Katie Kittermaster is a singer songwriter from Kent who has recently been making real waves. This year would have been a very busy one with live dates a plenty in her own right and as a supporting act for some substantiated names in the industry. She toured with a recent interviewee of mine, Lucy Spraggan, and is about to release her new single, a cover of the classic ‘Every Breath You Take’. I was lucky enough to be able to ask her a few questions about what she’s been up to, the single and the sumptuous backdrop of the video to accompany it. Katie’s version of the song comes from a different place to the original and works beautifully.
EP: Katie, it’s been a busy lockdown for you hasn’t it if your social media output is anything to go by. You’ve worked really hard at staying in touch with your growing fan base haven’t you? How difficult has that been or have you enjoyed the challenges lockdown has brought?
KK: Lockdown has been challenging for everyone in our industry and I have tried to remain as active as possible during this time. During the initial lockdown, I started a series of ‘Covid cover challenges’ which was fun on a couple of levels; working with other artists that I admire but also exploring different covers and styles and hopefully creating content that my fans have enjoyed.
When I was touring pre-Covid, I rarely had time to collaborate with other artists so this has been a major positive for me. I have done a lot of virtual writing sessions which I think has helped me develop as a writer too. I have done a number of livestream performances on my social media platforms and other pages which has helped keep my fans engaged as well as introduce other people to my music. I have tried to mix it up to provide variety to what I post on social media, rather than just posting for postings sake. Thankfully, I have been really busy with new music, writing, collaborating and recording, that I have had some interesting things to post.
Sadly, like many, I have been booked for live gigs that have then been postponed but I have a few things lined up in the next few months and I am just hoping that they can go ahead. I was meant to be traveling to Germany last month for a TV spot but due to Covid travel restrictions, this had to be cancelled; just one of the many challenges we are all facing – I am just hopeful that these amazing opportunities don’t disappear!
In summary, Lockdown has been positive in some ways – it’s given me time to reassess where I am with my music, to plan the upcoming releases, to write better songs and to collaborate with some amazing people.
EP: Your recent self penned music has been gaining critical acclaim and your songwriting seems to be getting more complex, showing greater understanding of your voice and appeal. Do you feel like you’re finding your voice?
KK: My debut EP, ‘Coming Home at Dawn’ was written almost 100% by me; some of the tracks being written when I was 15 and still at school. With no formal training, looking back, these tracks were simple but I am still proud of them. But, having said that, I do feel that my writing is becoming stronger and more complex, which I think in-turn is widening its appeal. I 100% feel I am finding my voice and my sound; working with other producers and writers is definitely helping this process and I am really excited about the new music that is coming. I think I have written my favourite track so far; a track called ‘Lukewarm Lover’ which will release early in 2021.
EP: Your new single is a cover of a classic song originally by The Police. Most people are unaware of its origins. Sting said the song is “very, very sinister and ugly and people have misinterpreted it as being a gentle little love song when it’s quite the opposite”. Apparently it’s about obsession and jealousy, despite being the band’s most successful song. How did you approach it emotionally?
KK: I approached this song from another angle to be honest. My Dad, who is a teacher in China, has been stuck there since February this year. He will not make it home for Christmas and it is unlikely we will see him until June. We have been keeping in touch daily through FaceTime and Skype and basically through our phones. This connection has been our life-line with him for over 9 months. This song is about watching him through the lens of the phone. I am sure that there are many people in this situation right now, and many others who are experiencing worse separations, so it felt like a song that many could resonate with.
EP: You filmed it locally in Kent. How was the process of making a single and a video in these times of social distance?
KK: We were lucky that a friend offered her amazing greenhouse to film the video in. We sourced all the props from local suppliers who also donated them, along with a friend and pianist, Grant Sav, who allowed us to use his piano shell. The videographer was somebody we had never met before who offered his time to us as he resonated with the story-line, having lost his father when he was young. The shoot was a ‘home-made’ affair with everyone mucking in, getting dirty and very, very cold!!!!! Due to restrictions, we all had to work several metres apart and only 4 people were on set! It was a real team effort.
EP: The last year has seen you support some major artists. How do you think that has helped you develop as a live act and as a recording artist?
KK: The experience of touring with Lucy Spraggan and Boyzlife has been utterly invaluable. It certainly makes you realise that it is not glamorous, despite what the socials show!!!! It is hard work but I would not swap this for anything. I love performing live more than anything. Being a support act is, at times, tough; the audience have not come to see you (they probably have never heard of you!) and you have to work really hard to get them ‘on-side’. I’ve definitely developed a thicker skin and learnt from the other artists how to engage the audience more effectively. Performing almost nightly over many months has taught me how to prepare and how to keep myself fit. Meeting fans and engaging with them post performance and seeing them buying my merchandise was amazing.
EP: I’ve been super impressed with how hard you’ve worked with the smaller independent radio stations getting your music out there. Have you managed to make any inroads into the national radio stations?
KK: Local radio has been really key over the last few months and I am grateful for their support. BBC Kent, my local station, has supported me since the beginning of my career. National radio is more of a challenge; BBC Radio 6 has played a couple of my tracks but the BIG BOYS are yet to support me. Chris Evans attended the Pub in the Park event when I supported The Kaiser Chiefs and Soul2Soul and he mentioned me on Virgin Radio the following morning but as for my songs on national radio – that is yet to happen!
EP: For anyone out there who hasn’t been lucky enough to hear you sing, how would you describe your style and how do you see that developing?
KK: I always find this a tough question! My songs are from the heart; they are generally sad but I feel that there is always a place for a sad song. I guess acoustic/pop is probably the closest description to my music right now. For me lyrics are the key – they are super important to me and I enjoy telling a story. I believe that my music is moving closer to pop than it used to be although I don’t think I will ever discard my ‘sad girl’ roots.
EP: Who would you see as your major influences and has that changed as you’ve developed as an artist?
KK: Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift influenced my writing from a young age, especially lyrically. More recently, I aspire to the likes of Maisie Peters, Holly Humberstone and Olivia Dean; 3 very talented artists.
EP: I know lockdown meant you had to postpone lots of live dates. Have you managed to rearrange all the dates? Which one were you most disappointed to miss ?
KK: I was on tour with Keith and Brian of Boyzlife when the first lockdown was enforced, I was sad to miss the rest of this tour as we had about another 12 dates to go. Being on tour with the boys was fun and the shows were sold out, which is always a great feeling. A gig with Rick Astley was cancelled which was a great shame as he is a great showman and I have supported him before through Pub in The Park.
I was booked to support Roy Stride from Scouting For Girls in November and December but I am hoping that some of these dates will be resurrected.
The 2020 festival season was looking really positive with over 16 festivals booked – I am just hopeful that these bookings will still stand – Carfest and a couple of others have already confirmed.
We are all in the same position, so I just need to keep my head down, keep doing what I am doing and hope that the live music scene comes back to normality soon!
EP: Looking forward, what’s in the pipeline? Are you a determined planner or are you more spontaneous?
KK: More music is coming soon!!!!! I am very spontaneous and should probably work on my planning skills!!!
EP: Thanks Katie, good luck with ‘Every Breath..’. Stay healthy and I’ll look forward to seeing you play live when we all go back to ‘normal’. I know I’ll never take ‘normal ‘ for granted again…