Katie Armiger: Character over Career

November 19, 2017
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My first encounter with this young woman was over lunch with my step-daughter in a deli outside Nashville.  She was not yet 20 years old and checked off so many of the stereotypical boxes:  won a talent contest in her teens, had some success on the radio circuit, and beaming with hope.

She carried herself with poise and grace and exuded honesty and class atypical for such a young age.  She was, a cut above.  And there was not a hint of the secrets of the dark side of the radio business that she was carrying with her.

“She” is Katie Armiger, singer, songwriter, and now another in a list far too long of women abused by men in power. And this is her story.

On September 23, 2011 I was honored to stand stage right as she made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry.  Katie was definitely “on her way”.  With three albums complete and a fourth on the way the sky truly seemed the limit.

But by June 2015 that very same sky came crashing down when her label Cold River Records released a statement that she had “decided to take a breather and decide her next career aspirations.”.   Katie countered that the label’s statement was “not my words, and certainly not my intention.” but her voice was muted as she found herself locked out of her Twitter and Facebook accounts.  The secrets she’d been carrying with her since her teens had collided head on with the seedy side of the recording business.

But by June 2015 that very same sky came crashing down when her label Cold River Records released a statement that she had “decided to take a breather and decide her next career aspirations.”.   Katie countered that the label’s statement was “not my words, and certainly not my intention.” but her voice was muted as she found herself locked out of her Twitter and Facebook accounts.  The secrets she’d been carrying with her since her teens had collided head on with the seedy side of the recording business.

What followed was the usual suit, counter-suit, between label and artist.  And while a settlement has at last been reached, the damage has been done.  Telling Sasha Savitsky in a recent Fox News interview just how high the price has been:

“When my story first became public and in the aftermath when I was finally to start looking for other opportunities in the industry, we went to [publishing houses] but we would be met with, ‘We’re not going to sign you, but we’re really a big fan….and how are you?'”…..”That was the consensus;…. I would talk to booking agents and they were scared to work with me….”

From her first encounter at a Texas radio station where a DJ “grabbed my butt” and whispered “When are you going to be legal” to a 2010 interview on about her “Confessions of a Nice Girl” album where the DJ tried to “feel me up under the table — this is on air — trying to ask me whether or not my album title was true because surely I couldn’t be a nice girl. I had to be a naughty girl,” Katie Armitage knows all too well the creeps behind the mics of country music.

What she had never dreamed of however was that her own record label would expect her to placate that behavior.

When private discussions were getting nowhere she counter sued in 2016 and called out Cold River President Pete O’Heeron for telling her among other things that “she needed to make Radio Program Directors ‘wish you would take them home with you’ and asked her to “purchase ‘hot’, ‘game-changing’ clothes” and “hug, kiss and flirt”.

But it’s her statement from January, 2016 that speaks to the heart of the matter:  “My label had expectations for how I should behave to get ahead, particularly how I should interact with influential men in the industry …..I didn’t think I should have to do the things my label wanted me to do to ‘make it.'”

While every woman must deal with such horrors in her own way, where Katie’s story differs from the Hollywood “heroes” now speaking from behind gated mansions is that she didn’t just keep going along to get along.

When the time came to choose character or career, Katie Armiger stood her ground.  And yes, she’s paying the price, and yes she’s down, but she’s definitely not out.

Yet in typical Katie fashion, she’s not speaking now to name her harassers or to sue for dollars, she’s speaking in hopes that it will help others to “start speaking out”. That only when more do will the change needed truly come.

Cold River Records may have temporarily succeeded in chilling Katie’s career but if Twitter is any indication that chill is fast fading.  At last count, Cold River Records has 179 followers, Katie Armiger has 47.7 thousand.

You can hear for yourself Katie’s talent via YouTube and Amazon music and you can support her by following her on Twitter (@katiearmiger) where she has her gofundme link for legal fees posted.   I hope that you will.

PUBLISHER’s NOTE: A version of this column first appeared in the Sunday print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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