Kate Rhudy brings ‘sad river folk’ tunes to Boone


Kendall Bailey Atwater

Kate Rhudy performing in Boone Saloon on February 26th. Photo courtesy of Kendall Bailey Atwater.

Molly Flinchum

A young, blonde college student got on the stage at Boone Saloon and began playing a cover of the song “Crazy” by one of her favorite artists, Gnarls Barkley. It was a moment she remembered fondly, and she spoke highly of her friends who provided her with the harmony she said she needed in that moment, a moment unrehearsed by any of them.

Kate Rhudy, junior music industry studies major, said that she first picked up the violin when she was five years old in an effort to be like her sister, who began playing two years earlier. While taking classical music lessons through the Suzuki program, a method of learning that applies the basic principles of language acquisition to the learning of music, her family played at the Galax and Allegheny Fiddler’s Convention.

At 13 years old, her music became her outlet for her “rollercoaster of teenage emotions.” As she started college, she started performing with local bands and through that experience she was able to create an avenue to making her own music by fall 2015.

Rhudy said that it’s fun to be a part of the Boone local music scene. Andrew Graves, graduate psychology student  and member of the band Sensation of Falling, said that her presence in the music scene is unique. He said she sticks to playing her roots instead of incorporating elements of psychedelia, which is common within Boone’s local music scene.

Graves first saw her when she opened for the band Holy Ghost Tent Revival at The Local in November 2015.

“It was electrifying folk music – straight ahead songs with often uptempo grassroots drive,” Graves said. “There’s an element of sadness in her music, which I think juxtaposes the drive nicely.”

Rhudy’s music has undergone some change in the months she’s been performing and touring. She originally played in the band “Kate Rhudy and the Boys,” performing with banjo player Ben Banick and bassist Zach Smith.

While Banick and Smith have gone their separate ways to tour and perform their own music, Rhudy said “the boys” are her way of saying she is bringing a full band with her to perform.

“I love having new people play with me,” Rhudy said. “The other day the boys from Unaka Prong and Arson Daily backed me up at a house show.”

She has also recently acquired her own website, something she said was a professional milestone in her career. Her site contains videos of past performances, shows she will be performing at in the future and links to her social media outlets.

Rhudy has her own genre of music, something she calls “sad river folk.”

“I often described my music as sad folk; sad loosely meaning nostalgic, reminiscent, wistful and I think the river came along because it conveys some cool imagery,” Rhudy said.

A lot of the music is about the bittersweet, Rhudy said. She said that a lot of time things don’t work out, but that is fine and that is what she tries to convey in her music as well.

“It’s fine, and I write about that too, because there’s this dope thing that time makes you okay,” Rhudy said.

Through her music, Rhudy tries to convey universal feelings such as nostalgia, time and the human connection. Love, she said, is a very common human emotion that everyone can relate with. She’s been in relationships, but her experience with love goes beyond that. She said that she loves her family, her friends and herself.

Every song is different, as is every time she goes to write one. She said that a song can come from a random idea in her head or by seeing something inspirational in her day to day life.

Folk music is important to Rhudy. She said that she gets invigorated driving down NC Hwy 105 listening to a sad Gregory Alan Isakov ballad.

“Folk music does this crazy thing to me, it pumps me up,” Rhudy said. “It’s music that’s meant to be felt, not heard.”

Rhudy said that music was always there for her, and it could accomplish what nothing else could. She said that performing music for others is where she finds herself the happiest and is the only time she’s completely in the present.

“I would like people to have that relationship with my songs,” Rhudy said. “It sounds kind of dark, but music is my way of being close to people without having the ability to hurt them.”

Rhudy said that she wants her music to tell stories and to be able to take people on a journey. She wants to lift her listeners’ souls without being given the power that could also tear them down.

Kendall Atwater, junior commercial photography major, said that she first heard Rhudy perform when she was playing with a band called Andy Ferrell and the Oncoming Train at Legends. Atwater said that when she listened to Rhudy sing a solo cover of “Jolene” by Dolly Parton, Atwater thought that Rhudy could go solo because of her “pure and lovely voice.”

“It’s just really nice to see someone like Kate writing all of her own songs and playing her instruments really well in an industry that can easily become dominated by men,” Atwater said. “Kate is sort of like Wonder Woman.”

Next on her list of shows is a performance with Alexa Rose at 185 King Street in Brevard, North Carolina on March 31. She said that she hopes her future is full of happiness and staying in touch with the humans she loves.

She tells people that apologize for missing her shows not to worry, she will be playing music until she reaches her grave.

Story by: Molly Flinchum, A&E Reporter