a few months ago. And now I am here, sitting in my camper, writing this. Yeah, it is parked outside of Aaron’s Mom and Dad’s house on East 29th but still I am in it and ready to go. And at this time there is a lot more work to be done this summer before we really get to stretch our road legs.
Our family is working on the other facet of our music, The High Crest Family Music. We are working this summer and fall to put together a family album featuring the song 10’ Dragon. It is really important for us to bring the family fun music into our lives on the road. You’ll be hearing a lot more about this project in the next couple of months.
The summer has filled in nicely with gigs around the Midwest again and this should give us a good chance to keep working, keep working, keep working. All we really want to do is share our music! You will often hear musicians say, “I just want to play music.” But this act of sharing comes with much more blood, sweat, soul and tears. Which we have given and will continue to give – gratefully!
It was a lot of work even finding our camper. Our search for a home that could take us on the road has not been an easy one. There are so many choices out there, class A, class C, trailer, pop up. By the time we found the one, we were done in.
We searched online every night, we looked at adds, we talked to friends, we pulled over when we saw one for sale, we went to the rv shows at the fairgrounds, we checked out lots to see up close and personal. What finally got us was good old craigslist. We were trying to find one before the season started up because we knew it would probably make it harder, maybe even more expensive. So I was checking craigslist daily to be able to hop when we found one and sure enough we did, right over in Altoona, IA.
Dan, Rachel and Emily Waddle were selling their camper and ready to upgrade. The craigslist add and pictures sounded like we better take a look. First thing that happened when we went to see the camper was Abileen and Emily hit it off! They are very close in age and soon they were shooting hoops in the driveway and talking about their favorite stuffed animals. We checked the camper out good and Rachel and Dan were super helpful. It was their starter camper so they talked about learning the ropes with this unit and how it worked for them. We ended up staying over an hour. We were hooked and ready to buy.
Not only did we get our camper but we got new friends as well! At the beginning of the month we all went to Rock Creek State Park and camped together. Super fun!
Before that our family camped at Yellow Banks Park for Aaron's 40th birthday and that is where we got to park our camper trailer for the very first time. I walked around the campsite glancing at all the other campers and when my eyes met ours, it was hard not to smile and click my heals together.
Let’s all click our heals together tonight, Thurs. May 21st, at our Open Camper event from 4-6ish. We will be parked at Shotgun Mgmt Headquarters, 4321 Woodland Ave. Des Moines, IA. We’ll have snacks and refreshments, we will play some music, and the camper will be open for tours!
When it rains it pours and this spring it is pouring music! We have a huge weekend in front of us and right away we want to thank you for your support (just even by reading this).
Friday we perform at Baratta’s Café in the Iowa State Historical Building over the lunch hour. Abileen loves this gig because after we get to check out the whole building. The historical building is a very cool place with lots to learn. Baratta’s is delicious and I consider music during the lunch hour a treat!
Saturday night Aaron and Rob Short take on the Iowa Blues Challenge together as the Eastside Brothers. We are so excited and, of course, are hoping they win. The winners get to represent our state by performing in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. They also get recording studio time and even some money. But all that aside, Rob and Aaron are having a great time performing together again and for the first time as a duo. It is very inspiring! Brings me right back to the first time I ever saw these two perform. They have something special and you won’t want to miss it. The whole family is going to be at the Downtown Des Moines Marriot Hotel on Sat. night, doors open at 5:30, Eastside Brothers kick off the night at 6:30pm, tickets are $10. Come support the Eastside Brothers and the Central Iowa Blues Society.
Sunday you will hear us hosting Iowa Homegrown on KFMG 99.1 but we won’t be live in the studio. We have pre-recorded and the segment will include live music from Krista Haugland, news about Peddlers Jamboree and much more Iowa music. So tune in 2-5pm this Sunday to hear the show or stream online at www.kfmg991.org.
We had to pre-record because we’ll be up at Byron’s in Pomeroy on Sunday night. The show starts at 5pm and tickets are $10. We may even have Rob with us that night. Aaron and Rob introduced me to Byron’s. I saw their band, The Creek Dwellers, perform a few times, and even record an album there. When we first got to play Byron’s I was floored. Aaron just asked, there wasn’t really anything to it, but to me there was everything to it. Getting to perform at Byron’s felt like a rite of passage, a graduation point of my musicianship. I have gotten very important musical guidance and been inspired at a very deep level at Byron’s. At first glance is might just look like a Grateful Dead Bar in a small town because that is what it is, but look closer, more importantly, listen closer and you will find music and that music will find your soul. To be inspired by live music – GO TO BYRON’S – because the rule at Byron’s is “live music only happens once, so you’ve got to be there.”
“Living on the Road…Almost” is how the article released Dec. 17th, 2014 in the Des Moines Register’s Juice and Iowa Life should have stated. The cover features our family in front of our house for sale, our anchor. Until that anchor sold, our dream would have to wait, or as I like to say, gestate. Another story, written by Patresa Hartman was published in Band Bombshell last Aug.and begins telling the story of The High Crest getting on the road. But no matter what the headlines or when the story was written, we have yet to get on the road.
When you decide to simplify your life, it actually gets more complicated. What will be gained is way on down the road. So far down the road, you can’t see it. You just have to believe it is there waiting for you. I still can’t see the end of the road but I do have faith. Faith that what I need is waiting for me and what I carry are the tools to get there.
The dream of playing music on the road with Aaron Short started with in the first few weeks of knowing each other. We made a commitment then to make it happen, why not!? What followed sent us flying into our lives together, marriage and our daughter Abileen.
Now we have a daughter. What seemed like the easiest route, get paycheck jobs and a roof over your head, didn’t feel right no matter how hard we tried. Why did we try so hard to begin with? Was I scared? Yes. Was I learning? Yes. Every turn in your life leads you to what you need to learn and I needed to learn that this was my destiny. What a romantic word! I might as well say “dream.”
What has happened to me since I began writing songs has solidified my love of music. I’ve always had it, bad – band geek, musicals, lessons, solos, then to learning guitar to back up my singing. My mom always said, “Use you what you got. You were given your gifts for a reason.” My reason is to write songs and play them for you - simple enough, but oh so hard. After years of live shows, aka. feeding yourself to the wolves, I've found a home for my musical soul in The High Crest.
The High Crest is a family band now. All three of us plan on making music together for the next few years and we plan to do it on the road.
People have a lot of opinions on this matter of living on the road. One of the statements we hear is, “Do it why you are young.” And Aaron just replies with, “Well this is as young as I can get.”
Another question often asked is, “Are you home schooling Abileen?” Yes, we are. We have been home schooling her for a few years now, first through pre-school, kindergarten and now first grade. Home schooling is a very intimidating adventure but we always knew that we wanted to perform music and be on the road. To be able to do that we had to embrace home schooling and all that it has meant for my family, and to do this in the early stages with Abileen.
“I like what you are doing, I don’t like how you are doing it,” was another exclamation. This is not a conventional life, for sure, but does anyone have a true conventional life? What we have is life, and what we do with it. As long as I can create the environment where my family is safe, nurtured, social and learning – I can do this, for our own happiness.
People just want to know, “Where are you heading?!?” We have plans in our schedule to hit the Midwest and our home state of Iowa heavily. We want to go to Texas and Colorado and head back out to the NW Coast, Oregon and Washington. And of course we would love to hit up the music cities, Austin, Nashville and Memphis. If you know of a place where we can come play some music in your area, let us know!
We have just begun our journey to the road. We are closer than we have ever been thanks to our management team, Shotgun Mgmt, all of our fans and friends who have made the choice to support The High Crest, and most importantly John and Linda Short for all the times hanging with Abileen while we’ve had a show, supporting us at our lowest and highest points and now helping even more with our transition to the road. THANK YOU!
Stay tuned for more from The High Crest!
Thanks for reading,