Kathy George sees herself as living proof that anyone who enjoys music and is determined enough can learn to play an instrument and perform.
George, a Workers Compensation specialist in both Human Resources and Emory Hospital's Risk Management area, became interested in playing in bands when she was a student at the University of Georgia in the late '70s. "I was there when REM and the B-52s had just started," she said. "It was great music and a great time to be in Athens. That's when I started thinking about playing an instrument."
In 1981 George moved to Atlanta and began her quest for the right instrument and the right band. "I started off trying to play the electric guitar, but I was better at the bass," she said. I guess it's because there are fewer strings to deal with. So I really started playing the bass in several bands around 1982. I played with Miss Margie and the Tall Boys and Sweet `n' Low."
Finding her niche
Although George played with a number of local bands for more than a decade, things really seemed to click in July 1994 when she and two other musicians formed the group N2WISHIN'. George said the band's name has gone through a few spelling changes, but the members have settled on the current spelling, which has a nice double entendre effect. The band has since grown to six members, all of whom are women who work full time, and five of whom (including George) live within a two-mile radius of Emory.
N2WISHIN' rehearses at George's home an average of twice a week. They usually perform about once a month, and have played at the Freight Room in Decatur, and at Theater With A Mission and the Sacred Bean coffee house in Marietta.
In addition to George on the electric bass (which is smaller than a standard stand-up bass), the band includes chief song writer Carol Bell on lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Carolyn Bennett on drums; Carol Hagan on lead guitar, keyboard and backup vocals; Cathie Hudnall on cello; and Trish Spurlock on vocals and saxophone.
About 90 percent of the music N2WISHIN' performs are original compositions by band members, said George, who came to Emory six years ago. "It's a contemporary country music sound," she said. "There's even an element of folk to it. It's not really Garth Brooks. It's not that really polished kind of country sound that's so popular now. But it's not Hank Williams either. I have played with people who are more focused on the traditional type of country music, and I like that too. But since this is mostly our own material, it's naturally going to be a little more contemporary."
The presence of a saxophone and cello in particular give N2WISHIN' a distinctive style, George said. "When we decided we wanted to have a sax," she said, "I thought, `This isn't really country.' But someone in the band said that Reba McEntire has a sax in her band. So if Reba can have a sax, we can too." George also said the cello adds a lot of depth to the band's slower songs. The cellist has a master's degree in cello performance and is a conductor at a Gwinnett County high school.
For the relatively small amount of previously recorded material the band performs, George said they lean toward traditional country music, with selections such as "Put Yourself in My Shoes" by Clint Black, "Two of a Kind" by Garth Brooks" and "I Fell in Love Again Last Night" by the Forester Sisters.
For the band's future, George would like to see song writing collaborations between the members. "We've pretty much had individual band members writing songs separately," she said. "I've written some lyrics, but I haven't really come up with any melodies. A few of us have talked about getting together and writing some things collectively. I'm hoping that we do that, and maybe I'll write an entire song or two on my own. That would be fun."
Another change on the horizon is the planned addition of an electric guitar. George said that acoustic guitarist Carol Hagan is planning to do some electric guitar work in the near future, which "will add a little more of an electric sound to some of our songs."
Over the years, George has considered her work with N2WISHIN' and other bands to be mostly a hobby, albeit an important one. The band's success, however, is forcing the members to think more seriously about the future. "I think we're coming to a point where we are going to have to decide what we really want," she said. "As for me personally, I'm just not sure right now what I want to do. I really enjoy playing just as a hobby. I think musicians really have a tough life, playing late nights in smoky bars. These people work really hard, traveling and playing in small places. They spend years and years working, trying to make something happen. And I can't really see myself doing that. So I think it works just fine as a hobby."
Editor's note: The next performance of N2WISHIN' is scheduled for Saturday, April 27, at 9 p.m. at the Freight Room, 301 E. Howard Ave. in Decatur.