Updated: Sep 14, 2022
A birthday bash performance that kicked off not only another trip around the sun for this keyboard-wielding siren but also a phase in her career sure to be overflowing with fulfillment, distinction, and growth.
It’s been over two years since Caterina J has performed live. With COVID calling the shots for most of that time she had to survive with virtual performances and the occasional backyard video shoot.
On August 24th, she picked up where she left off. Surrounded by family and friends she delivered an emotional performance at a place that feels like home, Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side.
The evening started with two of her Spanish tracks, “Sin Igual” which she dedicates to her father was flawless. Caterina can pull you in and hold your attention with your eyes closed. Her voice is rich and melodic and the music moves in a way that encourages you to hang on to every note. Watching her perform this piece was a memorable experience. You can hear her heart in every note and see how she pours her feelings into the piano. Finally, at the song's close, her tears let the crowd know how special the song was to her.
What came next on the set list changed the ambiance completely. “Sin City” and “Normal Life” are two examples of how Caterina can draw on her voice to change the mood of her audience. Sultry and seductive, her Chilean accent the perfect warm undertone. Combined with the harmonies provided by her accompanist Annalisa Chamberlin the music took on a rich “scotch-like” quality.
Notably absent that night was Caterina’s Ferrari red keyboard. I was told by a fan that she comes alive when she plays it, that the instrument itself lights up like a spaceship and it’s a must-see. Unfortunately, there was an issue with a cable, forcing Caterina to improvise and move to the house piano. Luckily her improv skills are on point - which has everything to do with how this musician from Chile made her way to New York City.
I had a chance to speak with Caterina after the show and hear how she got started, what she’s doing now, and a little about her plans for the future.
The Early Years
Caterina Jadresic was born in Boston to two Chilean scientists studying at Harvard on scholarship. When she was six months old the family moved back to Santiago. Two years later Caterina was blessed with a little brother. Although both parents were involved in the sciences, the home was filled with music.
“My dad played The Beatles and a lot of classical music, my first concert was Elton John when I was eight! Both of my parents played an instrument as a hobby, my dad played the transverse flute and my mom sang and plays the guitar. When my brother and I were young they told us to pick an instrument to learn, I chose the piano when I was seven, and my brother picked the guitar.”
Caterina studied piano for five years and then changed teachers which took her down a more modern path of instruction where she was introduced to the magic of Jazz. It was also at this time, around twelve years old that she began writing her songs.
She was interested in various forms of the arts, and in school, became involved in theater. She took acting classes and performed in school plays for a couple of years before she graduated.
While shopping at a mall when she was fourteen Caterina was approached by a member of the Elite Modeling Agency. They were holding a contest to find an Elite Model from every country. “ I still had my braces on but they were coming off soon,” she remembered. The photographers took a few photos of her that day. A week later she was told she made the top fifty finalists and again later informed she earned a spot in the top ten.
Caterina went on to win the Elite Model contest and traveled to Nice, France to represent Chile.
“It was an amazing experience! I met girls from all over the world! One of our activities was runway lessons, I had never walked in heels before! We also put on a talent show where I played the keyboard and sang a Shakira cover with a girl from Mexico. Until then I had only sung in front of small groups at recitals, it was the largest audience I had performed in front of.”
The Big Screen
When she was 21 a friend told her about open auditions for the first martial arts movie to be produced in Chile, "Kiltro" by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza. Although she had only acted in high school she decided to try out for a role.
“I never auditioned in my life! I had no experience, but because of the modeling I was comfortable in front of the camera, they really liked my audition and I was cast as the leading lady! I got to act with Marko Zaror who is a popular action star in Chile and has now done a lot of movies in Hollywood. I was lucky because they were looking for a very exotic look. My character was the child of Korean and Arab immigrants who went to Chile. The movie was set in the Chilean Chinatown in Santiago. Marco and I had a three-month preparation process to create our characters. We had two great teachers, I had to learn kung fu and some Korean. I went through a huge transformation process where they dyed my hair black and straightened it, I had to wear violet contacts and shave part of my eyebrows! Thank god they grew again! It was an amazing experience.”
“ The movie had some private investors, some from the United States. It was made with a great deal of money compared to other Chilean movies. For a martial arts movie, you have to have a good starting budget, it was a very big team. Being this character was amazing, I loved the prepping, it would take two hours just to do the makeup and hair. It was really fun. That’s when I fell in love with the process and acting so after I finished “Kiltro” I decided to move to New York and audition at different acting schools and that's how I got into The New York Conservatory For Dramatic Arts.”
In 2006 Caterina moved to Harlem and attended The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts where she received an associate degree in film and television performance.
“English is my second language so it was tough but I had wonderful teachers. I made some great friends, that’s where I met Annalisa who played with me at the show.”
Her time at The Conservatory furthered her acting career and she soon landed roles in two more films. She also learned an acting technique that dates back to the 1930s that seamlessly overlaps with her singing career.
“I studied the Meissner technique of Improv. It has a lot to do with being in the moment and reacting to the other person. It’s very organic and teaches you to be truthful in the moment. It’s beautiful, honest, and spontaneous, it’s very real. You feed from the other person and are generous in return, that’s what strikes me the most.
The technique has helped me in my music career by teaching me to adapt and be proactive. You have to have something prepared but also be ready for the consequences of a mistake. You always rehearse a certain way but things change and you have to adapt and make it flow."
"Performing live is always different and always changing and that’s the magic of it.”
Where It All Came Together: The Recording Studio
With Caterina, there seems to be a pattern of modeling or acting paving the way for her music. In 2014 she was doing a photo shoot for the movie she was filming “Santiago Violenta” at Singing Serpent Music Studios in Soho. She approached the producer about her music after the shoot and was invited to return the following week.
“I told the studio’s producer Joel that I was a singer-songwriter and I had songs that I never recorded. When I returned to the studio I played ten of the songs for him and he liked six. It was my first recording experience and it was in a great studio. I had met some musicians in New York, one of them who is from Argentina played the guitar, the producer played bass, we hired a really good drummer and I played piano and sang vocals and harmonies. We recorded five of the six songs. Over the next two years, I played them live around the city with some other musicians and then self-produced the other four songs. Those nine songs were on my first album I Confess.
Caterina’s debut album, I Confess, is jazzy, bluesy, and soulful. Tied together with her seductive vocals it harmoniously blends the Spanish and English songs in a way that lets them flow perfectly from one to the next.
The album's beautifully composed title track about heartbreak and moving on, “I Confess”, is a great display of all the colors the singer-songwriter is able to strut. Whereas “Up and Down”, one of the artist’s favorite songs to perform, is an undeniably groovy spirit-lifting blues song, an insight into the singer's naturally optimistic, hopeful disposition. Caterina’s optimism is especially apparent in her writing. Considering she is no fan of the long New York winters the line “It’s time for me to shine, in the wintertime, blinded by the sun” shows her tendency to look on the bright side.
Over the next few years, Caterina became a regular performer at NYC venues like Nublu, Shelter, Rockwood Music Hall, and Bowery Electric. In 2018 she was approached by Mike Davidson From Plaid Dog Recording out of Boston and a crowdfunding campaign was born to produce her sophomore EP Reborn.
“It was a cool experience. Mike contacted me and said that Plaid Dog worked with upcoming musicians, he explained how the crowdfunding campaign would work and how it would grow my fanbase. I, of course, did my research and found them to be a well-respected studio. Regina Spektor, who I’m a fan of, recorded there so I decided to do it. It was a lot of work. I learned the business side of making an album, how to prepare the crowdfunding campaign and how to manage it throughout. I first recorded one song with them that would be released with the campaign as a teaser and then I had one month to raise all of the funds needed to produce the album. Thankfully it all worked out, I raised the funds and was able to record the EP in Boston with really good musicians. At the time I had my bassist and the other two musicians worked with the studio. Mike was a great producer, he let me play and be free in the studio. For two of the songs, I got to play on a beautiful Steinway piano from the early 1900s. It was a beautiful studio, I loved the experience.”
The Reborn EP is a marked departure from Caterina’s debut album in every way. Her evolution as a singer and musician is stunning and undeniable. If I Confess was the first step on a journey of recorded music, the Reborn EP is the arrival at the first vista point where it becomes clear that Caterina J belongs here…writing, making music, and performing.
While still holding to some of her blues and jazz roots heard in I Confess, the Boston-born singer sails the Reborn EP into a more rock-forward sound showcasing heavier drum work, more textured guitar licks, leads, and rhythms to go along with Caterina’s signature Spanish flare.
She strikes all the right chords. The vocals and writing are even stronger, a sign of Caterina finding another gear and coming into her own as a recording artist, setting up the music for a much broader appeal.
“Rollercoaster” depicts the ups and downs of a passionate love affair. As the first track of the EP, it’s a mesmerizing Spanish-rock song complete with catchy work on guitar and keys, an intoxicating verse alluringly sung, followed by a catchy brass-backed chorus that melts the tension built in the verse.
Caterina slows it down and reigns in the music for a more dreamy and personal track in “Sin Igual” (without equal), a song dedicated to her late father. With this emotional song, Caterina shows she is capable of musical magic.
The title track “Reborn” perhaps perfectly underscores the singer's evolution since her 2016 debut as well as her hopeful outlook. It’s a high-energy, galvanizing song about finding your way and making your dreams a reality, and if "magic happens when you're free” as she sings in the song, then Caterina has discovered new-found freedom.
“Sin Igual” is dedicated to my father who we lost in 2019. The song is about life and death, our journey, and what we learn along the way.”
The Theory of Fashion
Caterina continues to keep her foot in the door of the modeling world, and with the billion-dollar clothing company Theory, she takes it one step further by being involved in the design process from beginning to end with each designer. Theory is a New York-based contemporary label with its flagship boutique located in the meatpacking district and over 200 retail locations globally. Their latest project by designer Lucas Ossendrijver, which Caterina took part in, was released on September 7th.
“I have been working with Theory for a few years, I do all of their fittings which means I am involved with the entire creation process with the designer. What's cool about it is that I get to see the whole collection from beginning to end. I get to see the inspiration behind the collection from the first sketches to the final product. It involves a lot of standing and fittings. At first, I am just trying on muslins to see how the clothes will feel then you see how it evolves. It's cool because I love fashion and can participate in that creative process and tell the designer how the clothes move and feel or if I would wear them, and in which specific location, and let them know if the fabric is itchy or too constrictive.”
“Fashion is a different creative process than music, it’s much more visual and it’s cool being a part of that process. All the different designers have different visions and it’s interesting to see how they create something from scratch. Making the video promotion that was on Instagram was great. I enjoyed working with the other model and the designer Lucas Ossendrijver is very creative and was marvelous to work with. So ya, it’s going to be great.”
A Great Catharsis
Although a talented actress and model Caterina’s passion is her music. These days her schedule is full. Her number one priority is her daughter who was in the audience at The Rockwood Music Hall singing along and watching attentively especially when her uncle who was visiting from Chile grabbed a guitar and joined his sister. Caterina describes her music as her other “baby”, and this musician has big plans to gain ground in the business while maintaining personal balance, her creative freedom, and her infectious optimism.
“It’s hard to do it all so I am focusing on being a mother, singing, writing, and fashion. The writing process is very healing for me, very personal, I feel like I need it. Writing is introspective and performing is an entirely different thing, it’s a great catharsis to share my music on stage. In the future, I would love a record deal with a label that would let me maintain my freedom and creative process and from there I would love to tour.”
Come See For Yourself
Until the tour dates are booked be sure to catch Caterina J locally. You can find her on October 18th, 7:00pm at Rockwood Music Hall with Annalisa and other special guests.
Some other establishments that you can support in the city as everyone tries to get back on their feet after long hiatuses and times of struggle are a few of Caterina’s local favorites. She swears by Shelter Restaurant and Bar in Williamsburg, El Born, a great little Spanish restaurant in Brooklyn, and Tabare for some amazing Hawaiian food.
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