In my time writing for EP, I have been lucky enough to meet many inspiring artists. Only recently I chatted with the brilliant Kiara Jordan who released a song that supported fighting hunger and malnutrition in Africa by supporting Operation Hunger. At the time, I was blown away by a young aspiring artist using her platform to change the world. For several months now, I have supported an artist from Kent who seems to be really starting to resonate with audiences everywhere. Recently, Katie Kittermaster signed a publishing deal with BMG and supported Olly Murs this Summer to some massive audiences and real critical acclaim. When Katie is not writing music, she works tirelessly to help people suffering from depression and mental health issues by going into schools in London and the South East talking about her struggles with mental health and how music has helped her. By passing on her story, she tries to show people that struggling personally and suffering from the anxieties and difficulties that depression brings can affect anyone, wherever they live, whatever their personal background or upbringing. She is tireless in using her considerable talent to help and, for me, this is something that should be applauded. I was lucky enough to chat with Katie about what she’s trying to achieve and hear about some exciting news regarding the charity My Black Dog.
My Black Dog is a charity that offers mental health chat support. It’s a peer to peer online chat service that supports people who are struggling with their mental health. All of their volunteers are people who have lived experiences of their own mental health battles and understand what you might be going through. They wholeheartedly believe that when you don’t know who to talk to, you should talk to someone who gets it. The anonymous peer to peer service they offer has the goal of putting people in touch via the web, because they know it’s really difficult to chat sometimes on a phone and that you may be more honest, more open via a text message or online chat. Real people, real experiences, zero judgement, always.
I hope you take the time to read what Katie has to say and maybe help her support this amazing charity. Enjoy the interview and if you feel that you need to chat with someone you can find My Black Dog at www.myblackdog.co. If you’d like to find out more about Katie, her music is available on all major streaming services.
EP: I recently saw you headline in London, and one of the highpoints for me was a song you sang about mental health. It would have been impossible to write that song, or sing it with such investment unless you had some experience of mental health. If it’s not too difficult, can you tell me the story behind the song Katie?
KK: For sure – it comes from a place of complete honesty and vulnerability. I have battled with my own mental health since I was maybe 11 years old. I wrote the song ‘IT’S NOT JUST YOU’ in the summer of 2019 and it was the first time I’d written about my mental health in my music. It wasn’t a song I’d ever planned on playing to anyone at all as its obviously super personal however at my lowest, one thing that really helped me to stay hopeful that things would be okay was knowing other people had felt how I had felt and come out the other side. There’s a real comfort in knowing you are not alone in your thoughts so I had to share the song as maybe it could help someone else! The song really describes how I felt at this point in time and I think that can be a really useful way to help the friends and families of someone depressed or suicidal to understand what that person might be feeling and can help them to aid them better? I haven’t released this song officially but I plan to for sure!
EP: It really is an incredible song. One of the things that I think seems to have been a direct result of the pandemic and its restrictions has been that mental health struggles have been somewhat normalised. It really is ok not to be ok and I think that we are in a much better, a much kinder place when it comes to understanding that mental health doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter what your background is, this is something that can affect us all. With that in mind, have you thought of becoming an ambassador for any of the brilliant charities that help people? I think your struggles and how you deal with them would be such an important thing for so many young people. Young girls in particular would really benefit from having you as a role model.
KK: Funny you say that actually! Just recently I have become an ambassador for a fantastic new charity called My Black Dog – they provide a service where people can text volunteers for advice / company and the niche is that all these volunteers are not trained professionals but simply someone who has at a time also struggled. This means they really understand how the person struggling is feeling and hopefully the person texting in feels more comfortable opening up! Personally for me a system like this would’ve been something I think I would have used if it was around when I needed help! I also go into schools and talk to kids from year 7 – 13 about the importance of mental health awareness. I talk to them about my personal experiences and hopefully I act as a guiding light to show them that if I got through my struggles they can to! We openly chat about how you can better your own mental health and how they can be a good friend to someone who’s needs one!!
EP: That’s incredible! I know from seeing you play live how your sincerity and honesty resonates with your audience. The subject matter of your songs is very much the stuff of everyday life, with all its subsequent highs and lows. The work you do in schools is a really great thing. You are going to be a fantastic ambassador for this charity because you’ve been to dark places yourself and that means you understand more the feeling of hopelessness that depression can bring. I know you’ve said before that music literally saved your life, but do you sometimes wonder if you haven’t put yourself into a business that can be brutally unkind and often time unfair? How do you stay positive?
KK: I’m blessed not to have experienced too much of that side of the industry – I make sure to surround myself with lovely positive people who I trust and who make me feel good about myself! It can be really unfair and I do think it can be a lot to do with who you know and being in the right place at the right time! But also hard work and talent of course!!!
EP: Your songs to date have been very personal and drawn from your own experiences of growing up. Do you have any plans to try to collaborate with other artists, maybe from different backgrounds and, perhaps, different genres to widen the reference of your songs? I think that experimenting with song writing from somebody else’s perspective could help you resonate with a wider audience but, probably more importantly, add another facet to your already very honest and introspective style?
KK: Yes! After signing my publishing with BMG in May I have started working with other artists and write on other people projects which is really challenging but in a good way! I’ve also written songs for my own catalogue where I’ve put myself in someone else shoes – it’s a really good way, as you say, to connect with more people and also create new ideas to write about!
EP: It’s been a big year for you in many ways. As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, you have had a year where you’ve played to what must have been your biggest audiences with Olly Murs and had queues of people who wanted to meet you afterwards and get autographs and pictures. You’ve also played a full band headline gig in London to a sell-out crowd who were there to see you! Nobody else, you! Those events must have really felt good. With all the things that are going so well, how do you plan to turn your obvious connection to live audiences into streams and sales?
KK: I plan to do lots more live gigs and I suppose hope that people like the songs enough to listen to them after the show. As well as making content for my online platforms like Instagram and TikTok! For a lot of my releases I also do a stripped back / live sounding version so think this helps to bridge the gap too!
EP: Katie, there can be no doubt that you work very hard to develop as an artist. Not only that, you work very hard to help others with your tireless commitment to mental health issues. Do you feel there is a bias towards edgy artists by radio stations and do you feel a pressure to change? Surely this is an unspoken form of discrimination in the music industry.
KK: What an interesting way of looking at things – I guess I’ve not really thought about the industry like this before – I know first-hand how easy it can be to get wrapped up in what’s ‘cool’ and what’s ‘edgy’ but really I think authenticity is the coolest thing and it’s better to do your thing and hope people will understand it and love it rather than chase what you think people want to hear. Saying this, yes I do feel pressure to change how I look and how I sound which is sad really but we are also uniquely us because of our environment I think and it’s okay to grow, develop and experiment!
EP: I think it’s important to love yourself for the way you are, and not worry about the things you are not. I think that’s a much healthier thing to do whether we are talking about music or life. Conformity has never been the mother of invention has it? With invention in mind, have you ever considered crossing into different genres, for instance Country music, as your honest story telling lyricism would lend itself to the music brilliantly. Country is moving ever closer to Pop, and Pop is edging closer to Country with singers like Taylor Swift obviously being the best example of a singer that has done both brilliantly.
KK: Yes, for sure I think you can really hear tones of country and folk in my earliest releases – I like the way my lyric style, which has elements of country, contrasts with the more pop production! I am starting to write for other people as well which means I’m adapting the way I write to fit other genres too!
EP: I recently read a post from Maverick Sabre, one of my favourite artists, who said this:
”is anyone selling us sex anymore or are we the new suppliers? Once we become aware that a little more skin or a sexier photo means a little more love have we all crumbled at some point to using something other than our art or our character to showcase ourselves. If so, then what does that say about where we are going in society? Are we feeding the machine? Algorithms that need click bait, sensation and all play into some basic human instincts of sex and addiction. Is even interacting with it being sucked into the madness. Sometimes I come online to post an opinion or story or push a new tune and then I put my phone away because it feels like the false reality of the whole thing is picking away at me. Maybe it’s time to go live in a tree, or maybe this is just the way the world is now and we have to learn to adapt whilst maintaining the peace of my soul. Or maybe you’ll see me on TikTok finding my happy medium or selling myself short because a compromise became a betrayal of who I am, and the numbers got to me in the end.”
This coincided with seeing a post by you looking confident, healthy and stunning performing live with the caption along the lines of not loving your side profile. My long winded question is this: do you feel an unfair pressure from social media? Once Twitter and IG used to be a glimpse into the lives of our heroes, male and female, and give a sense of normality. It used to stand for real connection between artists and fans. Now, it seems to have become a force for something a little more sinister, something that chips away at the self-worth of us all. What are your thoughts as a young, aspiring musician?
KK: Oh my goodness I REALLY feel this – I do try to push back on this whole algorithm based success and try to still by my more modest less over-the-top self and make the focus all about the art but it’s hard to ‘compete’ with people that are conforming. However, these platforms can be really great for exposure so it’s an interesting debate.
EP: So finally, Katie, with your tie up with Black Dog being exciting news personally what are your hopes for the future musically? Can we expect any pre-Christmas releases?
KK: Yes!!! I don’t want to give too much away but hopefully I’ll be releasing something with My Black Dog before the new year!! Thank you so much for this Steve what a fab and in-depth interview!
EP: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I am so in awe of artists that work so hard to bring their music to life and in so doing helping so many, often never realising how important their music is, to someone, somewhere. Music can change lives and in some cases save lives. Please continue to do the brilliant work you are doing and know that, whatever the future brings, you will have affected so many lives already. I write for nothing more than the hope that my articles, in some way, help artists achieve a wider audience. I’m constantly thankful for artists like you who bring eloquence and understanding to music and I thank you for your continued effort to help those around you.
KK: Aww thank you so much!