In Conversation: Kathryn Williams

A few days before we spoke to Liverpool born, Newcastle dwelling singer Kathryn Williams had rounded her year off with a show at the beautiful London venue Union Chapel. We caught up with her to discuss her successful 2013, how she juggles being an artist and mother, and some of the issues facing musicians today.

How was the Union Chapel show?

It was a complete highlight of my career!

Were you looking forward to it, or were you a little nervous?

I was very nervous! It was with a string section and a very big band. We had done the tour as a three-piece and had no rehearsals or other gigs with the strings and band. But we knew we were all going to bring it to the gig. It’s an amazing venue and was the last date of the tour.

How were the other dates?

Really wonderful! In the past I've had terrible problems with nerves and paranoia. But me, Ben Trigg (cello) and David Page (guitar) had such a laugh. We had Alex Cornish support and he felt like part of our band too. Most of what I’ll remember is just making each other laugh.

'Crown Electric' is a beautiful album with some great songs - how pleased are you with it?

Thank you! It’s my tenth record, but I'm constantly surprised and amazed at how much love you can have inside for songs. I think this is my best record to date.

Where do the songs come from? 'Heart Shaped Stone' for example?

They can come from anywhere. That particular song came when we were on tour in Brighton. Neill MacColl and I were backstage and the nanny who was looking after my boy Louis said she'd been looking on a beach for a heart shaped stone. It was such a big bang in my head. We wrote that song and refined it through the tour.

The dreamy ‘Monday Morning’ has a touch of The Beatles to it; have any other Liverpudlian artists had an influence on you and your songwriting?

I think it’s hard to come from Liverpool and not be influenced by The Beatles. It was a while in school before I realised Beatles songs weren't hymns.

What has been the most satisfying moment of your career so far?

So many fantastic things: the Mercury Prize, outdoor gigs in Regents Park, but getting a standing ovation at the Union Chapel gig was right up there.

Who else do you admire that’s making music today?

Loads of people. I'm lucky to have mates in music I admire like Ed Harcourt, James Yorkston, Tom Mcrae. Then I love The Be Good Tanyas and Laura Viers. Gosh, there’s too many to name!

What’s it like being a female folk singer in the UK in 2013?

It’s a funny question because I don't see myself as folk singer. The folk world don't think of me as folk and the pop world don't think of me as pop. But being a woman in music… it has been a long time I have been in music. I've had nothing but respect from my peers. It gets difficult being a mum and being away. Sometimes you just wish you could split yourself in two.


Have you seen changes in the industry over the last ten years?

The record business has changed massively in the last ten years. I started on my own label, then went on a major, back to my own label and now I'm on One Little Indian, an indie.

The biggest change is that it is very hard for someone at my level to make music. People are listening to music on Spotify and the money just doesn't reach us. I think that format wouldn't be accepted in any other business. Money is being made by people who haven't created the art. They've produced a market where people think music should be free. But it isn't free to make or tour and unless you have major backing it is incredibly tough.

How do you feel you’ve changed since your Mercury nomination for 'Little Black Numbers' in 2000?

Massively. I’m a mother of two. I've made eight albums since then and done a lot of writing with and for other artists. I feel much more confident live and in my writing. I know how precious my job is and I feel lucky to be still doing it.

Kathryn's album, 'Crown Electric', is out now on One Little Indian Records.

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