More about: Katy J Pearson
Her voice is as memorable as her country tinged indie-folk-pop songs. Katy J Pearson has given us an enchanting insight into her world over the past year with the release of five singles from her upcoming debut album Return. Arriving armed with an industry horror story that keeps rearing its ugly head amongst young singers, Katy J Pearson is a well of honesty and resilience during our chat. Wonderfully receptive and with an infectious, chirpy aura, she's is a guitar-laden force to be reckoned with.
“I’ve been in Bristol for 3 years now and I think I’m probably going to stay here for a very long time. It’s got such an amazing music scene” she gushes at the beginning of our interview. Originally from Gloucestershire, she now lives in the nearby city we all love for its ever-growing sub-cultures. Exuberantly describing the fruitful life she leads, Katy is surrounded by creative pals who inspire her when she needs it most. “I have such wonderful support from all my peers. I’ve got such a good group of mates and team in music.”
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To truthfully start from the beginning, Katy expresses the importance of mentioning her first musical endeavour. One half of pop noir duo Ardyn, Katy signed a major label deal in her late teens alongside her brother Rob. The siblings then went on to experience the age old cliché of industry big wigs censoring their individuality and leftfield inclinations. “We were too young to be put under so much pressure” she says, “It was so unnatural. I think now, what a bunch of twats! I was so angry that people could be like that to kids.” Talking with sincere gratitude for the unique opportunity she was offered at such an age, Katy understandably has choice words on the music industry - and its infamously questionable culture.
We discuss the ins and outs of the session circuit Katy was thrust into, before she relays memories of impersonal songs written with people who barely knew her. “The amount of shit songs” she laughs candidly, “I didn’t know how to write anymore. I had this voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough. And it was always with men! They would rile me up to get upset about love!” Resulting in railroaded releases Katy felt no affiliation with, she was left deflated about a project that should’ve felt especially personal.
But like any unfortunate experience, invaluable lessons were learnt. “It gave me a lot of education in what I don’t want early on. Behind closed doors, it’s a completely different story. People are naïve to it.” She admits her experience could’ve been enough to make someone feel defeated, but Katy only took 6 months out before starting KJP with her newfound wisdom leading the way. Showing her songs to friends “Nick, Charlie and Ben”, things got moving in the right direction before Rob got back involved. “It’s very easy because he’s my sibling” Katy explains.
Things then snowballed and London’s Heavenly Recordings attended her second ever gig: after all, it was never Katy’s talent in question. Signing to the label only 3 months later, she was finally in the hands of the right people. “Now with Heavenly, everything is calmer, I have more of a community. With more of a DIY scene, everyone wants to help each other out.” She speaks with such passion when talking about her team now.
Avoiding corporate co-writes and working alongside people who understood her vision, Katy got to work on her debut, which took around 2 years to get together. She even fought to rework songs from the Ardyn days: “I knew there were songs I wanted from my old project so I managed to get them back from my label.”
It’s an album of eclectic influence but it’s timelessly traditional; Katy clearly takes sturdy songwriting influence from the classics. “I love Fleetwood Mac, Kate Bush and Arcade Fire” she explains, before stressing how she was keen to not listen to too much during the album process. Further enthused mentions of “Lucinda Williams” and “LOTS of Crosby, Stills and Nash” ignite Katy’s passion for well-crafted songs.
Elegantly produced strings elevating many of the tracks, Katy went about progressing her raw band sound the old fashioned way. “I prioritised making the songs sound good in the studio. It took a while to get to that point where I just let the songs ‘be the songs’ and not throw stuff at them.” Ali Chant (PJ Harvey, Perfume Genius) produced the record and Katy’s friend Gam (Sweat) came down from London to provide strings. “I met him in my old band when I went on tour, and he played strings in a band called Money that used to be around.” Experimental gigging, reliable friends of friends and general community spirit got the job done - as it always has.
With all the visual extras around a release coming quite naturally to Katy, she is boundlessly fun loving with a bright personality; a personality that shines through in her almost satirically country music videos. “I’m doing a video at the end of November with a comedian. He’s quite famous and got in touch! It’s going to be absolutely nuts! My label and management have given me complete creative control.” It’s refreshing to hear a young artist say this: female creativity is so often stifled and handed over to men in this industry. “Bin it off! You can do it on your own!” is Katy’s response to all the noise.
Despite the Return release glee, Katy is already chatting about the second album and how her processes are changing. With time to reflect on Return, Katy wants to move the sound on and bring in more people. “I’ve learnt so much from doing the first one. It’ll be similar in the way that I write, but I’m collaborating and working with different people and producers.” She eagerly mentions her writing with friend Oliver Wilde (Pet Shimmers) and how they’ve found solace in completing a song before adding anything else, “That’s something I’ve learnt: I just didn’t like sitting down and concentrating.”
So long are the days of anxiously awaiting the arrival of a release and yet Katy is thrilled and ready to do it all over again for the sophomore. “It doesn’t feel scary because I’m so happy with it” she says; not remotely pressured, just humbly assured and confident. “They’ll make their minds up about what they think!” she laughs with genuine nonchalance. “I’m excited for people to hear a whole body of work and to then move on from it. It will be therapeutic to get this album out. Everything feels right. I feel very lucky to feel that way.”
Return arrives 13 November via Heavenly Recordings.
More about: Katy J Pearson