Barney Miller and Kate Southwell are a true local power couple. The pair have just spent the last 6 months in the USA following their dreams. Barney is learning to walk again after an accident 13 years ago left him wheelchair bound, and Kate just signed a record deal and is pursuing her music career…
Barney, it’s been awhile since we caught up with you. We hear you’ve been in San Diego for the last 6 months … what has life been like for you over there?
Yeah, we started living in Carlsbad in the north county of San Diego for 6 months out of the year. It’s been fun. I really love that area too; it’s got the same cruisy beach vibe as here, which is a bonus.
We are lucky we have made so many great new friends, which definitely makes moving there easier. I have a good crew of boys who took me surfing every weekend; I only missed 3 weeks out of the whole 6 months – which made me feel like a grom again, ‘cause I haven’t surfed that much since before my accident. My head trainer at Project Walk also believes it’s a big part of my recovery, because it’s my happy place.
Obviously a big reason behind your stay in the USA was to participate in Project Walk. Tell us about the program and what it’s doing for you.
Project Walk is a Kinesiology based exercise program for spinal injuries. They work through repetitive movements to regenerate the nervous system and find new pathways. I have been injured since 1999 and I started at Project Walk in 2009; that’s 10 years with no movement below my chest. In the past 3 years, I have regained some movement in my legs, learning to fire muscles on command such as my quads and glutes, overall feeling and the biggest of all, load bearing through my legs.
It’s hard not to be motivated though, when you are in an environment filled with driven and inspiring people who all share the same goal of regaining their independence. Everybody has different injuries and are at different stages in their recovery, so we feed of each others’ motivation and progress.
What has been your biggest achievement so far at Project Walk, and what are your next couple of goals?
Wow, there are so many great achievements I have made since starting, but my biggest by far would be that I can now stand with Kate at any time. That’s how we transfer now, and it has made our everyday life so much easier. My main goal in life is to work as hard as I possibly can and to stay focused on the big goal, which of course is independently walking and never doubting myself for a second. This has gotten me to where I am now, so I will just continue working hard at it.
Your beautiful fiancée, Kate, was over there with you and you proposed to her while there! Congratulations to you both. Tell us your story – how long you’ve been together, how you first met, and the proposal story!
Ha ha – thank you. We met about 5½years ago through mutual friends at the annual Sawtell Chilli Festival and started hanging out a few months later, then the rest is history. The night I proposed was at a Major League Baseball game for the San Diego Padres. Kate had been asked to sing the US national anthem for the opening of the game in front of 20,000+ people and as soon as we found that out, I knew that was going to be the night. That night, Project Walk had joined up with the SD Padres for Spinal Awareness Month and was holding a fundraiser night on the rooftop of one of the oldest buildings in San Diego called the Western Metal building, which overlooked the field. There was about 300 people there in support of Project Walk, including some of our closest Cali friends. I had only told 2 people of what I planned to do, and they helped with the organising as well as distracting Kate while things got set up. Meanwhile, everybody had been told Kate was receiving an award and to gather around, then Kate got told to come quickly, because I needed her. She came around the corner to see everyone parted and a red carpet with rose petals and me at the end kneeling down on one knee. It was really emotional, but the best night of our lives for sure. To kneel at my proposal was a goal I had set for myself a long time ago; the next step is to dance at our wedding!
Kate, living in San Diego has also been a huge stepping stone for your career. We hear you signed a record deal while you were over there. What does this mean for you?
Yes, it’s the beginning of a whole new adventure for me. I had so much fun recording and seeing my songs come to life. I have come a long way in the past 6 months and getting this opportunity has taught me so much not only about the industry, but myself as an artist. I am just so anxious, but at the same time excited to share my music with the world under my new stage name ‘Kada’, which means ‘the unknown’. I hope everybody enjoys them as much as I did making them.
Tell us about the label you’ve signed with and the owner. How helpful have they been to you as a new talent on the scene?
It is an LA based independent label called MNO Records. The lead singer from OPM (Heaven is a Halfpipe) John Edney is the owner and also my producer. He has been so amazing throughout this whole process and we have had fun developing my sound, but the greatest thing about the deal is I have just as much creative control as he does, and we have found a really great balance in collaborating together.
Barney tells me you’re about to record the film clip for your first single. Tell us about your music and what’s in store for the clip.
Yes, I am so excited. One of our good friends and local film maker Dave Wayland is directing it. I can’t really tell you much about it, other than it is for my first single, Memory, which I wrote early this year about my Great Grandfather who passed away; but now it is a tribute to anyone who has ever lost somebody. It really is a special song.
You’re both back in Sawtell for the next few months. What have you got planned while you’re home? Barney, will you be continuing training, and Kate will you be writing/recording?
We will just be cruising for a little bit hanging with the family, friends and most of all, our dogs. We really miss them being away for so long. This is kind of our holiday, as we are so busy when we are in Cali. Other than that, my first single comes out on iTunes in a few weeks, so once that’s released I will be busy with the marketing and Barney will always be training. He loves it.
And Barney, is the surf classic still on for next year?
It sure is. The BM Classic will be on March 16/17, 2013. For more info about it, go to
And to follow Kate’s music –
Thanks Barney & Kate. You’re truly inspirational.