Ethereal music is human nature for Erutan

FLAREgamer staff catches up with singer/songwriter Kate Covington whose emotionally charged music causes shivers. She's best known as Erutan on YouTube, where she rearranges songs from everyone's favourite 16-bit and 32-bit JRPGs into hauntingly beautiful renditions.

Kate Covington's Profile
ErutanPseudonym: Erutan
Nationality: American
Fave instruments: Harp and Recorder
Fave soundtracks: Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, Final Fantasy IX
Most Influential Artists: Sonus, Enya, Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda

Brooke: Erutan is a very unique name, where does your pseudonym come from?

Kate: 'Erutan' is the word 'Nature' spelled backwards. I chose it when I was about 12 years old as my future artist name, and many years later, it still represents what I wish my music to express most.

Brooke: Since your real name is also publicly known online, was there a reason for keeping it?

Erutan: My mother was uncomfortable with me releasing my stage name before I had finished my first CD of original music, so under her advice I kept it under wraps for years while I released covers on my YouTube channel, katethegreat19. This was definitely a mistake, as now people know me under 3 separate names, (katethegreat19, Kate Covington, and Erutan) and it has been confusing for them. Lately though, I believe most of my listeners have grown accustomed to 'Erutan'.

Brooke: Pursuing a career in music is challenging for anyone, regardless of where you live. Did you have a support base in pursuing this dream?

Erutan: Pursuing a career as a singer songwriter is very challenging, mostly because making money at it is a gamble at best. There are many other more stable ways to make money as a musician (such as teaching), but thankfully I had a parent that was willing to support me while I attempted to follow my dream. I'm thinking that this is a pretty rare thing, and I am continually grateful to have been given the chance. Now, I am finally able to support my mom.

And I must not forget the other support base - my YouTube listeners. People from around the world that found me by chance and decided to keep listening. They keep me afloat as a singer-songwriter, and I strive to create the most beautiful songs I can for them to listen to.

[ いつも何度でも ]

"Itsumo Nando Demo" composed by Yumi Kimura
Arranged and performed by Erutan (katethegreat19)

Brooke: When you knew this is what you wanted to do, were there any challenges you had to overcome?

Erutan: In my hometown, it was a bit difficult for me in the years between highschool graduation and the release of my first album, Raindancer. During these years I was not in college, or working at a regular job - and sitting at home writing songs and recording covers from video games sounded rather dysfunctional to others, and the risk of not going down more well-tread paths would constantly cause me doubt and anxiety. Now that I have two albums and some major commissions under my belt, it is much easier to explain my career to people we run into in the grocery store! Music is all I know to do, so finally being able to make a small living at this feels right and good.

Another challenge I have had to deal with (and am still dealing with) is my large collection of allergies to almost everything under the sun. I am allergic to many of the materials used in our apartment building, our pets, the pollen, and many foods. This keeps my voice in a state of instability daily. On bad-voice days, I work on my instrumentals instead.

“Music is all I know to do, so finally being able to make a small living at this feels right and good.”

Brooke: Allergies can be very difficult for a performer. For someone who loves nature, how do you cope with being so allergic to it?

Erutan: I've often wondered how a person can be so allergic to natural environments. I guess it proves how much we have grown/evolved to depend on artificial surroundings. It's definitely a difficult situation - I'm an outdoors person in an indoors body! Come to think of it, I think I am allergic to one of my instruments. The wood that my tenor recorder is made of will often make me itch!

Brooke: You've played with the Disney's Young Musician's Symphony Orchestra, which is a huge honour. How did you get to be a part of that and what was it like?

Erutan: The DYMSO was an incredible experience and definitely one of the major landmarks of my early life. They held auditions in 3 countries and it was amazing to be one of the selected musicians. Disney arranged for us to meet many inspirational people, such as Elmer Bernstein (whose credits include dozens of classics such as The Ten Commandments and To Kill a Mockingbird). We were only able to meet him briefly on stage due to his age and frailty, but he was walking movie history and it was amazing.

We were also able to briefly meet several other film composers. James Newton Howard (whose scores include The Sixth Sense and The Dark Knight) for instance, actually took an afternoon and talked to us. He had just scored My Best Friend's Wedding, and was talking about the logistics of writing music for comedies. I was 11 at the time, so much of it soared right over my head. But I was enamoured with composing after hearing him talk about it! I think I owe a lot to him.

It was very amazing to meet the other children, too. Many of them had very similar childhoods to mine! Random fact: I saw my first Tamagotchi there, almost all the kids had them!

Come Little Children

"Come Little Children" melody composed by James Horner
Cover arranged and performed by Erutan (katethegreat19)

Brooke: It seems you found your own particular voice or style of "sound" which is now very recognizable, is this style a personal preference that you came to after years of practice?

Erutan: My sound is definitely a combination of personal tastes and my voice's physical limits. I am not a naturally strong singer - my voice has always been breathy and soft. I am unable to belt and I do not have a strong upper register. However, I made the most of what I had and it all worked out well in the end! I doubt it will change much from this point on, other than me possibly improving its reliability and strength somewhat.

“My sound is definitely a combination of personal tastes and my voice's physical limits. I am not a naturally strong singer - my voice has always been breathy and soft.”

Brooke: Your compositions now use a wide variety of instruments. Which instruments do you feel have become your staples in recent years?

Erutan: The instrument I am most familiar with is violin, as I've played for over 20 years now. However, my favorite instrument to record with is definitely my Celtic lever harp. I adore the sound of harp and I feel it complements my softer voice well. I use it in almost everything. I do have a couple really unusual instruments: my vielle (medieval violin), my two kalimbas, kantele, Hapi drum, and many others. I will be getting a hurdy gurdy later this year, and that will definitely take the cake for the strangest instrument I have ever owned.

Brooke: Many of these aren't easy to get. How do you realize you want one and how do you find them for sale?

Erutan: I am a huge fan of ancient and medieval music - so I have a large collection of recordings at home and listen regularly. The instruments all have unusual and singular voices that are so different from most of their modern counterparts - and I just find them beautiful and attractive. Many of them are still quite easy to find and purchase. The lute for example, still enjoys popularity among musicians and many universities offer a course in it, so it's not very difficult to acquire one. There are even factory made ones that can be bought immediately.

I was lucky enough to catch luthier Lawrence K. Brown, before he retired from ancient instrument building, so I have a luthier-built lute. There are many makers in the world that also make the more obscure instruments, but their prices are very high and their waiting lists are long. Still, I would love to see some of these instruments make a general comeback in modern music - maybe I can help in this regard!

“I am a huge fan of ancient and medieval music... The instruments all have unusual and singular voices that are so different from most of their modern counterparts...”

Brooke: Tell us about building and working from your own recording studio.

Erutan: My recording studio is not quite that elaborate! My apartment has a small walk-in clothes closet off of my room, and I use that for recording. I used to record in the closet with all my clothes hanging round, and it did an excellent job in absorbing sound (just like a good dead-room should!) however it was very cramped and difficult to use when recording with instruments that required arm room, such as the violin. So we tore out the two shelves, moved my clothes elsewhere, and covered the walls with headboard foam material and old comforters. It's still very cramped, and nowhere near what a real studio looks like, but again - we made the most out of what we had at hand, and it's been great.

Brooke: You now cover songs from a variety of video games, animes and movies. Do you have a current game which is influencing your choices?

Erutan: The game of Crystal Chronicles is currently affecting my choice of creating a fully instrumental Celtic/Early Music album. Many of my listeners are gamers and also fond of this game's soundtrack. Since I have a strong background in Early Music, I was happy at the thought of releasing some traditional music from the Medieval and Renaissance Era and it still having a foothold with my current listeners. I am recovering from vocal cord nodes and haven't been able to sing for a few months due to me needing to rest my vocal cords completely - and this has been a terrific way to use my time and energy. When I am all better though, there is a large list of songs I will be getting to, mostly Zelda themed, along with some songs that have been requested of me relentlessly (such as "Eyes on Me" from Final Fantasy VIII!) and the songs of my next original album.

Day of Destiny

"Day of Destiny" music, lyrics, and performance by Erutan (katethegreat19)

Brooke: In your opinion, what is it about these songs that draws us in and makes us want to listen to them again and again?

Erutan: I sure am happy that people are coming back to the songs again and again! I recorded themes that were special and nostalgic for me as a gamer, and while I did hope others would like them too, it was more of a personal artistic outcry of my love for these melodies and the memories they produced in me. This is why I am still choosing mostly classics to record and not always jumping on the newest and most popular thing at the moment. I have problems recording something if I don't feel very emotionally tied to it - it feels more like craft than art. This definitely proves I'm quite undisciplined in the long run, but makes sure that the songs I do produce have a lot of feeling and integrity behind them.

Brooke: Are there any challenges in rearranging songs from video games to your style?

Erutan: Sometimes a piece just won't 'fit' and it'll be one I still love but will not attempt to rearrange. Some songs truly aren't meant to be sung, and adding lyrics to them ruins their effect completely. Other songs are perfect to rearrange into lyrical songs, but carry such nostalgic weight with gamers that the arrangement and lyrics must be the perfect ones - not just anything, you know? (Writing lyrics to "Rydia's Theme"? No pressure bro!) Those take me the longest. The hardest part is choosing what will best represent the song, keep its original 'feeling' intact, and then executing that.

Brooke: People keep requesting "Eyes On Me" and other various Final Fantasy songs. Are you avoiding Final Fantasy requests or do you still plan on doing them at some point?

Erutan: Ah! I am most definitely not avoiding my requests for Final Fantasy songs, in fact, they are high on my priority list! Requests themselves have become a difficult issue, since I receive dozens per day and there's no way to fulfill all of them properly in one lifetime. Thankfully, many request the same songs and I definitely take them into account when choosing the next song to cover!

Aerith's Theme

Music by Nobuo Uematsu
Lyrics & performance by Erutan (katethegreat19)

Brooke: When creating original work, do you find being free of gamers' expectations allows you to create more easily?

Erutan: I'll definitely say that a cover is far easier for me than an original. With a cover, you already have the idea, the theme, the emotional drive, the song's situation. With an original, that is all coming from inside, yet must still be on par with your other work.

Brooke: You not only compose music, but you are a visual artist as well. Do you believe that being both a visual artist and being a musician allows you to interpret existing music and art theory and in turn create something that evokes the right response in your watcher or listener?

Erutan: Having the right visuals is immensely important in how a song is received. A music video is much more fun to watch than just listening to the audio and it can have a lasting impact on how you feel about the song afterwards. I always try to draw upon what I'm seeing inside and just pray that others will like that as well. I'm extremely grateful that I can produce artwork - it definitely allows me some legroom in the video department, pairing what I see inside visually with what I hear inside aurally. One video can take a very long time if you are drawing everything yourself though, and often, visuals I create cannot compare to the actual game's footage or the artwork of other much more talented artists! I'll probably always enlist a combination of the three for representing my songs visually.

“I always try to draw upon what I'm seeing inside and just pray that others will like that as well.”

Brooke: Some of your fans have done covers of your original work. How does that make you feel knowing others want to play and perform your compositions?

Erutan: It's all amazing - a wonderful feeling. It lets me know how much the music is truly loved. Having fan art is wonderful too - I often secretly scan deviantART looking for new pieces and it always makes me grin like a madwoman. A constant reminder that an artist cannot live without his/her fanbase, because it is through them that the music truly 'lives'.

More Information
Erutan Music Official Website
Erutan Music on YouTube

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