With a new album, a world tour and an obsessive approach toward writing, KATE NASH still has time for catching up with Riot Grrl and modern feminist literature, as ANDY HAZEL discovers.
Kate Nash is a force of nature, a polarising and prolific performer as British as Bow Bells and as verbose as a Cockney car salesman on a roll. No longer reeling from her dizzying year of 2008 which saw her go from ex-BRIT school theatre graduate with a broken leg and the maternal gift of a guitar, via a MySpace hype-explosion (remember them?), to a UK number one album and accolades both in the US and UK, Nash has chilled. Whether these props are deserved is a hotly debated topic on blogs and, you’d imagine, between teenage couples; topics for songs usually surround boys being jerks, girls being exasperated, and acting independently. However, three years into a relationship with Cribs’ guitarist Ryan Jarman attentions have turned elsewhere.
“I think that life is still a little bit hectic and mental but I’m used to it now,” she says in her typical rapid-fire manner. “I’m used to the lifestyle; being away from home a lot, constantly having to deal with the merry-go-round of shows and meeting people but now I’m more settled and I’ve bought my own place. It’s really nice to chill out and have your own space, so I’m really enjoying playing live and playing the new songs and getting to tour.”
With her schedule soon to be bringing her from the summer festival circuit of the UK to our own shores, Nash has been getting to know her songs in a new way. “It’s interesting playing an album I’ve fully realised,” she ponders. “I feel like I’m more at ease with the whole process because I put a lot of pressure on myself to live up to the expectations of what an artist does after their first album and it’s not easy to a year to write another lifetime of experience in a year. My Best Friend is You I kind of wrote without realising it. I never sat down and said ‘I’m going to write a second record’, I just wrote, I wrote the songs and let them come out the way they did.”
Featuring songs that are already hits in the UK Do Wah Doo and Kiss The Grrl the two predominant musical themes of the album are detectable in those titles. “I was listening to a lot of soul, 90s Riot Grrl and girl groups and I wanted to have that clash of sounds on the album; 60s vintage styles, spoken word and Motown and experiment sonically and mix it up a little bit.”
Mixing up songs is something that Nash is particularly accomplished at, with the year since her début Made of Bricks spent “doing normal things, like sitting around at home in my dressing-gown watching daytime television,” followed by year of working with a frankly impressive array of collaborators. Producer Bernard Butler, folkstar Billy Bragg, Blur’s Dave Rowntree and Jason Trachtenberg from his Family Slideshow Players feature among the musicians she’s worked with both musically and as part of her social activism. “When it comes to collaborations, I think you have to go with what you feel, what you like and trust and form a relationship,” she affirms. “It has to be natural and organic. Being who I am I’m very reliant on gut instinct and if I think something feels right then I go with it.”
This ‘going with it’ approach has been seeing a lot of exercise as Nash’s work ethic begins to look like that of an army squadron. Yet another graduate from The BRIT School of Performing Arts and Technology (Amy Winehouse, Imogen Heap, Noisettes etc.), Nash found her time there as integral to much more than just her songwriting. “They were my formative years. I studied theatre so it taught me about taking myself out of comfort zone, putting everything on the line, being fearless and a lot about storytelling and about creating a character. Most of all I took it very seriously and did a lot of things I was afraid of and developed a lot as a songwriter and performer because of it.”
Being almost absurdly productive and active is something that seems to be essential for any artist wanting to keep the attention of a largely teen and twenty-something fanbase, though it doesn’t seem as if this is a calculated move by any means when it comes to Kate Nash. “I do keep a diary as I write day to day,” she says “I’m trying to write down when specific things happen to try and remember write in a matter of fact way to record events and sometimes to remember where I come from. I write short stories and pieces for my blog and myself so it’s absolutely part of my day-to-day existence.”
Much of her writing is personal as her songs seem and, naturally for someone whose lyrics have been described as ‘gauche live journal poetry,” her fans respond. “I get really nice things from fans,” she says, brightening. “I have a book coming out soon as well so I’ve got a lot to write for and I get a lot of response to that. A little while ago I asked people to write about what love is and this one woman sent me a piece about how her three-year-old kid had leukaemia and the way this had changed the way she expressed love. She was writing about how in nature a bird would rip off their wing to help their baby, an elephant would lie down next to their baby and die for it and this woman wrote that love was shown by the way she could carry her pain. I published her letter and then she wrote to me again, and her kid wrote to me as well. It’s a bizarre relationship as you don’t know them but you do; really intimately.”
The theme of friendship and support is a key one both creatively and emotionally, Nash clearly holds friendship and her relationship with Ryan Jarman as sacred above all other things. Though not musically related, she describes their relationship as ‘a special situation’. “We’re spending a lot of time apart and that’s a challenge,” she says seriously. “It’s very romantic to miss each other and to get excited to see each other. I can’t imagine being with someone who doesn’t do the same thing as me, I couldn’t be with someone who didn’t inspire me. It’s easy now, we understand each other and understand the stresses, know what it’s like to do promo and be on tour and to be able to enjoy music together. We have a few things we like to play together too, but we very much have our own lives,” like all best friends.