What’s Oktoberfest Time without some real Yodeling?!
Welcome to a new edition of our XPAT Spotlight Interviews. Today we’ve invited Kathrin Jakob, a real “Müncher Kindel” by birth and ‘Yodel Star in Hollywood’ to share with us not only her story but also some Oktoberfest vibes. Born in Munich, Kathrin grew up in Lower Bavaria, in a village called “Wallersdorf”. She now lives in South Pasadena, CA.
What inspired you to move to California?
Before I moved here I studied Vocal and Piano at a vocational school for music in Regensburg, Germany. Some of my teachers there had studied music in the US and that planted the seed in me that I could do something similar. I graduated with a degree but didn’t feel “finished” in any way and I started researching music colleges in the US. I visited Los Angeles to tour two schools with my mom and immediately fell in love with the city, the weather, and the people. That same year I moved to LA to continue my studies at the Los Angeles College of Music in Pasadena.
How did your family react to your decision to live here in L.A.?
The idea at first was always to return home once I got my Associate of Arts degree, but I quickly noticed that I wanted to stay here way past that point. My family had a really hard time accepting my sudden wish to move so far away but they supported me every step of the way. I also surprised myself, because I never saw myself as the person who’d leave her home country and move that far away, but somehow I just knew that that was what I had to do. I am still so happy that I followed my heart and my gut instinct to come here.
Is California your Dream Come True?
In many ways, California is a dream come true for me. I feel like myself here. I love the sunshine year-round, the palm trees, the ‘go get it’ mindset of the people, and the fact that it’s OK to have big dreams here. I’ve been here for eight years now and I’m starting to see the not so pretty parts of this place as well. Living here isn’t particularly easy. But so far the positives still outweigh the negatives for me.
How does Life in CA look like for you at the moment?
I currently live in a one-bedroom apartment with my cat Baloo. Several days a week I teach at a Music School in Pasadena and the rest of the time I work as a singer, songwriter, and yodeler. I love that generally every day is different for me and I get to do a variety of things throughout the week.
Do you feel that living here changed you personally?
I’ve been vegetarian prior to moving here but switched to completely plant-based shortly after and I have learned so much about diet, environment, spirituality, and myself in general, being away from home, and in a city filled with different cultures and people of all backgrounds and lifestyles.
I think I also became more open. I feel more OK with being different; and while ‘fitting in’ is something we generally tend to do as humans I am not trying to do that as much anymore, which definitely freed me and makes life more fun. I spent almost all of my twenties here so I probably would have done some ‘growing up’ anywhere, but the obstacles I faced here definitely helped me grow and learn.
What challenges did you face moving here to California?
Honestly, most of my challenges weren’t initial. My parents supported me financially during my college years (and even after that) and I immediately had a fairly large circle of friends from the music college.
The obstacles came with trying to stay here and getting a visa, that allowed me to stay beyond my college years and which allowed me to work. I applied for an O-1 artist visa twice and got denied twice. However, I ended up getting a P3 visa for culturally unique performers.
Getting visas and renewing visas has definitely been my biggest struggle here
Did you reinvent yourself coming out here to California?
I definitely reinvented myself a bit. I came here to sing and I am still doing that. However, I became a ‘Bavarian Yodeler in Hollywood’.
This was never something I saw myself doing or wanted to pursue, but I happen to be pretty good at it and there is quite a demand here for this type of music, especially around this time of year. I started liking it, quite a bit actually. It connects me to my roots and it’s definitely a niche, which is a great thing to have in such a big pool of amazing singers.
So every year in September and October I get booked for several events, private parties and at restaurants, celebrating Oktoberfest and German Culture. I even got to be on German TV several times. They liked the idea of the “Bavarian Yodeler in Hollywood” so much that I was featured on Punkt12 (RTL), taff (PRO7), and “Hallo Deutschland” (ZDF). It’s been an unexpected but really fun journey.
However, I am also still writing original pop music and teaching music lessons.
How would you describe the differences between the American and German work culture?
Since I never worked much in Germany (I went from Abitur to music school to LA) I don’t have a really good personal comparison of work-life there vs. here. But I do like that it’s normal to not have a ‘normal’ job (aka ‘real job’) here. To be freelancing instead of sitting in an office every day. I feel like it’s more of an effort to ‘swim against the stream’ in Germany than it is here. I don’t feel like I have to explain myself as much and I really appreciate that. I know a lot of things could be easier if I lived in Germany, such as insurance and otherwise feeling more secure. While the trend is for everything to become more internet-oriented right now, especially in the music industry, I love how many opportunities there are in this city for creative professionals. This is definitely the place to be. I am surrounded by likeminded people in the industry as well as by so many opportunities because it still is the entertainment capital of the world.
What do you like about California, what could you do without, and what have you learned? Your personal Insights.
I love the weather, the open mindset of the people, the immense creativity and talent around me, the health consciousness, and all the vegan food! I also love the fact that we’re so close to the beach and at the same time also to the mountains. The nature around here is beautiful.
I could definitely do without fires and earthquakes, but I think those are pretty obvious downsides of living here. Traffic isn’t something I’m fond of either. Or rent prices. But there’s always a certain price to pay I guess.
Also, what I’ve learned about living in L.A. particularly, is that for most people it seems that LA isn’t a permanent place to be. Finding long term friends is hard in a city that so many people pass through. I’ve seen many people come and go. On top of that, it’s hard to meet your friends sometimes. Everybody is working non-stop, and the distances and traffic don’t help, or the current pandemic for that matter.
Do you have any ‘Heimweh’? How do you cope with it?
I used to not have any ‘Heimweh’. However, the longer I’m here the more I feel it. I usually go home at least twice per year, but right now that’s not possible. Visiting several times per year and staying connected to family and friends through the internet definitely helps.
Also, my German friends here make it feel a little bit more like home. And when I do my Oktoberfest performances there’s definitely a Bavarian feeling coming back to me, which reminds me of my roots. German summers and casual hangouts with friends and family are what I miss most. And a real Bierfest. Some of the events here do a pretty good job, but it will never quite be the same. 😉
Apart from yodeling, your music comprises much more. You are also writing your own original songs. Where can readers find out more about your work?
My songs can be heard on my website www.kathrinjakob.com, where you can also find links to all relevant streaming platforms and social media accounts. My new song Big Space in My Heart just came out a few weeks ago. I also write a blog once in a while about my life here and general experiences.
If you are interested more in my yodeling persona then you can head directly to this link to find my “Yodelstar” page. www.kathrinjakob.com/yodelstar
I also just released a new yodel cover on youtube that you can find here: Appenzeller Jodler – Kathrin Jakob
Your special Expat Tips:
- There’s definitely a lot of places to go if you feel homesick and miss German Culture, such as the restaurant “Edelweiss” in Thousand Oaks or “Hinterhof” in Highland Park, which serves all the classic Bavarian and German dishes ‘in vegan’.
- My favorite place in town, however, is Palos Verdes. A really nice part of the coast, that usually isn’t too crowded by tourists and has, therefore, a calmer atmosphere. Ocean and hiking trails, a small beach, ocean caves, great spots for pictures, and a beautiful scenery in general.
Thank you so much, Kathrin, for spending time with us and sharing your story. We love your yodeling, which reminds us of home, and we wish you much luck with your music career and your life here in California!
To get in contact with Kathrin Jakob please visit her website www.kathrinjakob.com
Images ©Kathrin Jakob