Hometown girl rocking the suburbs

By on September 5, 2010

Copycat frontwoman started singing as a child in Elburn
by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—Ask any musician about when they first became inspired to sing or pick up an instrument and they’ll likely tell you it happened sometime during childhood, perhaps after hearing a great song on the radio or seeing a groundbreaking video on MTV.

Singer Bree Kolaites found that kind of musical inspiration easily in her youth, dancing and singing in front of the mirror atop her bathroom ledge while living in Elburn.

“I always loved listening to music (growing up),” she said. “I would say Madonna was my childhood inspiration. I even dressed up as her for Halloween in pre-school.”

Kolaites is the lead singer and occasional pianist for the cover band Copycat, a quartet that plays regularly around the Chicago area, including in the western suburbs. The group plays a mix of ’70s (Fleetwood Mac, Aerosmith), ’80s (Bryan Adams, Def Leppard), country (Kenny Chesney), alternative (311, Alanis Morrisette) and contemporary pop songs (Matchbox Twenty, Fergie).

“After college, I moved out to Aurora and would go down to Mike & Denise’s every Tuesday night and sing karaoke,” she said. “One night, a DJ told me about a band that lost their lead vocalist, and (said) that he would set up a night for the drummer to come hear me sing. That’s where Copycat came into my life.”

Copycat had already been together for six years prior to Kolaites joining.

“I have to admit I was a little unsure and scared of the idea (of singing in a band), but (I) thought, ‘What do I have to lose?’ So I’ve been singing in this band for about four years now.”

Bree began singing on her own as a child, choosing not to join the choir because she was uninterested in being told by others what to sing. She attended St. Charles East High School, where she focused on athletics, spending most of her time playing soccer.

Her interest in singing rekindled after Kolaites graduated from high school in 1998 and began attending Northern Illinois University. There, she discovered karaoke and began going out to bars with her friends one night a week to sing. She even competed in Starbuster’s Northern Idol contest and won a trip to Las Vegas.

“I guess that is when I thought, ‘Hey, I could actually enjoy doing this,’” she said. “I won another karaoke contest a couple years later at Sportsters in St. Charles.”

Kolaites’ decision to become a frontwoman seems to be paying off, as Copycat played at the Taste of Chicago this summer.

“I would have to say the biggest highlight gig we have played is the Taste of Chicago,” Kolaites said. “We submitted a demo and got the call to play the cover band day.”

Kolaites currently works full-time at Nordstrom’s and is looking forward to her wedding in September. As for her singing career, Bree claims she is completely content being a singer in a successful cover band.

“I am good where I am at, but if something big were to come my way, I would definitely consider it,” she said.

Photo: The Chicago-area band Copycat features frontwoman Bree Kolaites, who grew up in Elburn. While at Northern
Illinois University, she started singing karaoke in clubs and won the Starbuster’s Northern Idol Contest. Courtesy photo