SINGER-SONGWRITER KATHRYN WILLIAMS IS CURRENTLY ON A UK TOUR TO PROMOTE HER ALBUM CROWN ELECTRIC.
The 13 track release, Kathryn’s tenth, includes recent single HEART SHAPED STONE and was produced by long-time musical foil Neill McColl. Largely recorded at Bryn Derwen Studios in North Wales, with sumptuous strings added at Ray Davies’ legendary Konk Studios in London, CROWN ELECTRIC boasts collaborations with Ed Harcourt and James Yorkston. Recognised as one of Britain’s finest songwriters since 2000’s LITTLE BLACK NUMBERS was Mercury Prize nominated, Kathryn’s music has often challenged the distinctions between folk and pop. Her fresh and classic sounding new album has the potential to finally catapult her into a much bigger league. CROWN ELECTRIC is released on September 30th and can be ordered on CD or vinyl direct from One Little Indian (here) or downloaded from iTunes (here).
Kathryn is currently touring CROWN ELECTRIC (dates below). To win a pair of tickets for the gig at The Greystones in Sheffield on Wednesday 16th October, email our usual address.
THE SONGS ON YOUR NEW ALBUM FEEL LIKE CLASSIC SONGWRITING… THE MOODS, THE ARRANGEMENTS… WERE YOU GOING FOR THAT VIBE OR DID IT JUST GROW FROM BEING IN A RICH VEIN OF FORM?
It being my tenth album there was a pressure. Neill MacColl and I talked heavily about what I wanted, and we looked at albums to point towards without copying. We ended up with around 50 songs to work with and pick from…
SO WHAT WERE THE RECORDS YOU’D POINTED TOWARDS?
We were listening to Beck’s SEA CHANGE and Bjork’s HOMOGENIC… Things like Simon and Garfunkel… and Carole King…
THE ALBUM HAS A LIVE FEEL, IT SOUNDS LIKE A BAND PLAYING IN A ROOM…
Yes, the all-live recording happened for CROWN ELECTRIC, as it did for my album THE QUICKENING in 2010. There’s something beautiful and fresh with that approach. It’s old school – it’s an instant insight into what the record will be. You have to work with amazing musicians to play all-live. It becomes feel. It’s about giving away control.
SO HOW MUCH OF AN INFLUENCE DID THAT APPROACH HAVE?
All the musicality on the new record, and the productive decisions… I give all praise for those to the band and to Neill MacColl.
DO YOU CRAFT AT YOUR SONGS, OR DO THEY ‘ARRIVE’ ..?
Both. I have no rules. I do craft – but not in a vain self-congratulated way. I serve the song till it does what it is that I need it to do. Which is to connect… in a visual way – or like a feeling, a memory or a pang of truth. It’s always emotions that drive me, really.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
Well, I never once had a plan. I sang secretly in my room. Then I did gigs. Then I started my own label. And I got interest almost immediately… But I’ve actually only just got comfortable with calling myself a songwriter.
HAS YOUR WRITING CHANGED SINCE YOUR EARLY RECORDS? YOU WRITE FOR OTHER PEOPLE, TOO – IS THAT RESTRICTIVE, MORE OF A PUZZLE?
I’ve had a long apprenticeship. Writing, co writing, writing and living. Writing for a brief, writing for other voices… All this has honed my writing I think. I kind of know and trust my own judgment. It’s always a puzzle. An invisible puzzle with no game rules. You feel your way and when it starts to take shape it often becomes nothing like you’d imagined.
IT’S BEEN ALMOST 15 YEARS SINCE YOUR DEBUT… AND YOUR SECOND ALBUM, LITTLE BLACK NUMBERS, BROUGHT YOU TO WIDER ATTENTION BY BEING NOMINATED FOR A MERCURY MUSIC PRIZE… SEEMINGLY ‘OUT OF NOWHERE’…
I know! It still feels like that…
… CAN YOU REMEMBER WHO YOU WERE UP AGAINST?
Badly Drawn Boy won it the year I was in. Coldplay were also up… Doves, Nitin Sawnhey… I think there’s some good stuff in there this year. My new record came too late to enter. So I’m a bit jealous! Ha ha…
AROUND THIS TIME YOU FAMOUSLY TURNED DOWN AN APPEARANCE ON LATER WITH JOOLS HOLLAND…
The BBC asked me to do it… but I felt I didn’t have the confidence to go on that show and do it without the band. I think they thought I was being cocky. I wasn’t… I was paralysed by nerves!
YOU SIGNED TO A MAJOR FOR A COUPLE OF ALBUMS, HAS YOUR APPROACH CHANGED SINCE THAT EXPERIENCE?
It’s been interesting. I was actually self releasing before it was really a ‘thing’ to take that approach. Then I signed to a major for three albums, then went back to my own label, and now I’m on an Indie. So I’ve seen the whole spectrum. But, really, nothing has prepared me for the changes in the industry – and the lack of worth music seems to have now.
YOU RELEASED A GREAT COVERS ALBUM, RELATIONS… BUT WAS THAT ABOUT TAKING A PAUSE AFTER THE FIRST FEW RECORDS?
I did that record to fall back in love with music, after having my mojo knocked out of me by someone in the industry…
… AND THERE WAS OBVIOUSLY A GREAT DEAL OF LOVE WENT INTO THE DIVERSE CHOICE OF MATERIAL ON IT: BIG STAR, LEONARD COHEN, THE BEE GEES, PAVEMENT, IVOR CUTLER…
I thought it would just be my favourite artists… but songs end up choosing you. I’d like to do another one, actually. There’s always more. And it’s fun to lie on floors full of records!
FINALLY, YOU’RE TOURING CROWN ELECTRIC RIGHT NOW… BUT WHAT’S NEXT?
I’m writing songs around Sylvia Plath’s book THE BELL JAR. I’m constantly writing, actually… And one day I’ll hoover my house!