Katie Tupper puts her own twist on smooth neo-soul and jazz

The Saskatchewan artist looks forward to performing at Vancouver Folk Fest and opening for Lake Street Dive

A girl with brown hair holding a vinyl next to her face. On the cover of the vinyl is a blurry gray photo of an individual with short hair.
PHOTO: @katietupper / Instagram

By: Hailey Miller, Staff Writer

Up-and-coming artist Katie Tupper’s effortless vocals and poetic songwriting present her as a force within the jazz and neo-soul scenes. Influenced by the likes of D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Cleo Sol, and Norah Jones, Tupper found inspiration from the hip-hop and R&B imbued genre, neo-soul, when she was in high school. 

I had the pleasure of speaking with Tupper ahead of her upcoming slot at upcoming locals shows. “Growing up I didn’t really listen to a ton of neo-soul,” she told The Peak. “My parents would take me to jazz concerts and would play Norah Jones.” It was because of these musical experiences with the genre that Tupper eventually “fell in love with it.”

Whether it’s a specific tone for a snare drum, figuring out a harmony, or “picking out things tonally,” Tupper is inspired by key components that are “iconically neo-soul,” though she considers her music as more alternative with jazz and soul influences. One of her studio rituals is listening to these genres to find inspiration before she begins the songwriting process, from which the influences “bleed into new songs.” 

Tupper’s debut EP, Towards The End, was released in 2022. “When I put out my first EP, it was kind of like my first crack at it. I wasn’t really saying anything about myself,” she admitted. However, over time, Tupper noted she had “gotten a little bit braver with each project” by imbuing her music with more elements of herself. Her 2023 EP, Where to Find Me, garnered her a nomination for Traditional R&B/Soul Recording of the Year at this year’s 2024 Juno Awards. She said, “I spoke a lot more about myself” and wanted to “reveal a lot more of my personality.” 

Smooth like honey, Tupper’s songs are dripping with descriptive metaphors, effortless vocal runs, and melodies that perfectly complement her soulful tones and rhythmic beats. Her latest single, “Need Nothing,” is full of poetic lyrics such as “Shiny metal open up / Pour the water from my cup” and “All the ways we move around / Satellite and solid ground.” The track encompasses a groovy rhythm and soft, lilting vocals that pull you in from the first beat, followed by a catchy chorus.

“Smooth like honey, Tupper’s songs are dripping with descriptive metaphors, effortless vocal runs, and melodies that perfectly complement her soulful tones and rhythmic beats.” 

Tupper is currently recording an album and will be embarking on a summer tour across Canada. “I love playing Vancouver,” said Tupper. “It’s one of my favourite cities by far to play. Everyone’s so nice and receptive.” She looks forward to Vancouver Folk Fest, and playing the Orpheum for the first time. During our interview, it didn’t go unnoticed how grateful she is to be opening for the multi-faceted jazzy pop, country folk, and soul band Lake Street Dive.

On June 27 in Toronto, Tupper played Covers4Lovers: A Queer Cover Night alongside artists including The Beaches and Valley, to raise funds for Rainbow Railroad. She was excited to “be in a room full of community and be able to engage in pride” through the power of music.

“Everytime I get to be in a space and watch people that really know what they’re doing do something they’re passionate about, I’m trying to sponge and absorb,” Tupper said of seeing how other musicians sustain themselves. “I just feel really lucky to get to have so many cool friends that are working in this space.” She’s grateful for sharing the stage with friends and opening for artists she admires. 

“The reason why we’re doing this job is because it’s very impactful to our own humanity. That’s a very inspiring thing and just makes you want to keep making music so that you can continue to be a part of these spaces.” 

Follow @KatieTupper on Instagram to keep up with her music. Catch her at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival on July 21 from 9:40 p.m. to 10:40 p.m., or opening for Lake Street Dive on August 1.

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