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Kara Square writes songs with no shame, without stage fame in Columbus

Courtesy of Kara Square

This is part of our weekly series titled “Columbus’ Own,” where we profile a local band every week.

“Yes, there is a song about poop,” Kara Square said about her tendency to write songs about anything.

For the singer-songwriter, anything can be used in a song as long as it’s funny to her – and some of those funny things include organ donation, coconuts, cats, fake texting and even poop.

“I had a thought that there should be more songs about everything,” Square said.

From there, she challenged herself to write about anything with no shame.

“I decided to write about whatever comes in my head,” Square said. “Anything that seems fun to write about, I just wrote about it.”

Square said fun drove her to work on her latest project as well, a ukulele folk album titled “Love Songs For Everyone But Especially Uke,” which is slated to release toward the end of January.

“I love the sounds of (the) ukulele,” Square said. “It is fun and joyful.”

Square also said while she enjoys writing songs for the ukulele, she initially wrote songs to be played with her guitar. She began playing guitar and writing songs when she was 15. She picked up the ukulele after carpal tunnel surgeries on both of her hands, which weakened her hands, made it more difficult to play guitar.

“I found out (playing the) ukulele doesn’t hurt because of its small neck and nylon strings,” Square said. “That really made me into it.”

Square said even though her upcoming album’s title sounds like it would be songs about her love for ukulele, it’s actually about her love for her partner, Katie Miller, with whom Square has been in a relationship for 12 years. But she said she didn’t intend to make it for Miller.

“I just accidently wrote a love song and it seemed fun to write more,” Square said. “Also, I noticed that I don’t have many love songs and I felt that I should write more. I’m really happy to write about it.”

She added the album isn’t about “being lesbian and their ridiculous love story.”

“Love is universal and I truly feel that way,” Square said.  

As she finishes up with the album, she said she’s already thinking of ideas for her next one — and she’s thinking of making it about cats, like her own cat, Murmur.

Square said that while she writes songs on a slew of topics, she tries to write every song with honesty.

“I just feel that it is such an important thing in art. Sometimes it could sound raw but it’s something that I value a lot – honesty,” she said. “I would hope people could feel that in my music.”

She said she hopes the honesty allows people to connect to her songs easily, and her song “Fexting” is a good example of this.  

“You know (how) people walk around with phones and pretend to type a message? I call it fexting, and I’ve done it,” Square said. “People told me that they could connect with that song, not just because it’s funny but (because) they’ve done it.”

Some Ohio State students said they also have “fexted” as well.

Megan Carl, a second-year in health professions exploration, is one of them and said she can appreciate music about relatable topics like fexting.

“I think those silly topics are smart,” Carl said. “Being honest in your music can show the audience who you really are without trying to fake or disguise something.”

Square said the thought that she is able to connect with her listeners thrills her.

“Feeling that connection is the best,” Square said. “That’s definitely my goal.”

That is the same reason she enjoys playing folk music, which has an “intimate songwriting style,” she said.

Square plays more than folk though.

“I consider myself as a folk singer but I do any kind of music,” she said. “It’s so fun.”

And even though Square said she’ll write about anything, she won’t do anything – and that includes her being unwilling to perform in front of an audience. This, she said, is due in part to her commitment to the songwriting process rather than her performance. The other part of it is due to stage jitters.

“I used to be nervous before I go up to stage, so I drank. I was 21 years old, so it was OK. But then, I learned that I couldn’t remember my own words if I’m drunk and then it got less fun,” Square said. “I’m not saying that I won’t go play out anymore (ever), but I don’t want to go right now.”

In addition to her own music commitments, Square also belongs to the Buckeye Ukulele Society and musical duet Team Smile and Nod with Rich Ratvasky.

Square said when she and Ratvasky started working together it was like “a scene from a film.”

“I was working in a little café. He was a regular customer, and I made his sandwich. We started to talk about music and then we exchanged CDs,” Square said. “He secretly remixed one of my songs and then I loved it. This is how we got together and organized a band.”

Team Smile and Nod has released albums “Mourning Time” and “Look Both Ways Before You Die” in 2011 and 2008, respectively, and the group is in the midst of producing its third album.

Even though it is a small band made up of part-time musicians, Team Smile and Nod is getting a reputation online. Last year its song “Happy” was picked as one of the winning tracks of the annual Free! Music! Contest sponsored by Musikpiraten e.V. This year, “Just Drive,” which is slated to be on the band’s upcoming album, was picked.

Ratvasky said he and Square work hard and love making music.  

“We meet once a week pretty religiously,” Ratvasky said. “We both get excited about creating something that didn’t exist before.”

He said Square inspires him.

“She’s trustworthy, very creative and kind,” Ratvasky said. “She never stops, she’s constantly working on something and I admire that.”
 

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