Feb 11, 2013 12:15 AM by Dustin Klemann - Q2 News
BILLINGS - Six teenage girls stood a few steps higher than the cramped, age-smattered crowd. People at the Fieldhouse Cafe knew a show was about to begin but the chatter remained light.
Running behind, the six girls comprising the band Maxie Ford only needed a few more tweaks to the equipment before all eyes landed on lead singer -- and Billings' Best Female Vocalist -- Katy Kemmick.
She greeted the mic with a simple introduction, a synced *clap* *clap* *clap*, then let her voice do the heavy lifting. Kemmick crooned Dr. Dog's cover of "Heart It Races," complete with Maxie Ford's flavor of instrumentals. She says smaller venues like the Fieldhouse provide an intimate setting where the crowd can and wants to actively listen.
Katy was awarded Magic City Music Awards Female Vocalist of 2012 this past December and she wasn't short of gratitude when speaking of the nomination, "It was awesome, I was so excited," she smiled, "It feels really good to know the community appreciates what you're doing."
For a group of high schoolers, Katy and co. commanded so much attention from the crowd, it seemed like most meals on the tables were getting cold. But no one was in any rush to finish their food. Katy's father, John Kemmick, attributes the band's presence on stage to the active backgrounds all six girls come from. "All of these kids are comfortable on stage either from band, theater, or choir," said John.
What is it about performing that brings Katy to the stage? It's simple, "The joy and exhilaration that being on stage brings and the overall joy it brings myself and the people that listen to me."
The Big Break
Rewind 10 to 12 years ago and had her first taste of swooning an audience at Prairie Winds Cafe in the agricultural community of Molt, Montana.
"She had her glasses on and stickers on her glasses with her braids; a Pippi [Longstocking] looking thing," he said.
Katy comes from a musically-inclined family. Both her father, uncle (Billings Gazette reporter, Ed Kemmick), aunt, and grandmother all possess musical talent. And Katy quite regularly plays alongside Ed. "There has been a great community of musicians Katy's grown up with," John said.
In that community of musicians is Ron Schuster. He was named Best Male Vocalist by the Billings Outpost, and remains a mentor to Katy.
But Billings didn't always have the music scene that flourishes today. John reminisced the past 22 years he's lived in Billings which he referred the town having a "pathetic music scene" with only a few venues available to inspired musicians. The turning point of the music scene, in his opinion, happened when Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company opened its doors. The domino effect of venues allowing music has only continued with Katy and her band finding their way into Carters, Uberbrew, Pub Mahon's, and of course, the Fieldhouse Cafe.
"People are looking for more venues and with a good community of musicians, it's happening," said John.
Pandora Radio provides plenty of inspiration to indie-folk-sounding Maxie Ford from bands like the Lumineers and the Head in the Heart. Sometimes it's calls from friends suggesting a song the girls can give a go, "[When we cover a song] we do it differently from the band who sang it to make it our own," said Katy.
A simple, but effective wrinkle to the ensemble includes band member Nolee Anderson who's musical gusto includes tap dancing (from where the girls garner the band name) and rapping rhymes. In the second half of the show, Anderson divulged the secrets of greedy women in the band's cover of Kanye West's "Gold Digger" with ease and confidence. The band covers a wide variety of genres due to the creativity of minds within the group, "There is no ego here, if we think of something, we say it," said Katy.
Maxie Ford's newfounded songwriting comes with have an expiration date as band members will move throughout the country after they graduate high school. But Katy hopes to plan a week-long summer tour before heading off to one of her many options of college education. At the end of our conversation, Katy provided a tip for those looking to start a band or perform music.
"Just go do it. People will lift you up and help you, including this community."