From her birth-city of Belgrade to the Marz Studios in Texas where she recorded her dazzling new album, Katarina Pejak has walked countless roads and stuck a thousand pins in the map. Now, with Roads That Cross, this award-winning performer unveils a fresh set of songs that follow her muse wherever it leads her. Inspired by blues, jazz, country and rock ‘n’ roll – and shaped by all the cities she’s called home – this is music that crosses borders and brings people together. As producer Mike Zito says: “Katarina is one of a kind…”
Making her debut on the iconic Ruf Records – and taking part in the label’s famous Blues Caravan tour in 2019 – Roads That Cross is the stone-cold classic that Katarina has promised since the start. Rewind to the post-millennium and this upcoming artist was already a little different: a classical piano virtuoso who raided her father’s record collection for Tom Waits, Bessie Smith, Van Morrison and Otis Spann – then challenged herself to write songs that measured up.
Hitting the blues circuit in her late-teens, word of Katarina’s house-rocking musicianship and smoky vocal spread across the Serbian capital like wildfire. But she had bigger plans. In 2011, Katarina followed the call to the birthplace of US roots, winning a scholarship to the famed Berklee College of Music that trained stars from Steve Vai to Quincy Jones. “It was amazing and tough at the same time,” she recalls. “Studying with people like Dave Limina and Pat Pattison really shaped me.”
Katarina soon made her own mark, picked out for Berklee’s prestigious Songwriting Achievement Award and winning critical acclaim in her native Serbia for early releases like Perfume & Luck (2010), First Hand Stories (2012) and Old New Borrowed And Blues (2016). Her material touched on every genre, but the common factor was honesty, which flooded from the speakers and held audiences spellbound as she performed with the A-list and began to be mentioned in the same breath. “I've had the privilege to meet and play with some true blues greats,” she recalls, “like Ronnie Earl, Mike Zito, Anson Funderburgh, Mark Hummel and Ana Popović.”