Katy B signed up the likes of Major Lazer and Four Tet for her new album and she isn’t bothered that it’s resulted in a diverse range of tracks, writes Andy Welch
JUST a couple of months after releasing Honey, her third album, Katy B is already back in the studio writing more songs.
“I was really missing it,” the 27-year-old enthuses. “And I’ve been playing live a lot — I always want to do the opposite of what I’m doing.”
It sounds like she’s on a roll.
“Things are going well today — I’ve got a verse and a chorus. A few more of those and I’ve got a song,” she jokes.
Sometimes, it really is that easy. Other times, however, it’s painful, but Katy B (who’s actual name is Kathleen Anne Brien — her grandparents were Irish) enjoys getting stuck into the challenge.
“I hope I’m getting better at it, but the main thing is it becoming less daunting; being in the studio, working with producers. I’m more confident with it,” she adds.
“But then some of my favourite songs I wrote when I was 16, so I’m not so sure. We’ll have to see if I’m getting better...”
Honey follows her second album Little Red — it’s her nickname — released in 2014.
It’s unusual for an artist to release records in such quick succession, but Honey was originally only meant to be a four-track EP, similar to the Danger EP she released between her Mercury-nominated debut (2011’s On A Mission) and Little Red.
“Because it was meant to be this small thing, there was a lot less pressure and no expectation. I wanted to get some new material out there, and wanted to work with certain producers and artists, but it grew and grew.”
The resulting album features contributions from the likes of Major Lazer, electronic stars Kaytranada and Four Tet, comeback king Craig David and Sasha Keable, best known for working with Disclosure, as well as a who’s-who of producers; Chris Lorenzo, Hannah Wants, KDA and long-time collaborator/Rinse FM co-founder Geeneus.
With such names involved, maintaining quality wasn’t hard — but if the album has any flaws, it’s that it lacks cohesion.
Perhaps acknowledging that, the singer says next time around she wants to work with one or two producers, and aim for one common theme throughout the record.
“It’s easy writing and getting the instrumentals done with all those people. It was easy getting all the diaries aligned,” she muses.
“It’s boring to say, but the hardest thing about having so many people on the record was the paperwork. That takes so long to tie up, if you can imagine all those people having their own contracts. I can’t complain about getting everyone together; it was everything else that took an age.”
Once again, the songs are, in the main, small odes to various sides of the nightclubs so beloved of the singer, who hails from Peckham in south-east London.
She says she treats songwriting as a day job, but does still need to get into the zone for those creative juices to flow.
“I like to get a feeling of what I want to write about first, and I’ll start with a mood, then get a rhythm, and then from there it comes together,” she explains.
“I like to write on my own, not in front of other people. My bedroom is actually my favourite place to work, not in a studio. I can listen to tunes, dance around, get in the mood for it.
“It’s a spiritual thing, writing songs, with the ideas coming from inside of me. I have to really connect with myself, and it can actually be an intense experience. But no, I don’t start by downing a bottle of vodka to get in the right head space.”
The process has been a welcome distraction from personal events of the past few years. In September 2014, seven months after the release of Little Red, Katy B’s brother Andrew suffered a fatal cardiac arrest. He’d previously been left severely brain damaged, following a serious accident 18 months earlier.
It’s not something Katy B wants to discuss in interviews, and she explains why she hasn’t written about it in her songs either.
“To be honest, it was all so raw to me and my family and it would be impossible to get through any concert, performance or even interview with reference to it in there,” she says. “It’s not possible for me to write about. Maybe on the next album, I might be able to talk about it, but not now.”
The family tragedy, along with the break-up of a long-term relationship, has led her to think she’ll change the themes of her lyrics next time around, however, with more experiential stories perhaps replacing the night-out vibes she’s so well known for.
“I just want to make more albums. In my head, I’ve got loads of different ideas for different albums, I want that chance to keep touring and keep doing that.
“My only dream when I was younger was to make music my full-time job. I didn’t want to do anything else and I have fulfilled that, so I guess I am very lucky. I’ve had hopes and dreams, and they’ve come true, which is an incredible feeling,” she says.
“I feel with Honey, I got songs about nightlife out of my system. Now, it’s time for something different.”
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