When singer Kat Perkins returned from her stay in California for NBC’s The Voice, she relaxed for two days before returning to her position as a nanny for the Keller family in Edina. Fame hasn’t changed her a bit.
“I love those kids so much!” Perkins says, adding that one final summer as their nanny before going on tour was exactly what she wanted. Coming back to Edina was also like coming full circle because without the Keller kids, and the support of their parents Peter and Stephanie, she would not have gone to the audition that changed her life.
Home Away from Home
Stephanie Keller recalls the first few years. “Kat started coming to all [of our] family events because her family was all in North Dakota,” she says. Perkins quickly became a part of the family, and a transition to becoming their part-time nanny three years ago was seamless. Then, just a year later, she became the Kellers’ full-time rockin’ nanny. “We needed a nanny, and she wanted a break from music,” Stephanie says.
When Perkins began nannying, she’d just had vocal surgery and needed to relax her voice, but the music kept playing. “What you saw on TV—the kids dancing and singing—that’s not made up,” Stephanie says. It was what she walked into almost every day after work; something that made it clear Perkins couldn’t give up the music.
So when producers of The Voice called Perkins in March 2013, telling her they’d seen a YouTube video of her performance at an Amsterdam airport and that they’d like her to audition, the Keller kids wouldn’t let it go. “I thought it was a joke,” Perkins says. She didn’t take the call seriously.
It may have been a surprise to Perkins, but Peter Keller knew it would happen eventually. “I’ve always thought she had the talent,” he says. “Some people go through life with this talent without rising up,” but it was her time. Having hired Perkins for work events, and listening to her previous CD with her band Scarlet Haze, he’s been a fan of her work for years.
Perkins’ reservations about a singing competition were no match for the support, belief and fierce loyalty of the Kellers. “Kat, what do you have to lose?” she recalls the family asking her.
“Think of it as a bucket list,” Stephanie remembers saying. “This is the chance of a lifetime.” The debate went on until Kat and Ben, the Kellers’ oldest son, who was 19 at the time, sat down one night and went through all the details, all the pros and cons. And Kat finally agreed to audition.
No Business Like Show Business
Agreeing to audition for The Voice is step one of a months-long process to get on the show. After heading to California to audition in June, Perkins returned to Minnesota and waited, then waited some more. “If they call me, they call me; if they don’t, they don’t”—Perkins had turned the phrase into her mantra, and finally got her answer—sort of. They called in August to let her know they wanted to see her again.
“These kids had no idea what this would entail,” Perkins says, and the suspense was unbearable for them, as well. But it paid off, and when she got the call telling her they wanted her to move to live auditions, “I was standing with the kids and you could hear those screams from Southview Middle School.”
But the screams had to be quieted: “When she first went [to California] we couldn’t tell anyone,” Stephanie says. Then Perkins and a film crew came to Edina in November to film the family and “we couldn’t tell anyone what we were doing! We told them they were doing a documentary on nannying,” Perkins says.
The Kellers weren’t always sure what was happening either. “NBC just shows up at our house” with a full film crew, Peter recalls. And the filming was all about Kat and the kids, which Peter and Stephanie thought was amazing. “We watched it all unfold,” he says.
Once the word was out, though, the family shared their excitement with everyone. Except on Monday nights for the Kellers’ home viewing parties. That was filled with the same people every week. “We didn’t want to jinx it,” Stephanie says.
Being separated wasn’t easy for Perkins or the Kellers. They Skyped when they could and spoke on the phone once a week.
“She would be texting us minutes before she went on screen,” Stephanie says. Perkins constantly chatted with the kids to make sure they were doing well without their nanny.
Social media made things easier, too, and a little interesting. For Perkins’ last performance on The Voice, Stephanie and the three youngest Keller kids got to go to California and be a part of the audience. Their faces were flashed on screen and “my daughter’s and my phones started blowing up,” Stephanie says, with family and friends texting, emailing and calling to say “I think I just saw you on TV.” Her daughter’s Twitter account gained over 100 new followers in a matter of seconds.
Rockin’ in Edina
Perkins made it all the way to the top five finalists on The Voice before she was eliminated from competition. But her spirits weren’t crushed. It just meant she got to see the kids again a little sooner than planned. Stephanie and Peter were floored when she asked to come back for the summer and continue nannying. She wasn’t coming back to the same Edina, though, Perkins says. Before the fame, being a rockin’ nanny in button-down Edina wasn’t always easy.
Seeing Perkins in person is a little deceiving; at 4 feet, 11 inches, she is sometimes mistaken for a young tween. Except for the tattoos. So when Perkins first took the Keller kids to the Edina Country Club in the summer, she got some odd looks. People would glance over, trying to decide if she was one of the kids or a guardian, her tattoos hidden by her swimsuit cover. But “the first time I took my swimsuit cover off, you could literally hear the moms gasp,” Perkins says, with a laugh. Her rocker-chick persona isn’t exactly typical Edina style, but once the community got to know her, those gasps turned into praise.
The first trip to the Edina Country Club this summer was a whole new experience. “We were mobbed!” Perkins says, “Moms were thanking me for bringing their families together on Monday nights.” And her first shopping trip at 50th and France had a similar outcome: “All the ladies were so nice to me,” she says.
The love from Edina during the show didn’t go unnoticed: “People had giant signs in their yards that said ‘Go, Kat, Go,’” Perkins says, adding that she wants to give “a ginormous thank-you to the people of Edina.”
The Kellers noticed the support as well. “I was really impressed by the amount of adoration from our friends in Edina … not even just our friends!” Peter says, remembering the “good lucks” and warm words from people he’d never spoken to before. “It really shows the great community that is Edina.”
Stephanie Keller and the three youngest Keller kids arrive in California to see their nanny, Kat Perkins, perform on The Voice.
The Nanny’s Future
With a tour launched and a single titled “Fearless” released in August, to be followed by an upcoming album, the one thing that’s clear is that Perkins probably won’t be returning to nannying. “The plan was to lose our nanny,” Stephanie says. “Our kids are absolutely in love with her,” so it will be hard, she says, but also exciting. Perkins has had a tremendous influence on the kids. The Kellers’ oldest son, Ben, started at the Institute of Production and Recording last year, “totally endorsed by me,” Perkins says.
People don’t realize that “for us, it’s been this long journey,” Stephanie says. What people saw on TV took place over months, and the Kellers couldn’t be happier with the outcome. “She was a great nanny, and it was just a super-awesome experience.”
“She’s got a lot of change going on,” Peter says, “but it’s good change.”
Perkins doesn’t know exactly what’s in store after the new tour, but she does know “my life is changed forever and I’m absolutely loving it.”
Her new single “Fearless” can be purchased on iTunes.