This time last year, Kate Walsh was “selling soap to posh ladies” at Crabtree and Evelyn in Brighton, U.K. Then, along came a certain Grey’s Anatomy spin-off that got her noticed. Last week, Rolling Stone selected her as a Breaking Artist on its New Music blog. Oh, I guess I should mention that I’m not talking about the gorgeous redhead who is No. 14 on the AfterEllen.com Hot 100 List. I’m talking about the gorgeous brunette whose homemade album knocked Take That and Kaiser Chiefs off the top of the U.K. iTunes download list before Walsh even owned an iPod.
Kate Walsh’s album Tim’s House was recorded in, well, Tim’s house — a room in producer Tim Birdwell‘s home that uses velvet curtains as insulation. That may be what gives the music the feeling that you’re listening to a friend singing in the next room. Not that the album is rough, by any means. But it is simple — and that lets Walsh’s voice shine. (I know voices don’t usually shine, but I think hers does.) Rolling Stone describes her style as reminiscent of “Joni Mitchell and the calmer side of Fleetwood Mac.” Here’s the song she sang for the Private Practice pilot, “Your Song.”
Whatever the comparisons, Walsh’s story is an example of how the music industry is evolving. She built her fan base by putting her music on her MySpace page and, eventually, iTunes agreed to sell it. When iTunes offered her track “Talk of the Town” as the free single of the week, Tim’s House quickly became the number one download in the U.K.
For Walsh, the success is especially sweet, because she had an unhappy experience with the producers of her first recording, Clocktower Park, Personally, I like the album, but it certainly doesn’t create the same emotional connection as Tim’s House. Walsh herself considers Clocktower “soulless and underdeveloped.” Here’s a rather odd video from that album: “It’s Never Over.”
What I love about Tim’s House is that parts of it give me chill bumps. That’s not usually the case with recorded music. But Walsh has the kind of voice that just grabs me and won’t let go. “Don’t Break My Heart” tells the story of meeting up with an ex — and it’s a story most of us can relate to all too well.
Tim’s House is due for a January 29 release in the U.S. and is available at iTunes now. On January 26, Walsh will perform live on CBS Early Morning, and on the 29th, she’ll be on The Conan O’Brien Show and at the Living Room in New York City. She’ll be back in the U.S. for SXSW in Austin in March. Meanwhile, you can listen to selections from Tim’s House at Walsh’s MySpace page and at her website. And to help you visualize Kate while you’re listening, here are two more pictures. She can sing to me anytime.