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Singer and songwriter Katie Neely. (Courtesy photo)
It's hard not to be charmed by the blond, doe-eyed, 20-year-old musician. As a relatively new addition to the Las Cruces music scene, Katie Neely is delightfully captivating, with her endearing song lyrics and unassuming disposition.
Neely started playing piano when she was 5 years old. She was in choirs growing up and took a few voice lessons, but she didn't become serious about music until high school. Both her parents are musically inclined (her dad sings and her mom plays piano), so they have always encouraged her musical pastimes, she said. Now, as a singer and songwriter, Neely mainly focuses on guitar, which she picked up two years ago, and she'll be the first to humbly admit she's still learning.
"I'm pretty terrible at guitar," she said, "I'm more of a lyrics kind of girl."
While Neely plays a few covers, including Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" and Jason Wade's "You Belong To Me," she also writes her own music. Her lyrics typically draw from personal and her friends' life experiences.
"I'm a big fan of metaphors," she said, "It's not as obvious what I'm singing about. I try to make it pretty easy to relate to though."
With lyrics like, "Has she told you she loves you / or do I still have time / to sing you one last song, a tune / before our lantern runs out of light," her songs are indeed relatable to anyone who has ever been in love.
Originally from Albuquerque, Neely moved to Las Cruces two years ago to attend NMSU, "I want to be an art teacher, I think," she said.
Before moving here, she played with a band in Albuquerque, and from time to time she still goes home to play with them. Here in town, she has performed at house shows, at KRUX Fest 2011, is a frequent entertainer at SB's Late-Night Lunchbox, and played last weekend during the downtown Farmer's Market.
"I get really, really nervous when I play," the singer confessed. "It's pretty bad." However, Neely feels that the more she plays, the more confident she becomes.
Since many of her friends are also musicians, Neely spends a lot of her free time playing music with them and is planning a couple of collaborations for future shows. In addition to music, she enjoys cooking, knitting and sewing.
"I guess I have old lady hobbies," she said with a sheepish chuckle.
Neely admires a variety of musicians. Currently she's been enjoying Lisa Mitchell, an Australian singer-songwriter, but "in high school," she said, "I was obsessed with Led Zeppelin and I loved Jimmy Page." Dylan has also always been a main inspiration.
Neely clearly has a passion for music, but she isn't counting on it as a career; she just enjoys writing songs, performing and entertaining local audiences.
"I love playing music and I love playing for people," she said, "For now, I'm happy doing what I'm doing."