[SPOTLIGHT] Canadian Women Of Country: Karen Kosowski

Canadian Country Music Producer Karen Kosowski

Karen Kosowski is a producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and music engineer. Her work has gone Certified Platinum, topped the charts in a number of countries, and landed her on stage at the Grammy Awards.

Karen started music in her late teens while growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She played piano and guitar from when she could remember, and picked up songwriting at a young age.

Karen had moved to Toronto in 2001 and pursued a career as an artist for a while. She spent a number of years working on her artist projects in Toronto. This is where she also started working with other artists and touring with them as an instrumentalist. It was during this time that she really got started in production and mixing music.

“I didn’t have money to hire other people, so I produced my own records. I started getting asked to produce records for other artists around 2004-05. That’s when I really realized, that what I love doing is working behind the scenes.”

Karen Started taking trips to Los Angeles, New York, Nashville, and London, to write and get a feel for these songwriting hubs.

Working, And The Big Move To Nashville

“Nashville is an incredibly inspiring place to be. There’s so much talent here.”

She didn’t start working with country artists until 2014 and by 2015, Karen decided it was time to make the move.

“Nashville was calling my name. I loved the music I was making with people here.”

In the Spring of 2020, Kosowski signed a deal with Sony Publishing. She’s worked with Mickey Guyton, Ryan Langdon, Brett Kissel, Tim Hicks, Emma Lee, and Washboard Union.

“What drew me to country music was the stories and the type of songwriting that I was getting to do. It spoke to me.”

Karen Kosowski with Mickey Guyton at the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Performing with Mickey Guyton on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Sept 27, 2021.  Photo credit: Erik Peterson

Mickey Guyton is the first major American artist that she’s worked with. The work she’s done with Guyton has continued to open doors for her, from making productions that are being played at the Grammy’s, to performing those songs on the Grammy’s stage, and being invited to play on The Tonight Show.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time, but sometimes it’s a little intimidating.”

Karen Kosowski has always had big dreams, and her career has been an organic process of fumbling and finding her way to where she is now.

“You can only dream as far as you can.”

Five Questions with Karen Kosowski

1. Can you take us through a day in your life?

Karen’s days are long but productive. She usually gets into the studio around 10:00 in the morning and no day is exactly the same.

“I have different kinds of days. I’ll have a writing session with a couple people, and we will write for anywhere between three to five hours, build a vocal and a track, and I’ll continue to work with a finished song to produce it.”

Some days are all production days for her too. She does a lot in her own studio, but sometimes she goes to other studios and meets up with musicians. She often sends music to others to play on and send back to her.

There are a lot of long hours, that’s for sure.

Huge Canadian songwriters Patricia Conroy, Emma-Lee, Victoria Banks, and Karen Kosowski
Songwriters Round performance with fellow canadian songwriters Patricia Conroy, Emma-Lee and Victoria Banks (L-R) at The Bluebird Cafe, Nashville, Oct 16, 2021.

2. If you weren’t a musician and producer, what do you think you’d be doing?

“Probably Graphic Design. I always had a love of drawing and web design. I’ve always loved the digital design side.”

 She recalls doing everything herself as an artist back in the day.

“I was the girl at Kinko’s printing album covers onto cardstock, folding them into CD trays. I used to make my own websites too.”

3. What is a good life lesson that really changed your outlook (career or personal)?

“At the end of the day, you have to trust your gut. You have to trust that you know when it’s right and when it’s not.”

“There’s all this talk about being cutting edge or setting yourself apart from other people and a lot of that comes from trusting your instincts.”

Another really important thing is collaborating  and co-writing. Karen had no idea what she was missing out on.  When she started working behind the scenes only and working for other artists, she learned so much and it was the best thing for her career and her skills.

Karen Kosowski with other writers and Brett Kissel receiving plaques for a gold single
Phil Barton, Karen Kosowski, Emma-Lee and Brett Kissel receive plaques for the Gold Certification of “Anthem” on February 20, 2020

4. What is your best strategy for managing your work and personal life?

“Well I really don’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female; being a producer is an incredibly demanding job that takes over your entire life.”

Karen and her friends keep each other sane. It requires a lot of sacrifice, and she doesn’t have a lot of personal time. She has an awesome husband who gets it. It’s a lucky, rare thing. He’s also in the music industry and is able to understand the hustle.

On a day off, she does “human things”, the things she doesn’t have the time to do during the week, like errands and laundry. She really does try to take advantage of days off by decompressing and doing absolutely nothing if she can.

5. What’s the most sound advice you received? Is it something you’d offer to others, or do you have other advice you think is really important?

“For me it goes back to the fact I have to trust my instincts.”

This is  a line of work where you can constantly be second guessing yourself. You have to question things sometimes, but it can be a lot. Her husband is really good at reminding her when she’s second guessing something. He reminds her to just do what she does and reminds her to trust her gut, because that hasn’t failed her so far.

Her advice to young artists is to collaborate as much as possible, write as much as you possibly can, continually strive to get better, and don’t get complacent.

There’s always someone out there working harder than you and that’s okay, but work as hard as you can, and remember that.

Jenna Weishar from Front Porch Music
Jenna

Country music lover with an unhealthy collection of concert t-shirts. Always looking for up and coming artists. Believer in music's ability to soothe the soul. Connect with me on Instagram and Twitter.

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