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Bat-or Kalo prepares for her Folk Alliance International debut as her blues-rock trio readies its next chapter

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KALO’s namesake Bat-or Kalo is one of more than 20 state artists featured in The Oklahoma Room at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City. | Photo Photo Jim Beckel/Provided
  • KALO’s namesake Bat-or Kalo is one of more than 20 state artists featured in The Oklahoma Room at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City. | Photo Photo Jim Beckel/Provided

Bat-or Kalo and her energetic, eponymous blues-rock band are not necessarily associated with the kind of slow acoustic storytelling typically found at the annual Folk Alliance International conference. But the Israeli transplant is planning to do her best to blend in as a solo artist in her Oklahoma Room debut.

Each year, Tulsa-based Horton Records sponsors the Oklahoma Room showcase, which highlights the very best Sooner State folk talent at the premiere folk music and networking event. In addition to the KALO vocalist and guitarist, this year’s roster includes Jesse Aycock, Levi Parham, Jacob Tovar, Paul Benjaman, Kyle Reid, Jared Tyler, Carter Sampson, Beau Roberson of Pilgrim, Chris Lee Becker, Lauren Barth, Chris Blevins, Kalyn Fay, Erik the Viking, Andy Adams, Dustin Pittsley, Dan Martin, Ken Pomeroy, Erin O’Dowd, Jason Scott, Jared Deck, Chloe Johns, Steve Liddell and Scott Aycock.

The Oklahoma Room artists will perform at various times Feb. 14-18 at the conference, which is being held this year at The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Less than a week after the conference concludes, Kalo returns for her band’s first Oklahoma City show with new bassist Chad Roper, a longtime music staple in the area. An Evening with KALO is 7:30-11 p.m. Feb. 24 at VZD’s Restaurant & Bar, 4200 N. Western Ave.

KALO, a trio that also includes drummer and percussionist Mike Alexander, released two albums in 2017. Live in NYC, recorded at the legendary Greenwich Village nightclub The Bitter End, was released in March. KALO’s studio album Wild Change made a July debut.

In addition to her coming Oklahoma Room appearance, Kalo spoke with Oklahoma Gazette about the challenges of staying in the U.S. on an artist visa and readying a new sound for her band in 2018.

Oklahoma Gazette: You were recently performing in Israel, your home country. How often do you usually perform over there, and is that something you enjoy doing?

Bat-or Kalo: Sure. It’s home, so you expect from yourself just a little bit more, but it’s alright. Of course I’m enjoying it. I don’t play there often. I play when I go, and I go probably once a year because I have my family there. I need some down time.

OKG: What’s the music crowd like there compared to what you play for here in the U.S.?

Kalo: Oh my God, it’s night and day. I think any artist should experience radio — not online radio, but regular radio — and travel the world, opening the radio where you’re at. It’s just very, very different. [Israel] has a lot of influence from Egyptian and German music. You could call it, I guess, Middle Eastern music. Right now, what’s hip is combining it all together with pop music. I think it’s very cool — a very ethnic rhythm mixed into pop music, which makes it easier to swallow.

OKG: Last year was a pretty big year for the band; you all had two albums out. It seems like you’re always staying busy.

Kalo: I am. If this is how we’re going to make a living, you better.

OKG: You’re in the United States on an artist visa. Doesn’t that require you to keep fairly busy?

Kalo: Absolutely. I think it’s part of my thing for now. You need to make a portfolio each time you present yourself to the government. You have to build a case.

OKG: Does that put any kind of pressure on you?

Kalo: Yes. And not just on me. Everyone has to be on board with me about everything. You can’t find yourself in excuses. We all have good days and bad days, you know? When bad days appear, you try to do your best not to quit. I’m working with people who are really fiery. Sometimes if I want to throw everything away, I know they’ll kick my ass.

OKG: You’re participating in the Oklahoma Room of the International Folk Alliance Conference in Kansas City. Are you excited for that?

Kalo: Yeah, I think it’s very cool.

OKG: Have you participated in that before?

Kalo: I have not. It’s my first time. I’ve watched things about it, and I’ve heard about it before. On the East Coast and West Coast, I never heard about it there. But when I came to the Midwest, there were other things lining up and this was one of those things I’ve heard of.

OKG: A lot of great Oklahoma artists are going to be there, and you’re one of them.

Kalo: Yeah, I’m happy to be included.

OKG: You’re at the cool kids’ table.

Kalo: Right. Which, I never actually got into the cool kids’ table. I must tell you this.

OKG: I find that hard to believe.

Kalo: That’s the truth.

OKG: What kind of table did you sit at?

Kalo: Oh, you know, “that table” over there. I was not quiet, but I was a weirdo, I guess. Not cool, because being cool is a different story.

OKG: For this coming year, do you all have any new music you’re working on?

Kalo: Yes. We have a new addition to the band. I have a new bass player. I’ve been looking forward to having a new sound. I’ve been having a soul and jazz kind of thing. I was trying to keep it very simple, I guess. Now I’m trying to do more, and I feel like with this structure now, we can do some other crazy things that I’ve always wanted to do. We’re looking forward to recording another live album, because live albums are awesome. We all love them because what happens on stage never happens in the studio. Then we’re going to go into the studio, of course. We’re already working on new songs, because that’s always what you’re supposed to do. I’m just kidding, of course. I sound very cynical, because everyone has their own process. I’m looking forward to going in a new direction.

Print headline: Uncommon folk, Bat-or Kalo prepares for her Folk Alliance International debut as her blues-rock trio readies its next chapter.

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