Performing live takes me to a higher plane

Kate Nash
Kate Nash
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When Kate Nash sits down for our interview at her east London home, she’s just got back from touring Australia, Brazil and Argentina, plus a quick stop in New York for a gig at the Museum Of Modern Art.

‘I have literally just unpacked four suitcases, cleaned my house, got my car cleaned and sat down to watch The Simpsons,’ she sighs.

We’re chatting on the phone just before a London gig celebrating the centenary of International Women’s Day, which saw Kate perform alongside Annie Lennox, Paloma Faith and VV Brown this time last week.

‘I was really happy to be asked by Annie Lennox,’ she explains.

‘I want to support and encourage other women of the world and I stand against discrimination and sexism.

‘It’s really cool to be doing something for International Women’s Day as last year I felt disappointed that I wasn’t involved,’ continues the 23-year-old redhead from the Hackney home she shares with her boyfriend of four years, The Cribs frontman Ryan Jarman, and their rabbit, Fluffy.

When the awareness day was being celebrated last year, Kate was busy putting the finishing touches to her second album, My Best Friend Is You. The rest of 2010 was spent touring mainland Europe, Australia and America, with festival appearances including Glastonbury thrown-in as well.

But the Harrow-born starlet very nearly never went into music at all.

Having studied theatre at the BRIT School and auditioned for the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, Kate’s music career began by accident after she broke her foot.

During her convalescence, her parents bought her an electric guitar so she could indulge in her musical hobbies.

In the summer of 2006, she became a Myspace phenomenon.

A year later, her single, Foundations, charted at number two and her album, Made Of Bricks, hit the top spot.

In 2008 she won best British Female at the BRITs and was delighted to be able to introduce her hospice nurse mum to Sir Paul McCartney.

But Kate has never fitted into the mould of a female solo artist.

Fighting the corner of responsibility and common sense in the world of pop, she won’t allow her music to be used in commercial adverts, but she has agreed to it being part of an exhibition on the evolution of language at the British museum.

She writes, sings, and plays piano, guitar, bass and drums. And she’s a vocal feminist who has written about the degradation of women by the pop industry for The Independent.

After her maelstrom-like success, she took a ‘gap year’ in the summer of 2008, during which she learned to drive and play the drums and moved from her parents’ Harrow home to the Hackney flat in which she currently sits.

She is also a founder of The Featured Artists Coalition and launched her own foundation for struggling artists called Have 10p.

She became a patron and mentor at The Wish Centre women’s shelter in Harrow and joined the V-Day global movement to end violence against women.

She even found time to set up a side project playing bass in the punk group The Receeders.

Kate openly admits she chose to take time off from her music because she’d had a breakdown after touring her first album. And she’s determined to do things differently this time round.

She says: ‘It’s about putting positive enthusiastic and professional people around you and keeping all of the creative control.

‘Also, having breaks in between tours.

‘My boyfriend, friends and family help keep me grounded and happy.

‘I feel happier than I have done in a long time. I’m doing loads of things that I’ve wanted to for ages,’ she continues.

Kate has a strong support network in her family.

Her younger sister, writer Helen, comes on tour with her as blogger and make-up artist. And her older sister, photographer Clare, has done shoots for both Kate and her boyfriend.

Kate adds: ‘My auntie and my nan and my mum made amazing cupcakes for the launch of Caroline’s A Victim [her debut single].

‘And my cousin designed a T-shirt for me. And my cousin’s band, Sister Lovers’s, came on tour with me once ’cause they’re really cool.

‘I love getting my friends and family involved in stuff. It’s just people that I respect and trust.’

Kate not only gets support from her friends and family, but also inspiration, especially from Ryan.

‘Musically, I love and respect everything he does,’ she beams.

‘I saw a magazine that said The Cribs corrupted me. Firstly, The Cribs would never corrupt anybody. They’re some of the nicest people in the world. And, secondly, I’m very independent and I think it’s just another way of the media saying that girls can’t think for themselves and that they aren’t as smart about music as boys.

‘But I am inspired by what Ryan does and I love his music. It’s my favourite in the world.’

Kate’s also influenced by spoken word artists, such as her friend Laura Dockrill.

‘I’ve always written stories and explored poetry,’ Kate explains. ‘I’ve been inspired by a lot by people like Laura and Kathleen Hanna and Roald Dahl and John Cooper Clarke. Laura is an amazing artist.’

When I ask her about her biggest musical influences, Kate fires-off a long list, at speed, punctuated by enthusiastic praise for each.

‘Kathleen Hanna, Bikini Kill, Joan Jett, – all rock ’n’ roll punk heroes, feminists and activists who did it on their own terms, wrote amazing music and changed the world at the same time.

‘The Supremes and The Shirelles – heartfelt beautiful, desperately sad pop songs sung with a smile on your face which hugely reflects the era for me. Makes me want to cry and dance and write the truth.

‘The Buzzcocks helped me write Made Of Bricks. It was the first punk band I really loved and I love how they write simple, relevant, important, raw pop songs with a punk attitude.

‘It gave me confidence to write because it felt real and like I could touch it and understand it and be myself and still matter.

‘The Cribs’ amazing punk attitude, heartfelt, genuine, powerful, political smart pop songs and always progressing and experimenting sonically.’

The list goes on and includes The Fall, Billy Childish, early Madonna, Alicia Keys, Regina Spektor, Nirvana and Sleater Kinney.

These influences are more apparent on her second album than her number one debut.

My Best Friend Is You is a wide-ranging, more mature release.

Though it charted at a very respectable number eight in the UK, some (including rapper Professor Green, who was last year rejected by Kate romantically) have insinuated that the follow-up album has been a flop.

When I ask how she feels about that, Kate says: ‘Well, I think it’s a bit rude to be frank.

‘Doing a sophomore record is really tough and I did struggle with worrying about what people thought about the fact that it wasn’t as commercial as the first.

‘But I’m so happy and proud of the record and that feeling will last forever.

‘I’m already over the commercial side of it.

‘It’s done better in Europe and Australia and America and South America, so England was the tough spot really.

‘I made a decision that I cared way more about the records that I make and the art that I make.

‘I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I made something fake or contrived or that was just to sell records, so I made the record I wanted to.

‘I’m so glad I have a supportive record label like Fiction who let me do what I want and believe in me.

‘These last couple of years has meant so much more to me than anything else.’

Kate’s looking forward to taking the record back out on the road this week when she kicks off her tour in Stoke on Sunday.

‘I always look forward to playing live because it’s the best thing about my job,’ she enthuses.

So, what can we expect when she comes to Portsmouth next Friday?

Kate says: ‘I like to keep some surprises, but I have a great opening act called Brigitte Aphrodite and I’m releasing her first single I Dream Myself Awake at the start of the tour on my record label, Have 10p Records.

She continues: ‘Live shows should be raw and passionate and an expression of how you feel emotionally – getting the dark side out and the fun and the anger and the passion.’

When she finished the tour in the middle of April, Kate’s next project is ‘Kate Nash’s Rock ’n’ Roll for Girls After-School Music Club’.

‘I’m doing work in the UK and US with girls in schools to encourage them to get into music as writers and musicians,’ she explains.

‘Only 14 per cent of PRS [funding for new music] goes to women in this country and I want to change that statistic!’

Kate’s energy is endless and she admits she’s always got a lot on.

‘I have project after project,’ she laughs.

As for her biggest ambition, ‘I guess it’s changing the world for the better and loving as much as I can,’ she concludes.

Kate Nash performs a sold-out show at the Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea next Friday (March 25) with support from Brigitte Aphrodite and The Vob’s.

Her music is part of the ‘Evolving English: One language, many voices’ free exhibition at the British Library in London, until April 3.

Kate Nash on...

... her boyfriend, Ryan Jarman

I don’t want to be gushy and weird about it, but I am in love.

... Bernard Butler, who produced her latest album

I really trust and respect Bernard. He was funny and down-to-earth and understood exactly what I was looking for. He is very smart and great with sounds and with not over thinking and perfecting things, which I can be bad at.

... the best thing about being her

I get to play live and make records for a living. I get to see the world a bit. I have the coolest family, boyfriend, friends and bunny rabbit. I have a lovely flat.

... and the worst

The pressure of the world and media being against me sometimes. Being personally attacked for being myself. But I have a saying: you’ll never change the world if you don’t offend anybody.

... what she would do differently, looking back

I would have stood up for myself to people who tried to take things away from me that I knew were rightfully mine.