It’s hard to believe that 20-year-old folk pop singer-songwriter Katie Ekin’s years in the music industry can be counted on a single hand. She picked up acoustic guitar five years ago, played her first show three years ago, and debuted her seven-track, self-titled EP in December 2010. Inspired by music of the ’50s and ’60s, Ekin—whose vocal range is naturally as melodious as a songbird (see track three, “Cuckoo”)—has a keen understanding of love, astutely arranged in the lyrics of her songs. “I love oldies … the fun, pop-feeling, sock hop,” confesses Ekin. Aside from Carole King and Lesley Gore, singer of “It’s My Party,” her influences include Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, The Beatles and The Beach Boys, whose music was regularly played by her father throughout her childhood. “My dad is just such a fun person, and every time I’d see him perform when I was little, he had the best stage presence,” remembers Ekin. “I gain confidence from being on stage and I relate that back to my dad.” It is onstage that Ekin feels most comfortable expressing herself. “My main thing has always been love,” she says. “In high school, I wouldn’t really tell people how I felt—I put it in a song.” Her vulnerability is especially evident in “Underneath the Christmas Tree,” a song in which she asks her crush, “Won’t you be my present, baby?” The feel-good track is so irresistible, with Ekin’s sweet and sultry voice, that Zooey Deschanel herself would be proud to own the copyrights. Head to The Abbey two days before Valentine’s Day to hear Ekin belt out several original love songs, while accompanying herself on ukulele and guitar. Given the holiday, Ekin is planning an upbeat set that is, in her own words, “not so heartbreaking—I’ll try to keep it on a happy theme.”
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12. The Abbey, 350 Mission St., Santa Cruz. No cover. 429-1058.