Interview with Kate Nash, May 14, 2013 at The Electric Owl.
The cool, dimly lit interior of Vancouver’s Electric Owl was in stark contrast to the warm, bright, cloudless world outside. A dozen or so people were hard at work preparing for that night’s sold out show and I was here to meet with main act, British artist Kate Nash.
Kate, who became a household name across Europe following the release of her hit single “Foundations” from debut album Made of Bricks in 2007, is currently touring North America with an updated, all-female band to promote fan-funded, gritty garage punk LP Girl Talk, a record that contains a very prominent no-nonsense feminist vibe.
The 25-year-old London born lady has certainly experienced a series of highs and lows throughout the six years following her rise to fame – the highs including securing a legion of dedicated followers further to the release of her debut album (which subsequently went on to reach No. 1 in the UK album charts), collaborating with the likes of top producer Paul Epsworth, and winning Best Female artist at the 2008 Brit Awards. The lows – a personal breakdown following some intense months of non-stop touring and, more recently, the passing of a close friend and a less than amicable parting of ways with Universal Music Group subsidiary Fiction Records.
Within moments of sharing a sofa with a tired but friendly makeup-less Kate, clad in casual tracksuit attire with her dark hair pulled back, I am made instantly aware that despite her public status, this chart-topping chick is one warm, engaging and down to earth individual.
Vancouver Weekly: Welcome back to Vancouver, Kate!
Kate Nash: Thank you, it’s really nice to be back.
Vancouver Weekly: You’re here to promote your new album Girl Talk, which is quite a bit different from previous efforts which possessed a far more vulnerable, girly feel. When you first started out, you were compared to artists such as Lily Allen and Regina Spektor. Is it nice to now be free from that association?
KN: Yeah, once you have a third record, you sort of feel a bit more liberated. I think that when you first come out as an artist everyone compares you to someone else, because they are trying to figure out a right fit for you in the world, and when you get to this point, that happens a lot less.
Vancouver Weekly: And you are really out on your own now, with your own record label Have 10p Records. What does that feel like? Obviously it would include a lot more pressure and hard work…
KN: Yes, there is a lot of hard work involved. It is good though! I think it’s just in the last couple of weeks it’s literally starting to feel like a really good thing.
Vancouver Weekly: All the hard work is paying off?
KN: Yeah, and just sort of believing that it will pay off, do you know what I mean? I really have such a strong and supportive fan base and that is the most important thing – it’s what I am really focusing on. I’m not relying on a record label or a radio hit.
Vancouver Weekly: Of course. What would you say are the biggest challenges you have faced so far in setting up your own label?
KN: Trying to turn everything into one cohesive machine, I think. There is so much that goes into putting a record out, and there are so many people working for me, so many!
Vancouver Weekly: What does that feel like, being the boss for a change?
KN: I like being a boss! It’s just the responsibility of it all, you know? Just trying to make sure everyone is working really hard. I have had a lot of people not do that, not work hard. I have trust issues as well, I guess, because I have been screwed over before. But now I’m starting to get a really good team together.
Vancouver Weekly: That must be such a weight off your shoulders! Despite the change in direction you have gone with in Girl Talk, the autobiographical nature of your songs remains. Is that something that is of importance to you?
KN: Yeah! I mean, I like to have a truth in everything I do and I think that is important, and personally, I just write from things that happen to me, you know? This album is definitely the most honest thing I have ever done. It’s really raw… like emotional purging. I went through a bit of a shitty time when I wrote the record. So for me it’s like therapy, that is how I deal with my problems, I write music!
Vancouver Weekly: That’s really awesome, Kate. Your style has actually changed quite a bit as well over the duration of your music career. Has it evolved on a personal level or was that something that was more or less put on you by the record label over the last few years?
KN: To be honest, I think that is part of the reason I was dropped from the label; I have always done things on my own terms. I’m quite stubborn and I know what I want and who I want to be. I’m not going to change myself for anyone.
Vancouver Weekly: Of course, nobody wants that.
KN: No. I think that it’s just an evolution. Everyone changes what they are into and especially when you are an artist, you are thinking about it more.
Vancouver Weekly: Looking back on your first album, as previously mentioned, it is completely different than Girl Talk. What are your feelings towards your first album now?
KN: A big difference yeah. It’s really nice, actually. We have been playing some of our older songs and reworking them for the live shows and it’s been quite enjoyable to recreate it and do it in a different way. The more distance that comes between you and your records, the more you are able to appreciate them.
Vancouver Weekly: And having a third album so different from your debut album, how do you handle criticism from the media in that regard?
KN: I just don’t read it! To be honest, I am so proud of this album and so sure of it. I think you have to be that way, or else it will destroy you. With the internet, it’s like everyone has an opinion. If you let that affect you, you’ll be fucked. You just want to ignore it and keep going.
Vancouver Weekly: That is such a great attitude to have, I love that! How important are visuals to you in your live shows and in your music videos?
KN: Really important. I love doing music videos and I write all the treatments for them now. I think that is more enjoyable.
Vancouver Weekly: They are definitely a lot edgier… a lot grittier!
KN: Yeah! I think it’s just a creative project. I heard Micheal Jackson in an interview once refer to a music video as his movie. It made me see it in a completely different light. Once you starting thinking of it as a movie, it becomes a lot more fun! I’m very visual, and I like having music and pictures all together. A lot of the time, if I’m watching a film, the soundtrack is an important feature for me. I appreciate music more sometimes with it, and we have projections and stuff for the live show, so it is really visual as well.
Vancouver Weekly: I can’t wait to see it! Who are your own personal inspirational figures, in the music industry or elsewhere?
KN: Oh, Kim Gordon… I love Kathleen Hanna, Nina Simone…. Mariah Carey!
Vancouver Weekly: To wrap things up, could you tell me a bit about Protect A Girl [part of the Because I am a Girl Initiative, by Plan USA) and your visit to Ghana?
KN: Yeah, it was amazing! In January, I went to dinner with Plan USA and we just hit it off. It seemed like the perfect charity for me to get involved with, with all the work that I have done in schools for girls. They were like “Would you like to front the campaign for Protect A Girl?” and I was like, “I would love to!” A few days later they asked if I wanted to go to Africa and I was like, “Fuck! Ok!” So I went, and it was a crazy trip.
Vancouver Weekly: Sounds like such an amazing opportunity.
KN: Yeah, it was really cool to see a completely different way of life, and group of people. It was a culture shock. It really grounded me, opened my mind and inspired me, so I have really enjoyed being able to front that campaign.
As the interview comes to a close, Kate keeps me chatting about her Irish roots, being away from home and inquires about my own personal travels before jumping up from her spot on the sofa to give me a hug as we bid each other farewell. It is not difficult to understand why Miss Nash has such a loyal following - she is one extremely hardworking, dedicated lady, with a serious love and appreciation for the fans who have stuck with her through good times and bad.
Girl Talk is out now on Dine Alone Records.
Check out the video for "Death Proof":