Interview: Kate Nash

Interview with Kate Nash

Kate Nash

Introduction

Brit-winning singer-songwriter Kate Nash is back and ready to ruffle a few feathers with latest album, Girl Talk. Here she hits back at her critics, tells us more about her new, punk direction, and explains why some days she just wants to be “a badass b*tch from hell”.

Questions and answers

So the first new material we heard from you was ‘Under-Estimate The Girl’. It got a pretty extreme reaction. Did that surprise you?

When I think about it now, I’m not surprised, but at the time I was really shocked. I just hadn’t thought about it; I was in my own world of recording and writing. I’d already made the album, but I really wanted to put out a song before I went on tour. I was really angry about a lot of stuff so I just wrote and recorded that, put it out, and then suddenly it went insane. (Laughs) It was a really exciting time, actually; it was super-fun to watch that unravel, for sure.

What did you make of people’s comments?

Seeing my fans get it, and seeing them being vocal in support of the new record, was great. And then the stuff that was really negative about me changing – people being like, “Oh my god, rest in peace Kate Nash!” – again, it was quite good actually. I think it’s exciting when you start to p*ss people off and they get scared and freaked out; it feels like a powerful thing to be doing.

I mean, all that bullsh*t press that tries to get women to be one thing, and says that you can’t change and develop, just makes me really mad. It doesn’t make me scared anymore because I’ve been working with kids in schools for a year and a half now; girls who are really affected by that bullsh*t and end up with low self-esteem because of it. So I think, actually, people that are saying that are really just f*cked up people. And they shouldn’t be able to belittle women just because of how they look or because what they’re doing is a little bit different.

But you didn’t end up including ‘Under-Estimate The Girl’ on the album. How come?

Well, that song was just something I did as a bonus, and the album’s definitely one, complete piece of art, like a book of emotions.

It is a pretty big departure from your previous sound. Did you consciously decide to do something completely different?

No, it just happened naturally, really. I was just writing just based on how I felt. I think it’s only in the last few days that I’ve realised how different the music is. But I’m a completely different person, so it makes sense that the album would be so different, y’know? I mean, I love playing piano still. It’s just that playing bass is what makes me feel powerful right now. And I was inspired by bands like T. Rex and Hole.

You recorded the album in Echo Park, right? Why did you choose to go to LA?

Because I wanted to work with Tom Biller. He’s worked on a real range of different stuff – with people like Liars and Kanye West –and he always makes it sound fresh and cool. So we just met for coffee and we got on really well. And if you get on with somebody and you respect their work, why wouldn’t you work with them?

But I’d never recorded outside of London before, and it was so different. We stayed in a mansion, with taxidermy tigers, a giant swimming pool and a view of LA. We could walk around the grounds and pick fresh grapefruit in the mornings. It was the most amazing experience of my whole life, and a really healing time.

I think being outside of London is really healthy, because it’s very small and it can get quite contrived. You can get caught up in what everyone’s talking about and thinking about, and you worry too much about what people think and get self-conscious. So, to get outside of that – especially somewhere as big as America – you get rid of those outside pressures. There was a real sense of escapism.

Do you think that LA had an impact on the sound of the record at all?

Well, the only song that I wrote when I was out there was ‘Oh’, so I don’t think it had an impact in terms of what I was writing about. But I think that wherever you record, the sound’s affected by your surroundings in some way. And we recorded in a giant ballroom, with the sun beaming through glass windows every morning…

There are a few little cool things in the recordings too, like at the end of ‘Labyrinth’ where you can hear dogs howling. There were these dogs guarding the mansion and one of them was sitting outside, howling while I finished the vocal. So we just kept that howl on the record.

It seems a very honest record. Do you ever find it uncomfortable performing such personal songs in front of audiences?

It is a very personal record; it feels like it’s an emotional purging. If I’m not feeling good then, yeah, it can be uncomfortable. But I think it’s a risk you take as an artist; to expose the truth. And while that can be painful, it can also be very therapeutic.

What’s the significance of the title ‘Girl Talk’?

I think girls are really emotionally connected to each other, and when they go through a hard time they need to talk. I definitely do, anyway. I went through a lot of that, and I had a lot of really great friends around me, and it gave me lots of strength. The more you talk the better, because it’s a way of dealing with it somehow, and getting it out of your head. So I hope that people who are going through hard times can use the record as their “girl talk”.

And also, I thought it was a cute, fun title that celebrated being girly, because a lot of the time that gets put down. When I started out, I was really girly and cute, and then I came to feel self-conscious about it; I felt like people didn’t take me seriously. So I went a bit tougher. And now I’m 25 and at that point where I feel I can be both; sometimes I can be like, “I want to be a badass b*tch from hell today,” and other times I can want to look like a doll. But both are still me and you can still take me seriously. But I think having that little bit more confidence in who you are comes with age.

Which song on the album are you proudest of?

I think that ‘Oh’ was really important to me because I think it’s probably the most conscious song on the record. That was the one where I really reflected for a second because I wanted to think about what I was saying on this album.

My friend was going through a bad time and I wrote it for me and her. She sung backing vocals on the song, and then she actually died last year; she had cystic fibrosis. So it’s just become really meaningful and important and amazing to have her on the record, as a reminder of a lot of things.

You’re releasing the album on your own label, Have 10p Records. Why did you start the label?

Well, I started Have 10p as a trust fund in 2008 and I ended up turning it into a singles label, but then things just didn’t work out with my other label. I got dropped, essentially. For a moment, that was a little bit scary but then it just turned out to be really liberating, actually.

It happened at the right time y’know, because I’m now more developed, and more selective with the people I work with, and I’m on my third record, so I’m already an established artist. And it just matches everything I’ve been talking about this year: about being independent, and being yourself, and doing things on your own terms.

So even though it’s a lot more hard work, I have a good work ethic so that doesn’t bother me. I’m so proud of this record – it’s the best work I’ve ever made – so to be able to really take ownership of that feels really good. To own the masters of these songs, and to be putting it out on my own record label… I saw my artwork the other day, and to see ‘Have 10p Records’ printed on it, as a real thing, was just so cool.

Are you going to be signing more artists to the label?

Yeah, I hope to one day. I’m really busy right now, but it’s definitely an exciting thought that in the future I can develop that. I’ve always loved supporting new artists.

Are there any new artists that are particularly impressing you?

I really like Shuga and this punk band from LA called Fidlar. And I’ve only just found about this girl called Syron; she’s really cool.

So what’s your plan for the rest of the year?

I’m going to be touring from March, in the US and UK and Europe, and then I want to travel to Brazil and Australia and Japan. I’ve got an all-girl band now and they’re amazing.

I’m also working with a charity called Plan, and I’m really excited to be a part of that. I’ve just become the ambassador for their campaign ‘Because I’m A Girl’. They work in developing countries to give girls there more opportunities; from basic stuff like access to education, to dealing with serious issues like genital mutilation, and seven year olds having to be prostitutes. I’m going to Ghana to get some first-hand experience of their work.

And I also shot a movie last year called ‘The Powder Room’, with Jaime Winstone, Sheridan Smith and Oona Chaplin, that’s coming out this year. So there’s going to be a lot happening…

What would you still like to achieve in your career?

I still just want to continue making records. I’d like to develop my after-school programme so I can help more young girls, and I’d like to shoot more movies. And maybe one day write a film…