NJ indie-folk artist Kate Dressed Up: ‘Putting the pieces together and hoping they connect’

In an alternate universe, Katie Miller (or, Kate Dressed Up) is organizing workers, fighting for better benefits and wages, and sticking up for the working class.

“My dad was a union representative for IBEW [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers], and I admired his career, and I saw myself becoming a lawyer,” says indie-folk singer Miller. “Early on I had huge ambitions to be a lawyer and get into labor law. I wanted to make a difference and stand up for something I believe in.”

That all changed quickly when Miller attended TCNJ in Ewing and, for a short week, went to Cornell to study labor law.

“Pretty much right away when I was in college I realized that wasn’t the career path for me,” says Miller.

Like many of us who attended college, Miller struggled with what path her career should take, but as it turned out, the answer was right in front of her the whole time: music. Though she was around it her entire life growing up in Jefferson (Morris County), it was on a study abroad trip that she had the realization she could pursue this passion as a career.

“It was in Jordan that I had something to compare the American experience in terms of structure and opportunities,” says Miller. “People, especially women, that I met in Jordan could never dream of becoming musicians. I’m not saying that America is the most supportive place to live, but there’s nothing stopping me from trying to be a musician, and that’s when I decided to go into music.”

Even though Miller didn’t end up becoming a labor representative she is still thankful for the union ethos that helped her family succeed in life, and for the social and natural environments of northwest Jersey.

“I got a lot out of growing up there,” says Miller about Jefferson. “Between having so much nature around for inspiration, and also being in a school being surrounded by people who were into music. There wasn’t that much to do besides walking around the woods or listening to music.”

Miller had her fair share of doing both of those activities. In high school, she was heavily involved in playing shows in Jefferson, and she grew her music taste from pop-punk to indie-folk artists that are now part of her sound as a musician.

“At the end of high school, I started to discover more folk like Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver,” says Miller. “Bon Iver released For Emma, Forever Ago when I was in high school and that ended up being a huge influence. I’ve also been a fan of Bright Eyes since I was 12, and they have been a mainstay for me.”

Those influences can be heard in Miller’s musical project Kate Dressed Up. She came up with the name Kate Dressed Up after searching her name Katie Miller on Google, and realizing that it would be difficult to stand out as a Katie Miller on Google. Thus, Kate Dressed Up was born.

Recently, Miller has recorded an album with NYC-based producer SPHMRE that will be released in 2022. In the meantime, Miller has released three singles from the upcoming album. 

The first single she released is called “The Fountain,” which is a song that Miller made before her act was formalized as Kate Dressed Up .

“’The Fountain’ is about a relationship where people care about each other in a deep and meaningful way, but humans are deeply flawed, and even in relationships where there is so much love, we can lose our way very easily,” says Miller.

How Could I Have Knownwas the second single that Miller released, and the meaning is pretty self-explanatory. “It’s a song about figuring out my sexuality,” says Miller. “When I was figuring out that I was bi, I was like, ‘How do I go talk to her?’ There’s a self-consciousness in bringing that part to people that you are interested in. That song is meant to be a whimsical self-joke about how I was interested in women or women were interested in me, but everybody was just too scared to say anything.”

The final single that Miller released was “Ride Home”: “The song is about ending a relationship, and you feel sad,” says Miller. “But then something happens and you realize you dodged a bullet.”

Along with releasing a new album, Miller also does audio work around the Philadelphia area, and works in education. “I love live sound, and working with kids,” says Miller. “I don’t mind any of the odd jobs, it’s just putting the pieces together and hoping they connect, and so far they have been.”