The waitress who’s an internet sensation

LOOKING GOOD Katie on stage
LOOKING GOOD Katie on stage
Portsmouth & Southsea railway station by Andy Cooper

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For most aspiring singers, there is a eureka moment. A light bulb comes on when they realise they actually have something special to offer.

In 2001, at school in Bognor Regis, Katie Owen had her moment. As a shy 13-year-old, she faced the wall in her classroom, took a deep breath and, at the request of her teacher, started singing Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On.

LOOKING GOOD Katie at a photoshoot

LOOKING GOOD Katie at a photoshoot

From then on there was only one thing she ever wanted to be; a singer.

Ten years down the line and Chichester-born Katie’s dreams of stardom get closer every day.

She’s lined up to sing at The Martial Arts Show at Birmingham’s NEC and has more than 200,000 internet fans on MySpace – all while working part-time as a restaurant waitress at Port Solent.

‘When I was really young, I used to go round school and say that I was going to be a singer,’ says Katie, who now lives in Wickham. near Fareham.

‘But I was quite shy until I was 13, when my teacher told me to sing the song from the film Titanic at the wall, right up close to it. It gave me the confidence to do it.’

At first she says her parents didn’t take her seriously, but it wasn’t long until they came round to her way of thinking. After leaving Bognor Regis Community College she went on to attend Southampton Solent University to study product design and marketing.

It was here Katie wrote the poetry that became the backbone of her lyrics, but she left at Christmas to focus on her music career.

Today, her parents fund her time in recording studios and her music videos.

Her first album, Coming on Strong, came out in 2008 and was recorded at HL Studios in Southampton.

Her second album, Black on Black, came out late last year and was recorded by Ed Clery, a musician based in Chichester who has worked with acts such as Blu Cantrell and Misteeq.

Katie says: ‘Me and my dad make the music at home and the studio copies it across on to their system. They might add extra beats or parts, but it is my music.’

She adds: ‘I used to record a lot of covers when I went into the studio, but started to realise that people didn’t want me to sing covers. You have to be a writer, so we sat down and started writing.’

Katie says recording her albums has been the really exciting part of her journey so far.

‘The first time it was really fun. I drank a lot of coffee. We would be there from morning until night, and I would get so tired.

‘But after the coffee I would just go crazy in the recording studio.

‘The second one was done in Chichester. It was small and freezing because it was in the winter, and before we started recording I would listen to music just to warm myself up.’

To help promote her music online, Katie has made videos for three of her songs, Wrong All Along, Terrified and Better Things To Do.

She says: ‘It was fun and we went to some quite cool locations.

‘The first one was in a derelict asylum in Lincoln and it was freezing.

‘There’s part of it I had to record a few times through a huge wind machine, and I had to act like I wasn’t cold. My mum kept running on between takes to put a coat round me.’

Although Katie admits she has had her doubts in the past over whether her pursuit of fame and success is really worth it, she feels more confident than ever before.

‘I was thinking ‘‘this is so much hard work’’ and my parents were paying a lot of money for things,’ she says.

‘I felt responsible and I started to feel so bad.

‘When you get turned down for things and people don’t get back to you, it is upsetting. You get offended. But I am over that now.’

Having applied for TV talent shows like X Factor when she was younger, Katie says she doesn’t have much time for them any more.

She thinks the internet is the best way to get yourself noticed.

She explains: ‘A lot of other people I saw were really, really good on X Factor, but didn’t get through.

‘Then you find out the people who win have been to special performing schools. It’s a TV show, so it has to guarantee itself a good winner. I think they find them beforehand.’

Katie adds: ‘If you really want something, you have to stick at it. I think having your own material helps.’

She says of the internet: ‘That’s the way to go now. If we didn’t have it we couldn’t do this stuff because no-one would hear it. It’s definitely really helpful.’

But live performances are also important. This weekend she’ll be on stage at the NEC in Birmingham and she’s also considering doing a ‘mini tour’ in America.

In between all this and doing interviews and recording songs, she is still a waitress.

She explains: ‘Lately it’s been getting more and more active. I keep thinking ‘‘oh my God I’m quite busy’’, but then I still have to go to work. I have to go in and say “Can I book all these days off?”.’

So what if her dream came true and she hit the big time?

She says: ‘If my dream came true my family would come with me. My mum is my manager, which is a good thing. Obviously because I’m working as well she organises everything for me. It’s nice because we have a good relationship. It’s all a lot of fun.’

Her goal is to get signed to a record label because, she says: ‘I want to do all the things my idols do, maybe sing in the same places. Everything they have done, I want to do.’

It already seems Katie is a million miles away from singing at that classroom wall – and there’s no stopping her.