Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Kate Voegele takes her act to "One Tree Hill"

Telling off the former Mr. Britney Spears was all in a day's work for Kate Voegele, a singer-songwriter turned actress. The Bay Village native is set to appear in six episodes of "One Tree Hill," starting Tuesday night.

"I'm so excited to see where it takes me," Voegele said of the popular teen-drama series, which began its fifth season this month on the CW network.

She plays Mia, a young musician in a hard-rocking band. The group is led by Jason, a tattoo-covered jerk portrayed by guest star Kevin Federline, ex-husband of Spears.

In tonight's episode -- spoiler alert! -- Jason gets fired during a recording session. He expects the rest of the band to follow him out the door.

"I think I'm gonna stay," Mia says.

"You're an idiot," Jason tells her.

"Don't call me an idiot," Mia says. "And stop playing the ballads. Those are mine."

It was a different story off-camera, where Federline reportedly was a perfect gentleman.

"He was cool," Voegele said by phone last week from a Starbucks in Oxford, Ohio, where she was visiting college pals.

Federline "was very professional," said Voegele, 21. "He was there to work and he did a great job."

After graduating in 2005 from Bay High School (where the extent of her acting experience was a chorus role in a production of "Once Upon a Mattress"), Voegele went to Miami University to study art. She dropped out after her sophomore year to focus on her music, an inviting blend of rock, pop and folk, layered with openhearted musings on love and life.

Her debut album, "Don't Look Away," came out in May on MySpace Records. The label, a subsidiary of the online social network, is re-releasing the album today, in an effort to capitalize on Voegele's "One Tree Hill" exposure.

The closing track, "Kindly Unspoken," is prominently featured in tonight's episode. The series will showcase other tunes from Voegele's album in the weeks ahead.

"It's a great opportunity," said J Scavo, general manager of MySpace Records. "It's going to bring her farther than she ever could've gotten on her own."

Do the math. "Don't Look Away" has sold 8,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- a modest sum.

Now factor in the multitude of potential fans who are glued to their TV sets for "One Tree Hill." The series draws 4 million viewers weekly, mostly females between the ages of 12 and 35, said creator and executive producer Mark Schwahn.

He could be Voegele's No. 1 admirer, too.

"When she opens her mouth and sings, you realize this is exactly what this person was put on the earth to do," Schwahn said. "I hope the show does everything it can for her, because she's worthy of it."

She landed the "One Tree Hill" part after her manager got Voegele into a casting call in August.

Was she familiar with the show?

"Yeah, definitely," Voegele said. "My little sister is just obsessed with it."

A couple of Grammy winners also tried out for the role, Schwahn said. He declined to name the competition.

"Fortunately, there was a girl from Bay Village who fit the bill," said Schwahn, who hasn't ruled out bringing Mia back to "One Tree Hill" in the future.

The series has done wonders for other musicians, including Gavin DeGraw. Sales of his album skyrocketed after one of his tunes, "I Don't Want to Be," became the "One Tree Hill" theme song.

Voegele's character eventually comes into her own, although Mia is a shrinking violet when we first meet her.

"I'm a really loud, outgoing person, so that was really totally the opposite of my personal characteristics, but it was really cool because I was that girl once," Voegele said. "I was 15 and I had just stared playing guitar. I was like, 'I don't want anyone to know that I write songs.' When I was in high school, it was a big deal. I was like, 'Oh my God -- people are going to think I'm the weird girl with the guitar.' "

Voegele filmed her scenes last fall on location in Wilmington, N.C. On weekends, she would duck out to go on tour.

"It was the craziest couple of months of my life, but in the best way," she said.

With any luck, the craziness is just beginning. On the heels of the "One Tree Hill" blitz, MySpace Records plans to start pushing Voegele's effervescent single "Only Fooling Myself" next month, targeting radio stations with "hot adult contemporary" formats.

"I'd love to put her on a nationwide headlining tour in April or May, if everything is lining up properly," Scavo said.

Voegele has a gig aboard a cruise ship this week. She wasn't even sure if she would be able to watch her "One Tree Hill" debut.

"I'm going to be somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean," she said. "Hopefully we'll get cable or something out there."

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