“Kate and Forrest make beautiful music. The sound of their combined voices is heavenly.”
Singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier
“Terrific album, gorgeous voices. Forrest’s song, ‘Coming Home’, melts my heart. Bravo!”
KATE LEE AND FORREST O’ CONNOR
Americana duo Kate Lee & Forrest O’Connor earned national recognition as co-lead singers and primary songwriters of the O’Connor Band, a group they co-founded along with O’Connor’s father, award-winning violinist Mark O’Connor. Kate and Forrest wrote the majority of the band’s first album, Coming Home, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Bluegrass Albums Chart and won a Grammy award in 2017 for best bluegrass album.
Forrest O’Connor is the son of Mark O’Connor a well-known violin virtuoso and composer in the Americana genre. Genetically wired to be musically inclined, Forrest taught himself to play the mandolin and guitar while in his teens. He attended Harvard University, initially to study business and graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in sociomusicology (the history, culture and social science of music). While attending college, he performed frequently on campus and around Boston in a folk duo with classmate Jim Shirey as well as in a bluegrass quartet called The Hay Brigade.
After launching the webcasting company Concert Window with fellow Harvard graduate Dan Gurney in 2010, O'Connor stayed in Massachusetts joining several Boston based bands. For the next three years he was an in-demand sideman, session musician and backup vocalist.
CDBaby and iTunes. In January 2014, Forrest moved back to his hometown of Nashville working as a session player and sideman for various performers. In March of that same year, he won the Tennessee State Mandolin Championship.
Kate Lee’s music career started at age nine. “When my parents first brought home my rental violin from the local music store, I couldn’t stop looking at it and plucking the strings” Kate recalls. “When I finally got to start playing it, I couldn’t stop. It sounds crazy, but I knew pretty quickly I wanted to dedicate my life to music.”
Within several months of starting violin she was studying both classical music as well as more traditional fiddling styles, including Irish, bluegrass and French-Canadian. But it wasn’t until her father encouraged her to sing that her music started taking off. “When I started singing, my parents realized I had a folk sounding voice so we started listening to more Americana styles and of course I play fiddle so bluegrass seemed like a very good fit. I had no idea my voice would become such an amazing channel for expressing myself musically and a major part of who I am as an artist” reminiscences Kate.
Kate attended Belmont University majoring in Commercial Violin; studying classical violin with Elisabeth Small, bluegrass and traditional fiddle styles with Tammy Rogers King and Buddy Spicher, jazz with Billy Contreras, and arranging with Dr. Jeff Kirk. “It was very important to me to study different styles” Kate says of her education. “It allows me to feel confident when supporting other artists. It also helps me understand what characterizes me as an artist.”
She also finds it important to write and co-write music regularly. One of her most fruitful co-writing relationships has been with hit-songwriter Pat Alger. “He has an uncanny ability to envision himself in any situation and describe it in the most truthful, poetic way. He’s taught me to study and practice songwriting as I would an instrument” says Kate.
In 2014 upon hearing Forrest O’Connor’s EP Wisewater, Nashville-based producer Kris Wilkinson decided to introduce him to singer Kate Lee (then a senior at Belmont University) believing their powerful, expressive vocals and writing sensibilities would align. Forrest and Kate hit it off immediately and began performing as a duo under the name Wisewater. They have been touring nationally and internationally since 2015 as a duo and with the O’Connor Band.
Kate and Forrest married in April of 2017. Said Kate of her partner and new husband Forrest “I’m so inspired by him every day. I feel like we have not only similar musical tastes but also similar intuitions. The music we’ve developed together is special to me. I’m really confident in what we’ve got going.”
Video links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyHVrwbPY6A