With several chart-topping singles, forays into films and an emerging record label, Kate Nash is running on some powerful batteries. If you haven’t been paying careful attention, you might be forgiven for thinking that Nash’s career began and ended with a number of radio friendly singles. But just because none of her consecutive follow-ups have reached the heights of her initial success, Nash, is no one-hit wonder. When she released her debut album, at the age of 19, she immediately blossomed into a full-fledged celebrity. While her music has now shifted increasingly toward a less mainstream, and more indie-rock sound, the down-to-earth singer has now found countless outlets for her talents. Since unveiling latest album, she has been feeling the liberating rush of coming of age.
She has also endured many setbacks, and, in 2012, without warning she was dropped by her record label. But let’s face it — Great Britain loves the comeback kid. Earlier this year, she independently released her fifth LP, ‘Girl Talk,’ and is constantly touring across the globe. Now on a confidence roll, with dazzling prospects ahead, Kate, who was at her mother’s house when we called her ahead of her hotly anticipated gig at Beck’s Live, which she is set to headline on 11 June, talked to us about why she doesn’t like to be called ‘famous’, shopping in charity shops, and being a survivor.
I want to call this interview ‘Talking to a woman made of bricks.” You’ve had a few knocks over the years, but yet you’re still standing. How are you feeling?
I feel good, liberated and really empowered by what I am doing. I have a lot of fans who have been integral throughout my entire career, and I think that alone speaks volume. Even though I was dropped by my record label, I have just got back from doing two sold out tours in America. I have some really great friends who have helped me through a few emotional phases, but I’m still here. I’m a survivor.
This month marks six years since the release of ‘Foundations’. So tell me how you came up with it. Were you applying some foundations and all of a sudden the idea came into your head?
It’s actually quite funny because I am sitting in the exact place where I wrote Foundations. There used to be this old garage in our house but then my mum and dad converted it into a small room for me and my sister to hang out in. I did a lot of writing in here – believe it or not I am actually sitting in the same spot where I wrote that song. I just remember coming up with some lines that I thought were funny, but it was sort of a throw way song to me at first. At the time, I didn’t really know what to do with it.
I imagine you’ve been asked this over and over again, but why do you think ‘Foundations’ was such a big hit?
I think it’s just an honest song. Sometimes it is hard to break up with someone whether you’re in a girlfriend or boyfriend relationship, or working relationship – it’s really hard to walk away when you have a connection with that person. Even when you know it is wrong, you’re still attached to those feelings of commitment and loyalty. I think so many people go through those things and that’s the reason why people still relate to it.
Do you ever get trapped by your writings?
I have never really thought about that – but I think sometimes it’s hard playing live shows when you’re addressing personal issues which you want to move on from, but then you have to sing them every night. That can be quite painful, but I suppose it’s a form of therapy for me to talk about what’s happened in a healthy way.
You’ve had an amazing career, achieving a level of success in a short period of time and at a very young age. But is it much easier these days? Are you more relaxed compared to when you first started out?
I am ambitious and always very driven, which is weird because at the same time I feel relaxed. I’m much more in control of my career now and I feel a lot more liberated and empowered. Since being dropped from the label, there are things I still want to achieve that will be significant to me. When you have a label injecting money into you compared to now as I am doing it all on my own whatever I achieve along the way will have a more significant meaning to me. Now that I’ve just done two sell out US tours, I’m more like f—k yeah. I am really proud of that, and as I’m getting older I am also appreciating what I am doing a lot more. I am always striving and working towards the future. I am 25 now, and I am still as ambitious as ever.
Do you consider yourself a rebel?
I am rebellious through my music. I have always been really cheeky and kind of like messing with the rules. When you’re in a bad mood with your parents, and you want to run upstairs and slam the door or when you’re in a horrible relationship, and you need to have something to support you – music is all about helping you survive those moments. Almost every musician has been rebellious, whether it’s The Buzzcocks, Courtney Love, Curt Cobain, Patti Smith, Kim Gordon, Blondie or even The Spice Girls. They were my first ever favourite band, and even though they were a huge pop phenomenon they were marketed as cheeky and rebellious which I loved. I think the music industry worries too much about making people safe. Record labels are no longer willing to take risks with artists and dance music is what people are buying – so that’s what everyone is making. I like to standout and that is why I am now doing what I have always loved.
Let’s talk about your music videos, which I think is what makes you so exceptional. I have noticed that in most of them you’re either sitting or lying down. Is that something you’re aware of?
That’s not true [laughs]. I didn’t realise that, but maybe I’m just really lazy. There’s a really epic moment of me standing on another human floating across a pool in my ‘OMYGOD’ video, so when I do stand I make a big deal about it [laughs].
Has anyone ever followed you into a bathroom, onto a train or a bus just so they can say, “I peed or sat next to Kate Nash”?
Oh my god! I don’t know. I think you can always tell when someone spots you – they get giggly, or they have this really wide-eyed look. I have had a few people stop me on trains before, but they usually do come up and say something afterwards. That’s actually made me feel really weird now that you’ve said someone might want to follow me to the toilet just to pee next to me.
When did you first realise you were famous?
I find that word so uncomfortable. I do not really consider myself as a famous person, however, meeting people after my shows and seeing them express their emotions on how much they like my music really does get to me. I think reading letters from fans about their experiences, and their personal stories on how my music helped them through difficult times also make me happy. I read this fan mail from a guy, who was saying he didn’t know what to do with life as he was really depressed. He wrote in the letter, ‘Before I made any life changing decisions I lied down and listened to every single one of your records to try to give me strength.’ Reading things, like that is what reminds me of the impact my music is having on people’s lives.
Okay, let me ask you this: how much have you changed since you became successful?
In the past few years I have definitely changed as a person. I think you learn and you grow from every experience you encounter. I started out when I was 19 so along the way I have changed. It would be weird if I hadn’t. It’s been a really interesting journey, but there are parts of me that haven’t changed due to success. I take a lot of pride in the fact that I am grounded. I remember a significant moment with my sister in the early stages when I was still living at home, and we were fighting a lot. I cannot really remember what I was going through at the time, but I do remember my sister giving me a really good telling off, and ever since then I said to myself, I don’t ever want to be a d—k.
Right I want to ask you some questions outside of music. Did you ever pull a sickie when you were younger so you could stay home?
Yeah. I did as many times as I possibly could. I even did the really bad fake cough, and because I had asthma, I use to always blame it on that.
When you were in school, were you part of the cool gang?
I am not cool at all. In fact, I’m very goofy, nerdy and clumsy, but I’ve really accepted the fact that I’m not cool. There are different meanings of the word, and I wasn’t cool at the age of 15. I think I’m now happy with myself and I’m cool in terms of what I consider the meaning to be. I most definitely wasn’t a part of the cool gang.
In 2012, you worked with Willow Smith. Are you still in touch with her?
Yeah, every now and then. She is just incredible and I have so much respect for her and her family. She’s very loved and nurtured. She is so wise and beyond her years. She doesn’t give a s—t about what anyone thinks of her, and she also writes really amazing music. I really like her.
I’m convinced Willow, Will, and Jaden are all, the same people but just different sizes.
They are all amazing! Willow has got a lot of Will’s nature – she is always making jokes.
I get the impression from your latest album ‘Girl Talk’, that you were pretty much the one in the studio waving the wand.
This was such an important album for me. I went through a really crap time and had one of the craziest things to happen to me in my personal life – so for me this was either explode or implode – I exploded. I threw myself into my rehearsal room and wrote the records. After seven years of touring, playing live music, being in and out of many studios, I learnt a lot about music and how to create sounds, as well how to be really picky about what I wanted. I was actually really fussy about everything – from the sounds of all the guitars tothe vocals. I also feel as though I found the perfect partner in the studio, which was Tom Biller, who produced the album. I never felt so respected and safe. He is one of my favourite humans ever, and I really loved the fact that I wasn’t afraid of being in the studio with him. I felt really brave voicing everything that came to me. I mean we recorded the album in a mansion in Los Angeles, and it was so incredible. It was like a dream as we had our own guard dogs, grapefruit trees and a giant ballroom with the sun beaming through. My advice to anyone who goes through a rough time is to ride it out.
How would you describe your style?
I still buy really weird clothes. I am still a charity shop girl and I enjoy buying second hand clothes. I have a sense of humour when I dress which often isn’t the best style choice, but I enjoy it. I think I’m a mixture between a vintage movie star and a riot kind of girl. I always like to wear black fishnets and creepers. The most important thing a girl can learn is to how to dress to suit her body rather than trying to get her body to fit into stuff that does not fit her. That’s something I have really learnt to accept. There are certain types of clothes I really want to wear, but because they don’t fit my shape I don’t wear them anymore.
How do you think today’s female singers in the charts—like Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Jessie J R—are handling pop stardom?
It is a weird thing to handle, but Jessie J seems to be doing really well. I have heard her music is in a lot of American movies. I’m a massive fan of Taylor and I love her songs. I also like Marina and The Diamonds and Beyonce – but I think we need more women who just don’t give a s—t and that will accept the things that are considered ugly about us women.
Finally, I want to talk about your upcoming headline show with Beck’s Live, who have a long history of supporting up and coming talent. What was your reaction when they called?
I said yes straightaway. I am really excited about it. I can’t wait.
Kate Nash will headline Beck’s Live at Barfly on Tuesday June 11. Tickets are free, however a £1.25 booking fee per ticket will apply. For more information, click here .