An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Kitty Donohoe

By Logan Tesmer, CBS 62/CW50 Intern

A song written in the wake of the 1999 Columbine school massacre becomes relevant again following the Parkland, Fl. tragedy.  For Ann Arbor-based singer/songwriter Kitty Donohoe, the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School was history repeating itself.  She first addressed this subject in the aftermath of the Columbine school shooting in 1999 when she wrote a song called “Kid With a Gun” that explores the hopelessness and disenfranchisement that drives the kids who perpetrate events like these.

What was going through your mind when 1999 Columbine shooting happened that drove you to writing “Kid With a Gun”?

Like everyone else I was stunned.  I know there had been shootings before but that seemed to put awareness over the top.

In the first verse of “Kid With a Gun,” why did you choose those specific descriptions to describe this kind of child?

Because most profiles of kids who shoot people reveal them to be misfits – out of the norm – not really a popular kid in school which, esp. if there was bullying involved, could eventually lead to a meltdown of rage and violence.

Why did you write “Kid With a Gun” from the perspective of the shooters rather than the victims?

There’s never just one side to any story and I think it’s normal to wonder what could have caused such rage in the first place.

How relevant do you think your song is now, knowing a similar shooting occurred in Parkland, Florida?

Sadly, still very relevant.

In “Kid With a Gun” is it about the mental health of the shooter, the act of bullying someone to their breaking point, or both?

Both of those things ~ although there’s much more awareness now than there used to be of the fallout of bullying, it’s still a problem and sometimes I imagine the only ‘solution’ someone who’s mentally unstable in the first place can imagine is to kill their tormentors. To react with extreme violence.

What is the ultimate message of “Kid With a Gun” that you wanted people to understand?

Kids who kill others are disturbed in some way, and after an incident there always seem to have been signs that were ignored about their mental state.  If you see something or hear something, speak up!! I’d far rather have been wrong about someone than to have been right and guilty of not saying anything.

Who did you write this song for?

Everybody

What would you like people to know now about these kinds of children, considering it was 1999 when you wrote “Kid with a Gun”?

That things haven’t changed fast enough since Columbine.  I know high schools have counselors and teachers who are trained to watch for dangerous kids, but again, it’s up to all of us to pay attention to what’s going on around us and if something just doesn’t seem right, speak up.  And guns have been far too easy to get, and I’m hoping that is finally changing.  We need much stricter gun sales laws and they need to be followed.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with people about your experience writing about these tragedies?

Again, I’ve been writing songs most of my life so I write about many things, not just national issues.  I do think it’s part of the responsibility of an artist, any artist, to express the world around us and what we see, hear and feel.  Sometimes it’s wonderful, sometimes it’s messy and really hard.

Listen to “Kid With A Gun” here.

Kitty Donohoe is an Ann Arbor-based singer/songwriter whose music can cut directly to the heart of modern life. Her Emmy Award-winning song, There Are No Words, written on the afternoon of 9/11, 2001, was featured in a documentary film, and was performed by Kitty at the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial Dedication Ceremony. Donohoe is a seasoned performer who is not an Irish or Celtic singer, but she draws from that part of her heritage, as well as her American roots, as an artist.

Learn more about Kitty Donohoe on her website at KittyDonohoe.com

Logan Tesmer is a graduate of Specs Howard School of Media Arts, pursuing a career in media production.

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