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  WINDY CITY TIMES

NUNN ON ONE: MUSIC Kata Hay soars on 'The Voice'
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2016-04-26

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The 10th season of The Voice premiered in February on NBC with judges Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Pharrell Williams and Christina Aguilera.

In a pivotal moment during the blind auditions, Levine turned his chair and contestant Kata Hay jumped on him in excitement. She described Aguilera as her first girl crush then kissed her before ultimately choosing her team.

Hay started the television game early when she was the youngest person to win Star Search at 5 years old. She started a band, Kata & The Blaze, that released two independent albums. The Skiatook, Oklahoma, native has come a long way from performing for years at The Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show in Tennessee. [Editor's note: Hay has since been eliminated from The Voice.]

Windy City Times: Hi, Kata. Where did you name come from?

Kata Hay: It is Native American. It means "hello" in Navajo but is a stage name. My real last name is Huddleston. When I was on Star Search, they never said or spelled it right. At first, my parents didn't know what Kata Hay meant and were worried it was something bad.

I found Kata means "hot" in Lakota Indian, so I am going with that!

WCT: I saw you are from my birthplace: Oklahoma.

KH: Yes, I was born about 20 miles north of Tulsa.

WCT: Then you moved to Nashville with your girlfriend, Savanna?

KH: Actually, after Oklahoma, I moved to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for 10 years and did music theater. I moved to Nashville about a year ago.

WCT: So you were hanging with Dolly Parton in Pigeon Forge?

KH: No; I never actually met Dolly. That was kind of the reason I moved there. We have the same birthday and she is my ultimate. I thought our paths would cross but they didn't. Her niece was my landlord and I was in a band with her band leader but it never happened. Maybe it will because of this!

WCT: Did you meet Gretchen Wilson after performing "Redneck Woman?"

KH: No; I know John Rich who wrote the song with her. My single of it was retweeted by Melissa Etheridge so that was pretty cool. She said it was "rockin.'"

WCT: Did you always want to be a singer?

KH: Yes, I have never wanted to do anything else. My mom said when she was pregnant she would turn on Hank Williams and her stomach would move with the music. Before I could even get out full sentences I was singing songs. By the time I was 2 years old, I was begging to be put on stage. I have been on the stage ever since.

WCT: I read you yodel.

KH: I used to but I don't do it anymore because when you go for belting notes then my voice would break when I don't want it to. I don't want to sound like a boy in puberty. I had to decide if I wanted to be a powerhouse singer or be a good yodeler. I still can yodel but not the championship stuff that I used to do.

WCT: Did you come out of the closet recently?

KH: I was married to a man when I was in Pigeon Forge for 10 years. This is my first relationship with a girl. I was always curious. When my marriage was ending, she was really there for me. We ended up getting together after.

I fall in love with people. I don't even identify myself with any sexuality one way or the other. I was so unhappy in my marriage. As long as I am happy then people, like my family, are happy for me. It has been a lot easier than I thought it would be. Everyone has been pretty accepting.

WCT: Who were big musical influences for you?

KH: Definitely Dolly, and Tanya Tucker. I listened to country music when I was little because that is what my parents listened to and what I was allowed to. I liked Hank Williams and Patsy Cline.

In my teenage years, I started listening to all kinds of music. Even my writing has been influenced by rap and hair metal. The Beatles have been a big band for me for sure. I have a "Let It Be" tattoo.

Brandi Carlile, as of late, is one of my biggest influences. I adore her and she is my favorite. I have seen her perform three times and I am in love with her.

WCT: How were you cast on The Voice?

KH: This was my fifth time auditioning. The casting people called me because I have a YouTube page and after Taylor Swift picked up one of my videos, my numbers jumped really quick. I just never got in front of the judges until this season. Everyone just thinks you roll up and they put you on stage but it's not like that.

I just didn't give up. My mom wanted me to do it. After she passed away this was the first time they had called since then. Half of me didn't want to go through it again and be all built up but the other half knew my mother would want me to do it. So I did and here I am!

WCT: Were you nervous for the blind auditions?

KH: I was really nervous before the doors opened then it turned into excitement. That is why I made such a racket getting up onto the stage. I wanted to do good for momma.

When I got to the last note and no one was turning around then I closed my eyes and started shaking. By the time I got to Adam I had never shook like that my entire life. I didn't think the other two had turned. I wasn't even sure his counted. It was that last second. They had to tell me that Christina and Pharrell had turned around. When I saw Adam turn around I just ran for him because I was so happy.

WCT: What happened to Blake Shelton? He's the country singer, so you would think he would have wanted you on his team.

KH: I know. When I decided to sing "Redneck Woman," I thought I would definitely get Blake. I never thought the other three would turn for that song. He was the only one who didn't.

I think I ended up where I needed to be because I am a country-soul artist. I like to sing Etta James and country it up.

It has been an interesting blend with me and Christina. We get along great. I couldn't be happier. What is meant to be is meant to be and I feel like me and Christina definitely were.

WCT: What does Christina Aguilera smell like?

KH: She always smells amazing, like lavender. She is not real perfume-y but has a heavy lavender smell. She does smell really good. She told me I smell good, too.

WCT: Has she heard your acoustic version of "Ain't No Other Man" on YouTube?

KH: I don't know if she has heard that or not. It has never been brought up. I almost took it down when I got on the show because it has been awhile. But then I thought it would be cool that she saw I did it so long ago and was a fan.

I have always been a huge fan and I have every album. She is one of the best vocalists of our time. It is definitely an honor.

WCT: What have you learned from being on The Voice?

KH: I have grown so much as a singer and a performer. I have found my confidence again. I was probably over confident as a child then I stopped performing for three years. I went through depression and life changes. I ended up singing at a karaoke bar.

The main thing Christina has taught me is to be okay with myself, to sing things the way I want to sing it and not the way other people would want me to sing it. I have learned to utilize my voice in ways I never thought I could.

I have met so many great people too and made the best friends of my life from this experience. We are a big family and I always hashtag everything TheVoiceFamily because this is one of the best things to come out of this.

WCT: Do you plan on touring?

KH: Yes, that is the plan. I want to get some original music out there. I want to find out where most of the people who enjoy the show live and hit those cities. That is definitely what I want to do.


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