Kate Nash - more salty than sweet in US tour
When British singer-songwriter Kate Nash burst on the scene two years ago - with her fire-cracking, potty-mouthed pop full-length debut, titled Made of Bricks, a 20-year-old Nash quickly rose to the top of the charts in her home country, the next year winning the BRIT Award for best British female artist over Leona Lewis, KT Tunstall and others. She seemed on the fast track toward international celebrity status.
Fast forward two years and Nash, on the heels of her sophomore effort, My Best Friend is You, and the now 22-year-old has taken her sound in a slightly new direction, drawing inspiration from '50s girls groups and riot grrrls like Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill with a sound that's decidedly more salty and less sweet than her chart-topping debut. But despite the new edge, Nash's music retains a cheeky charm that bodes well for her hopes of a westward conquest.
In the midst of her third North American tour, Nash spoke with EDGE about her latest album, her Halloween escapades and how she responds to journalists who ask her, "Why don't you care about being sexy?"
EDGE: How’s this tour going and how does it compare to your previous treks across North America?
Kate Nash: I think these are the best shows we’ve ever done actually. We’ve actually brought production to the show with some lighting and stage design that I worked on in the UK, so I’m really glad managed to take that with me.
EDGE: I believe I read somewhere that were giant frogs involved somewhere in the staging? I could be mistaken.
KN: Giant frogs!? No, I think whoever wrote that was incorrect, or they were on some kind of drugs at the show.
EDGE: Fair enough! I just watched your latest video, "Later On," which is a really fun take on a Halloween party. Did you manage to have a fun time this year?
KN: Yeah, I did. We did a show in San Francisco and dressed up for that, and then the next day we went up to a gig in Portland. There was a haunted corn maze where a man chased after me with a chainsaw. It was terrifying.
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Getting stress out
EDGE: Sounds like it! You’re also sponsoring, with Perez Hilton, a contest for fans to win tickets to your shows if they offer you advice on good places to check out while you’re in town. How is that going?
KN: It’s great. I feel like I’ve been to a lot of these places several times and have friends in each town that are recommending places to go. Last night, I went to a raw food restaurant which was really great.
EDGE: Speaking of your new album, My Best Friend is You, I’m curious how the spoken word pieces like "Mansion Song" and "Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt" translate live. It seems like they would almost be more challenging than the traditionally structured songs.
KN: I like doing it, actually. Those songs are more aggressive and it’s a really good way to get stuff and stresses out of my system. I actually really like it.
EDGE: Have the more aggressive songs made it difficult for some of your fan base to get into your music, if they aren’t as attracted to the grittier styles?
KN: I’ve had good reactions to the album. I think it’s important, like friends, to know who is truly interested in you as an artist and will be happy you progressed with your sound versus some people who were only interested in me for one song. It’s important to keep changing, growing and developing as an artist.
EDGE: Ultimately, isn’t the most important thing that you feel genuinely happy about the album? It has your name on it, after all.
KN: Yes, the most important thing is that, whatever happens, you just can’t regret anything you’ve done. You have to be proud of what you’ve created.
EDGE: You’ve been very openly uncomfortable with the "female as genre" style of music criticism and journalism. Do you feel the industry is getting better in providing less stereotyped coverage of you and other female artists?
KN: I try not to read the media too much because I get depressed when I read it, but I’m grateful for the really great writers that are out there. Some writers, though, I think are a bit jaded, maybe they wanted to do other things and didn’t get to do them, I’m not really sure. I think it’s like that in the UK, though I can’t speak for the whole world. U.S. press seem to be very different than the UK, where people are more cynical and they don’t really like artists changing. Some people in the UK don’t like the new album because it’s different.
EDGE: Off of that, of all the interviews you do, what are some questions you’re really tired of being asked?
KN: I’ve been getting asked why I "don’t care about being sexy" or why I don’t do "scandalous" photos -- stuff like that annoys me. I wrote an article about it recently for the Independent. I also think it’s kind of lame to ask who I’d most like to collaborate with -- I don’t really know!
EDGE: Who are some contemporary performers you’ve really been enjoying?
KN: I really like Supercute, a band from America, from New York. They’re basically these three teenagers and their favorite bands are, like, Pink Floyd and Elliott Smith. They write weird, amazing dark melodies and are singing about things that are relevant to them. They’re really politically opinionated and smart. I love that band.
EDGE: You’ve also spoken about really enjoying to read. What are some of your favorite books you’ve read recently?
KN: I’ve actually been reading a lot of old stuff. I’m reading Valley of the Dolls at the moment and just finished reading Catcher in the Rye.
EDGE: Your music consistently attracts many gay listeners. What do you think appeals to them?
KN: I think maybe it’s because I kind of preach about being independently minded and being yourself. I’m not going to change myself for society. I’ve written about actual issues, for example, in "I’ve Got a Secret." I have friends close to me who are coming out and dealing with these issues of coming out and I don’t like that they have to explain themselves in the way anyway.
I went to theater school and was kind of raised in a bubble where homophobia like that didn’t really exist, but I have friends in the suburbs who are afraid their family will never speak to them again if they find out and it stresses them out. I think it’s important to talk about these issues when you have a platform as an artist.
Kate Nash plays Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave. in Chicago Tuesday, Nov. 9. Her North American tour continues east with stops in Washington, DC (11/15 @ the 9:30 Club), Philadelphia (11/17 @ the Theatre of Living Arts), Boston (11/18 @ the Paradise) and New York (11/19 @ the Terminal 5) among others. Visit www.katenash.co.uk for tickets and more information. Nash’s third full-length release is due in 2011.
Watch Kate Nash’s cover of "Hang Me Up to Dry":