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December 2, 2022
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Kat the Musician excited to set the ambiance at LG Roasting Co.

Katerina Aleksenko was 13 years old when she started teaching herself how to play guitar at home in Fresno.

At 21 she was staying in North Hollywood at an AirBnB, when the owner introduced her to famed music producer Charlie Wilson, which led to recording a song featuring Avril Lavigne’s former bassist, Al Berry.

“That morning we were in LA and we hear that Prince died, and it’s like a cloud is just over the world,” said Aleksenko, who today is 36, recalling how affected all the performers were. “We got to be in the studio all together the day that Prince died.”

And not only did the short-term rental host—a costuming professional—know Wilson, she’d even previously worked with the iconic Minnesotan.

“Everybody was crying,” she said, adding the recording day began with some silence—and then, like consummate professionals, they had to get on with it. “We just went right back to making music.”

That’s how Aleksenko, whose stage name is Kat the Musician, developed “Sat Chit Ananda.”

Aleksenko didn’t like the first version of the track, and she pushed for a rework—although she says Wilson was understanding.

“We ended up recording the whole thing over,” she said. “He was patient with me.”

In the end they created a Deepak Chopra-esque song that switches keys and time signatures.

Aleksenko got David Kennedy, of Radiator Media, to produce her first music video.

It was a great first recording into the music industry for an artist who fell in love with Nina Simone, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald as a teenager.

She still keeps in touch with Berry to this day.

For her next music video, “What the Future Holds,” she produced it herself with the help of Justin Rosander of 25th Hour Productions.

Aleksenko has drawn on her experience as a first generation American to tap into deeper subject matter.

Her parents originally fled to the United States in the early 1990s during the Perestroika movement, as the Soviet Union collapsed.

“In Tajikistan where they were living at the time they were pretty much kicked out of their homes,” she said. “They were one of six families who were chosen to come to the States.”

Aleksenko says when she writes songs in Russian, she can tap into a different headspace that allows her to explore subject matter in a distinctive perspective—“Guilty Bird” being one example.

“It’s talking about the forest and being in the woods and not knowing your way back home,” she said. “It’s metaphorically talking about a bird wanting to be free, because she has kind of escaped her constrictions of what home is.”

While she hasn’t written any songs yet about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, she says it’s something that hits close to home.

“We know a lot of people in Russia and in Ukraine who are suffering right now, and they have to live in their basements in fear because they don’t know if they’re going to survive another day,” she said. “We have a friend in Russia who has a son living with her…He just got drafted into the army for Russia. And her other son is old and lives in Ukraine and has his business and his family there. Her younger son got drafted to go to Ukraine after her older son.”

For her show in Los Gatos, she plans to play a mix of covers and originals.

Her setlist is deep and features songs from across the spectrum, including The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Sublime and Iron & Wine.

Aleksenko explains, when playing coffee shops, she aims to fuel conversations, not put a halt to them.

“I don’t want to be like the complete center of attention, like, ‘Hey listen up!’ I want people to enjoy their time and be able to mingle,” she said. “I don’t want to overpower the energy of the place. I want to add ambiance to it.”

Kat the Musician is scheduled to play the Los Gatos Roasting Co. at 101 W. Main St. on Sept. 3 from 7-9pm.

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]