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Kate Bass is a singer/songwriter who grew up in Anchorage. She was living in Los Angeles at the beginning of the pandemic, where she self-recorded her fourth album, Quarantine, during the first few weeks of lockdown. In June 2020, Bass bought a one-way ticket to Alaska. While in Alaska, she collaborated on her first music video for “Uncharted,” the lead single from Quarantine. Though now back to living and working Outside, we caught up with Bass about her time in Alaska. She plans to return in early 2022 for a performance with the Anchorage Opera. Listen to her music on Spotify and iTunes, and learn more at her website, katebassmusic.com. ~ as told to and edited by Alexander Deedy

What was it like being back in Alaska?

Alaska hasn’t been my home in a very long time. My musical career took me out of Alaska and at this point it’s been difficult to envision how I could have Alaska as my home base. Being back was hard at first. It didn’t really make a lot of sense. Like, what am I doing? Then as time went on Alaska just seeped back into my bloodstream. 

I wound up having a friend who had this house on a lake that she wasn’t in for the whole year. So, I house sat for her. All of a sudden, I’m alone in this house watching moose walk on the frozen lake, and it was just very surreal. It was like a dream, really. It was wonderful.

I’ve thought about how blessed Alaskans were during that time to be able to access the outdoors. How was it different being in Alaska, where you could access the outdoors, rather than L.A.?

Very soon after I arrived in Alaska, I was able to go on the Turnagain Arm Trail with my friend. I remember walking over a little stream—just a little stream, it wasn’t a waterfall or anything. L.A. was, as always, in a drought. I hadn’t seen water or nature in so long, and Turnagain Arm is one of my favorite places in the world. I broke down into tears.

It was, for lack of a better word, so healing to be back in nature. There were so many low-key anxious things we were all feeling during the beginning of the pandemic. As a singer, if I had gotten COVID it could have affected my entire career even if I was fine. What if I had long-term lung issues or something because of it? So, I had been very afraid. To feel the sense of adventure, possibility, beauty, and inspiration you get from the Alaskan wilderness, getting to have that after being in this tiny space and being so afraid for so long, it was powerful.

Kate Bass inside looking out window
Kate Bass in Alaska in March 2021. Courtesy Hannah Hillebrand

Let’s go back and talk about Uncharted. Can you tell me how that music video came about? 

I wrote that song in L.A. The video was all made while I was in Alaska. I had this dream that I wanted to do a stop-motion video on my own because that seemed very quarantine, but animation is not a casual thing even in quarantine.

I had a friend I grew up with in Anchorage whose husband, Justen Van Dyke, is a professional stop-motion animator. He heard the song and really liked it. So, we would just catch up and chat about what he saw the storyline being and how I saw things working. Then a couple weeks later, he’d send me a scene. It was just the coolest thing.

What do you see as your future in Alaska?

I think I speak for so many Alaskans who have left the state when I say that it’s just a place that sticks with you. I certainly find myself very often daydreaming—how can I get back to Alaska? Honestly at this point I don’t know. My hope moving forward would be that I can continue to be a part of the musical community there by going back often. With performances of my music and things like collaborations with the Anchorage Opera, I hope that I can continue to call Alaska at least my part-time home.

I’m not sure I have a fully formed question here, but it seems like Alaskan connections helped a lot during this time. I’m just curious what thoughts you have on that? 

Alaska is not like any other place I’ve been. I have been very privileged in my musical life to see the whole world, and I have never been to a place like Alaska. Really. One of the things that I think defines Alaska is the community. I think people bond in a different way. There is, among so many of us who left the state, this kind of bond and connection that I haven’t seen in friends of mine from other states. I feel like somehow—as absurd as it sounds—Alaska has played a major part in almost all aspects of my career. My Alaskan connections are still some of my highest priority friends, people that I’ve seen around the world and gone out of my way to work with. I think it’s a pretty remarkable community in that way.

Author

Alexander Deedy is the assistant editor and digital content manager for Alaska magazine.

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