vegan music

Musical activism

Katie White is singing, writing, cooking and creating to spread awareness of animal rights with her vegan music

It's not often that a person comes along who can sing, write, photograph and cook delicious food, but that's just a snippet from the repertoire of skills that the brilliant Katie White has. Katie is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who writes vegan music, as well as a content writer, food creator and photographer at Olive Wood Vegan.

What's more, the talented Katie uses all of these skills for the vegan cause. Katie's powerful songs spread awareness on another level - they accessibly but emotionally tell of the plight of animals, helping listeners to understand that animals deserve lives free from harm. We talk to Katie about her songs and ask her why she thinks vegan music has the power to change the world.

Tell us about your vegan journey. How did it all start?

I grew up with a father who would bring home injured or orphaned animals regularly, so from a very young age my compassion for all beings was fostered.

Luckily, I was raised on a property in rural Australia so had the privilege of having the space to house my extensive collection of animal friends including orphaned lambs, birds, horses and even lizards. All through childhood I would speak up for animals wherever I could, and I think like most kids I was vegan at heart all along. I was just too young to realise what that meant and how to live that way.

Years later, at 25, I was driving around Australia on tour with my band when the bus broke down one evening, right on the corner of a road to a pig slaughterhouse. We couldn't get mechanics out until the morning, so we had to stay with the bus and wait.

Whilst we waited as dusk fell, truckloads of young pigs started to drive in and as they passed the pigs screams were heard loud and clear. My already vegan heart had finally been cracked wide open and it was time to embody that. It was on this night as the tears were flowing that my first song for the animals '106' was written from a baby pig's perspective.

When and how did you first get into making music?

When I was 12 years old, I stepped out of my shell at a friend's sleepover and sang karaoke. At that stage no one had a clue I could sing. Word got out and when I went to high school I was encouraged to start a band. I nervously got a few friends together and before I knew it I was singing in front of my school regularly.

I taught myself to play guitar and for the first time in my life I'd found something that came naturally to me, unlike sports or academics. I ran with it and within a few months I was selected to open for an internationally renowned Australian folk band, The Waifs, at one of their concerts. From then on, I had my sights set on nothing other then becoming a successful musician and so I left school as early as I could, at 15, to pursue music and played gigs for a living for 10 years straight.

Tell us about your songs for the animals. What do you hope to achieve with them?

'Brumby' is an epic story of a racing mare's life right through to slaughter. It is the one that makes me cry the most, because the slaughter scene verse is just so cut throat, literally. I wish that every single person would listen to this song, right to the end, because if they did, it would probably bring down the racing industry from the emotional ripples it would create.

'Hoping' is a song written from a mother dairy cow's perspective and takes the listener on her journey from pregnancy to birth, to having her baby stolen the next day. This song also points out that humans and cows gestate for the same time, nine months, in the lyrics 'Nine moons of growing inside of me'.

Putting myself in the hooves of the animals I was writing about and singing on behalf of, was quite an upsetting process. As the songs came through me for the first time I was sobbing, but luckily I'd had the sense to press record on my phone beforehand so the lyrics were captured.

Once I had them down on paper I realised they must be shared with the world. I knew how deeply they would hit even the sternest meat eaters, and had an overwhelming sense of purpose for them. I would do everything I could to get them heard by the world. I invested in recording them at the best studio in my state and hired a filmmaker to turn two of them into film clips. I knew that if I turned just one person vegan for life, it would have been worth it because that act alone would save thousand's of animals over time.

The songs are high-quality and factually correct, whilst being deeply moving but not too overwhelming; they are approachable, which is crucial. The same goes for the film clips, even kids can watch them, which I feel will help them be shared a lot further.

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How have the songs and videos been received?

The songs were shared on Instagram by PETA UK and Au, World of Vegan, Plant Based News and Dr Gemma Newman among other leaders in the movement on World Vegan Day 2020, which was great! However, they need to be reached by so many more and I hope they will continue to be shared by vegans all around the world and utilised by organisations to make their campaigns even more powerful.

Why is vegan music such a powerful means of spreading awareness of veganism, and of the plight of animals?

Music is unlike any other medium for spreading messages as it not only carries information and words in the form of the lyrics, but it also carries heart and soul in the melody and voice. When you combine those elements into a song, sung with passion and feeling you have a medium which touches people very deeply indeed. Music has always been a strong medium for change and I look to Bob Marley as the best example of this.

How else do you advocate for animals?

My main work for the animals is through my Instagram page Olive Wood Vegan, a beautiful grid of garden to plate, seasonal vegan recipes and gardening tips. The name for which is derived from the intention of 'holding out an olive branch' and to symbolise peace, which veganism is the ultimate statement of. I want to reach out to people, all be it through cyber space, with an offering of inspiration towards a more peaceful world and delicious life.

In 2020, I had been accepted into Le  Cordon Bleu London to be one of the first people ever to complete their Plant Based Culinary Arts Diploma, but COVID-19 put a stop to that. Hence, I poured all that energy into creating Olive Wood and made a pledge to myself to post quality recipes, photos and content every single day for a year.

Nearly a year in and I have not and will not drop that ball and hope that it will continue to demonstrate how incredibly delicious vegan food can be, inspire people to make more food at home and, ultimately, enjoy growing a bit of their own veg, too.

Have you got any exciting projects coming up for 2021?

I've been told by the leading chef agency in Australia that when my Instagram following doubles, they will sign me onto their roster. This will be hugely helpful as they will facilitate the publication of my eBook as a hard copy, as well as bring about shows, marketing and all of the rest, which will all ultimately help me help the animals on a much bigger level. Please help me get there by following my page! I still have a place at Le Cordon Bleu London, too, and am so looking forward to becoming a proper plant-based chef and developing my skills much more there (when the world opens up again).

What are your hopes for the future, for yourself and for veganism?

My hopes and dreams are ambitious to say the least! They include having my own book, TV show and restaurant. I know I can achieve all those things, and with the plight of the animals fuelling me, I know I will be able to keep going. I believe we will see a vegan world before too long because we simply must in order to create a sustainable world.

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For Katie's songs and recipes, follow her on IG at @olivewoodvegan and find her songs in her IGTV


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