“Writing a song is like putting together a puzzle,” says 17-year-old Stapleton resident Cate Downey. “As soon as I have a melody in mind, I find lyrics to fit until there’s a song. I love when the song is finished. Recording it with other singers and instruments is so satisfying.”
The East High senior was named a 2019 Merit Winner in Songwriting by the National YoungArts Foundation in January. The Foundation selects promising young artists from a pool of applicants from 44 states. Winners receive guidance and mentorship to help them achieve their artistic goals, including opportunities to perform at prestigious venues all over the world. So far, Downey has been invited to participate in a performance at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. She said there may be more opportunities as the year progresses.
In March she’ll attend a YoungArts workshop in Los Angeles, where she’ll be coached by successful mentors in the music industry. “I’ll meet a network of musicians and songwriters, which is really helpful. Also it will be super cool to meet other kids who are doing what I do,” Downey said.
“The YoungArts award will help me move forward with songwriting. It helps me to be taken seriously, especially as a teenager and a female.”
Downey has been singing since age 5, but she found her songwriting bug in sixth grade at McAuliffe Middle School. “I got to work with a songwriting mentor, and I got super interested; I wrote and recorded two songs.”
Downey has written “hundreds of songs” in the years since then. “My coaches have advised me to write as many as I can, to get practice at it. I write all the time.”
Her songs can be heard on You Tube videos with her two sisters—Ella, 14, and Meg, 11—singing harmonies. “We started singing in choirs when we were little, so we hear the harmonies,” she said.
Downey’s songs can also be heard on Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora, as well as through her Instagram page, @catedowneymusic. Her new video, to be released soon, was shot in Stapleton at Westerly Creek, Westerly Creek Elementary and Bluff Lake.
Most of her songs are classified in the pop genre but Downey experiments in jazz and indie styles. “My writing changes with who I work with and my environment.”
She has been accepted to Belmont University in Nashville for their songwriting program. “I like that they offer an internship in the music industry during school,” she said. “Maybe I’ll write more country style in Nashville.”
Her goal is to write songs for other performers. “I like performing but I see myself as a songwriter for a publishing company. The publishing company works with the record company to match songs with artists. Most of what you hear on the radio is written by a team of songwriters, so I’ll do more co-writing and collaboration. I’ve mostly written songs on my own but two minds are better than one.”