Kate Voegele

When singer-songwriter Kate Voegele was first offered her record deal, she thought it was a joke.

“Between my freshman and sophomore year of college I got a message from Tom Anderson on MySpace, which was hilarious because I thought it was a joke. I was like, ‘There’s no way this Tom even exists, let alone gets on his own Web sites and sends messages to chicks with a thousand friends,’” Voegele told Pollstar.

“He said he was starting a label and that he was really interested in signing me. In case it was real I replied and the next thing I knew I was in Santa Monica showcasing for Tom and hanging out with him.”

Voegele sang in choir as a kid and started playing guitar and writing music when she was 15. Her father bought her a four-track recorder, which she recorded a few songs with, but didn’t share them with anyone because she was “way too nervous for people to hear [her] stuff.”

Her dad thought the music was worth sharing so one day he sneaked into her bedroom and stole the tapes.

“I was pissed. It’s like dad going under your bed and reading your diary. But I thanked him later when people started responding well to it,” Voegele said.

Cleveland radio stations started playing her music and she then landed spots performing at the Farm Aid concert and South by Southwest and opening for artists including John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band and John Mellencamp. She also released two EPs, 2003’s The Other Side and 2005’s Louder Than Words.

Photo: Doug Seymour

While looking for the right record deal, Voegele headed to college, studying visual arts at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and playing gigs on the weekends.

After signing with Interscope / MySpace, Voegele still managed to finish her sophomore year while recording her debut full-length album, 2007’s Don’t Look Away, in L.A. She then took time off from school to hit the road.

Wilspro Management’s Debbie Wilson first saw Voegele play at a tiny dive bar in Wisconsin where there were only five people in attendance – playing pool. Voegele said it was a disaster; it was snowing, a tire blew out on the way to the show, the trailer broke, she and the band arrived late and sounded awful.

Wilson was still impressed.

“I saw a spark in Kate. You can’t teach somebody that, they either have it or they don’t,” Wilson told Pollstar. “She had a lot of talent, it was raw talent, and she was adorable. You could just tell she was willing and wanting to do whatever she had to do to get her music heard.”

Wilson encouraged Voegele to try out for the part of singer-songwriter Mia on The CW series “One Tree Hill.” Voegele was hesitant to audition because her only previous acting experience was in a high school musical.

But she nailed the audition and got the part, joining the cast as a recurring guest character in season five and recently wrapped up shooting season six.

In her role as Mia, the singer performs – what else? – Kate Voegele songs.

“What’s awesome is they weave the music and the packaging into the storyline,” Voegele said. “They have scenes where Mia is talking about why she wrote a particular song and where she’s cutting a song in the studio and talking about her record label. And … the cover of [Mia’s] record is the same photo that’s going to be on the cover of my record. So it’s just a really cool art-imitates-life thing.”

Photo: Doug Seymour

CAA’s Brian Manning told Pollstar how important the show has been to Voegele’s career.

“In this environment where it’s … incredibly difficult to have music cut through all the clutter, the folks at ‘One Tree Hill’ have been absolutely indispensable in helping to break Kate. They have really allowed her music to go out to a really wide audience and it’s been fantastic.”

Voegele has been able to film episodes while continuing to focus on touring using the premise that Mia was also away on the road.

In addition to writing, recording, touring and filming, Voegele has also started taking classes again. She’s pursuing her bachelor’s degree in psychology through the University of Phoenix, which teamed up with Voegele to sponsor her tour.

Voegele’s second album, A Fine Mess, is set for release May 18, the same day Mia’s second album is being released on the season six finale of “One Tree Hill.”

“My career in general has definitely been a fine mess in that it’s been absolutely chaotic but I think the beauty is in the chaos,” she said.

Voegele wrote the album in between doing all the things that make up her fine mess of a life.

“I was traveling everywhere, meeting new people on tour, working on a TV set, all this cool new stuff that was really helping me to grow as a person. … So this record really is a story of the road.”

Voegele has U.S. headlining dates on the books through mid-June. Then she’s back on the road playing support slots with plans to head to Europe in the fall and more headlining by October.