- Thu, 2011-04-07 10:31
Having risen from the renowned ranks of London's Brit School, Katy B has since developed her style amongst the city's bass scene, hooking up with former pirate (now official) radio station RINSE, working with dubstep dons Skream, Benga and Artwork and receiving a stamp of approval from the first lady of garage, Ms Dynamite, who joined Katy on her huge chart hit Lights On.
I Like Music caught up with Katy B on a sofa inside the hallowed back room of Rinse FM to chat about developing her debut album with Rinse producers Genius and Zinc, singing along to Christina Aguilera, her time at the Brit school, advice for young singers and her perfectly timed introduction to UK audiences.
"I Like Music because… I'm constantly absorbing something from it and when I'm performing, it gives me that release.” Katy B
ILM: How would you describe your debut album?
Katy B: It’s kind of a hybrid between UK underground music and the sounds and genres I associate with my past, coupled with my experiences of being a young woman. I wrote it while I was at Uni, between the ages of 18 and 21 so all the things that you do as a teenager and early twenty something are on there, you know, going out, being in love, being with friends...everyday things.
ILM: When did you start performing?
Katy B: I started learning the piano when I was six or something, so I did all my grades! I’d always enjoyed music, I was always performing! I did dance and acting when I was younger as well, so if I wasn’t singing I’d probably be doing some other kind of performance based thing. I learned the French Horn and everything...! When I went to Brit [school] I had to pick one thing to do. I picked music and I’m so glad I did. I got more into singing. Being around people who have all the same ambitions as you gives you the confidence to think you can do it as well. Being able to go to a school where everyone is interested in learning about the same things as you means you’re constantly bouncing ideas off each other, showing each other different music and just having fun; living life and enjoying it.
ILM: How did you get involved with Rinse? They’ve been a massive part of everything you've done so far...
Katy B: When I was a teenager I relaised I wanted to be involved in music. If someone gave me an opportunity to do something I’d be like ‘yes I’ll do it!’ even if it was the smallest little thing. That’s why I always say to people; take every opportunity even if it’s something that doesn’t seem that great. I did a lot of tracks with people in their bedrooms and stuff like that. I did one tune with my friend’s brother and it started getting played on pirate radio, so then I was going around all these different pirate radio stations in London. That’s how I met Rinse because they were playing my tunes. They wanted to get all the producers from Rinse to put a compilation of original material together and they wanted a singer to sing on top of it, which ended up being me! It was meant to be a compilation of different genres but in the end it sort of turned into my own thing really, my album So it happened quite naturally!
ILM: Have you always felt a connection with those underground sub genres represented by Rinse?
Katy B: It was an element of what I was listening to and what was big at the time. I was also a big R’n’B girl. The kind of singers who inspired me at the time were people who taught me how to sing like Beyonce, Mary J Blige, Faith Evans and lots of other pop singers. I would always be singing along with Christina Aguilera! As a young girl I was listening to pop and stuff like that, my influences are just a mix of everything really.
ILM: How would you describe the process behind the tracks on your album?
Katy B: There are two main producers on my album; Genius and Zinc, so I get a lot of beats and templates given to me first. Whatever that beat makes me feel I put myself there physically. So for instance Lights On made me want to dance, so I put myself in the position of being in a club. If something makes me feel frustrated or sad I go back to experiences in my life, back to that place and describe it. I sit at home or in the studio, play the music really loud and see what comes out.
ILM: What have you learned from Genius and Zinc? What have they taught you about music and the industry?
Katy B: They’re both ridiculously hard workers. Genius doesn’t sleep! He runs a radio station, he’s a producer, a DJ and a manager…he’s just ridiculously involved in everything. There’s so much hard work and passion and I think they’re the two main things that get you somewhere. I always call Zinc Uncle Ben because he’s given me wise words and he’s definitely there to give me advice like ‘always be happy and stay true to yourself’ and ‘have fun but work hard’.
ILM: We started to hear about your music around the time Benga, Skream and Artwork were taking dubstep to dizzy new heights with Magnetic Man. How did that level of awareness affect you?
Katy B: Well...like I was saying, everyone does so much here at Rinse. I was at Uni as well, so I was doing my album part time. There were times when I thought ‘oh… this is taking quite a long time to get off the ground’ but I’m so glad that it did. With Magnetic Man releasing their album, me being on it and having all my tracks ready to come out straight away, just as my course at Uni finished as well...it just all fell into place. It was definitely a good time, the right time.
ILM: Rinse became an official station last year, dubstep has leapt from the underground into mainstream awareness and urban artists are dominating the top 10. It's a good time for UK urban music, it seems to be growing stronger. What's your take on that development and where it will go next?
Katy B: It’s obviously a great thing. Sometimes I’m like ‘oh god my stuff is getting played on Capital FM' ha ha! Then I'll think 'ah! It's not the same!' but I’ll turn on Rinse and they’re still playing it as well as Capital. It’s a wicked feeling. I would never think in my wildest dreams that Capital FM and Rinse would both be playing my tunes! It’s really mad. I think British music in general is doing really well. I remember when I was young there were a lot of pirates and obviously Garage did amazingly well in the charts. Don't get me wrong, I love American music, a lot of my favourite artists are from America, but it’s good to be able to listen to a lot of British tunes as well. I hope it continues to thrive.
ILM: What would be your advice to the young performers and singers who look up to you?
Katy B: Take every opportunity that comes your way. If you miss one opportunity it just slows the process down. If someone asks you to do something just be on the ball and be there on time. Show that you are passionate about it...there are a million better singers than me in the world, but they might be a bit lazy or something! You’ve just got to show that you’re interested in it and passionate about it, I think that’s what made G, Ben and I work. I can see how passionate they are about music. They love taking stuff that’s unknown, bringing it out and making it bigger and showing the world; bringing it to a bigger place and developing things. It’s a really nice thing to be part of really, so work hard! Do what you like as well though... Don’t take opportunities that you’re not going to enjoy. Have fun with it. If you work hard at something that you enjoy, that’s going to be the best job in the world. I’m sure you agree!
ILM: What are your future plans and goals?
Katy B: It’s mad because as I said before I didn’t think I was going to be here! Even when I was recording my album I didn’t think it was going to come to this point. I wasn’t ready...so I don’t really know! I’m a very ‘living in the moment’ kind of person which can annoy people sometimes because I don’t really plan very well. I’m on auto-pilot throughout my day! So we’ll see... I’m quite excited about the future though. Everything that's happened so far has just made me realise that anything is possible!
Guest Edit #33: Katy B Take a look here