From fashion to music: Kate Torralba rediscovers the sound of bliss
| By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor
When Kate Torralba got the blessing of style savants Tessa Prieto-Valdes and Tim Yap, both of whom she considers her fairy godparents, the Cebuana was whisked away to the world of fashion in a heartbeat.
Incidentally it was also in a ball when her ensemble caught the two’s attention, and the next thing she knew, fashion magazines came in, high-profile celebrities wore her clothes, and she had her own retail store housing her works.
To many, the name “Kate Torralba” is synonymous to fashion. Only a few are aware or probably recall that Kate, an artist in almost every sense of the word, has another pursuit worthy of recognition: music.
Music has been with Kate way before fashion happened. She started playing the piano at age four, was sent to the US to play in a concert at age nine, and in her teens, was vocalist for local rock band, Hard Candy.
“I never really set out to be a fashion designer. It just happened,” she said. “But it was a happy accident.”
This year, fashion takes a backseat as Kate reverts to a passion she has always held dearly —songwriting and performing. After over five years of preparation, she is finally launching her much-awaited album, aptly called “Long Overdue,” under international record label MCA Universal.
“This is a project I thought would never end and it felt like I’m never going to finish this,” Kate said. “But you know how Steve Jobs has this connect-the-dots philosophy? This is definitely an example of that.”
Things started picking up in 2010 when Kate joined a songwriting camp, where she mentored by none other than Ryan Cayabyab and other high-caliber musicians.
“That experience somehow validated my songwriting and I became more confident with my creative process,” she said.
The delays turned into opportunities, as over the years, chance encounters allowed Kate to work with talented musicians from all over. Some of her songs were recorded in Los Angeles, some were mixed in Paris.
Among those she has collaborated with are Grammy-winning sound engineer S. Husky Hoskulds, who worked on Norah Jones’s first album, Ken Stringfellow of The Posies, and Raymond Pounds, who had played drums for Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.
Kate’s producer in Los Angeles, Todd Hunter, is Dionne Warwick’s pianist—and Kate actually met him while trying to get a picture with the singer in the Manila airport sometime in 2010.
“If I had finished this in 2008 as I had intended, these wonderful people wouldn’t have been part of it. It’s a beautiful case of ‘connect-the-dots’,” she said.
Her record label classifies “Long Overdue,” which has 11 original tracks, as pop. Her friends joke that it’s “designer pop,” but Kate said that perhaps the most fitting description of it is by Mike Villegas of Rizal Underground who calls it “quirky, high-end pop” that’s reminiscent of the sound of Tori Amos, Bjork and Fiona Apple.
“The first track, ‘Pictures’—it really represents who I am as a person, as an artist,” Kate shared. “When you hear it, you will be deceived that it’s a happy and light, cute song. And that’s how I am — if I have a problem or I’m stressed out, I try to make things light and fun. The song perfectly encapsulates my attitude towards life.”
“What fuels my creativity is everyday life, especially meeting people. That’s the part of my vocation I like the most because everyone has a unique story to tell,” she said.
Kate was trained in classical piano under Lydia Ybañez of St. Benedicts Childhood Education Centre. Aside from the piano, she can also play guitar and bass, plus the “little instruments” she said, like the harmonica, tin-whistle and recorder.
“I have always been stimulated by music,” Kate said. “People often ask why I don’t have a music in my phone or an iPod, there’s music playing in my head constantly.”
This year, Kate became the first Filipina to perform in three stages for the worldwide movement Fete de la Musique. In Manila, she played in the main stage with Up Dharma Down and in the jazz stage, and then two days later she flew to Paris to perform in the Filipino stage.
Today, Kate’s Southeast Asian Tour for “Long Overdue” kicks off at her homecoming performance in the SM Cebu Northwing Atrium. It will be followed by launching events in Singapore and in Manila, and the album will be made available in Korea, Thailand and Indonesia.
Who Kate is
Although Kate is now devoting all of her attention to music, she said this doesn’t mean she’s ending her chapter in fashion — a 10-year career that was born out of her penchant for designing her own clothes.
“I still take short-term projects,” she said. “I can’t entirely leave it behind because it’s a huge part of who I am.”
“It was the business side of fashion that’s really intense and I found exhausting,” she said. “I was running a retail store, a factory. It was the day-to-day aspect that wore me out.”
There are no regrets, of course. “Some of my good friends now — I met them through my work there. I’ll always be grateful to the doors that fashion opened for me,” she said.
“If there’s something that naturally excites you, just give it a shot. Learn more about it,” Kate said. “Even if you’re bad in the beginning, you won’t find out what things you can be good at if you don’t try.”
Photography: Romain Rivierre
Makeup: Xeng Zulueta
Hair: Bea Misa for Kiehl’s
Outfit: Leeroy New
Photography: Alfred Bartolome
Locale: Harolds Hotel
Special thanks: Hotel Pier Cuatro