Kate Nash interview
A star is born
Far from playing the music scene hipster, Kate Nash is trying to get her head around paparazzi stalkers, meeting her idols and rumours that Prince wants to collaborate with her. Doug Johnstone talks to her about her new-found fame
‘It’s a total headfuck.’ Kate Nash is not playing it cool. The 20-year-old pop songstress has had such a sudden rise to fame, she’s still coming to terms with her newfound celebrity status. The paparazzi followed her all summer, while Prince has apparently expressed an interest in collaborating with her.
Having spent the summer playing to huge audiences at every festival going, the girl from Harrow in Northwest London has found herself mingling with rock aristocracy and personal idols backstage, something she really isn’t being cool about at all.
‘If it’s someone I really admire, when I walk by them my heart starts beating so fast,’ she says in that no-nonsense accent so familiar from her hit single ‘Foundations’. ‘I keep walking past Albert Hammond Jr from The Strokes and I’m like, “Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod”. And my friend is like, “Go and talk to him”, and I’m like, “No way, he’s in The Strokes”. Like, I’ve still got The Strokes on my wall, so I can’t go and speak to them when I’ve got a fucking poster of them on the wall.’
She rattles this monologue off in yeah-but-no-but style, but that youthful exuberance disguises a keen intelligence, an amazingly perceptive lyrical eye, an ambitious attitude and an undeniably brilliant skewed pop sensibility.
Music snobs are highly suspicious of Nash. Many suspect her of riding on the coattails of Lily Allen, who supported her early on, but Nash’s debut album, Made of Bricks, reveals her to be a much more diverse songwriter than Allen, with an innate sense of human foibles and frailties. ‘Birds’ is a truly affecting love song, for example, while ‘Mariella’ is a beautifully poised examination of society’s outsiders and ‘Nicest Thing’ is a powerful, heartbreaking tale of unrequited love.
Similarly, sceptics site the fact that she graduated from the famous BRIT School for Performing Arts, alongside irritating fellow alumni Katie Melua, The Kooks and Dane Bowers. Let’s not forget, however, that a certain Amy Winehouse also attended the school, and anyway, Nash went there to study drama.
‘After that, I didn’t get into drama school, and I couldn’t get into uni either, so I had to have a year out,’ she admits. ‘I’d been writing songs since I was 14, but they weren’t any good, but then on my year out I started to get a style of my own and actually have things to write about, having a bit more life experience, not much, but a little bit more.’
Drifting along in life, she decided to take the bull by the horns.
‘I didn’t want to have another uninspired year working at River Island or whatever,’ she says. ‘So I started booking gigs for myself.’
Nash is the epitome of the 21st century pop star. Her success was built entirely from grassroots level, through MySpace and other online sites, such tools making it easy for people with real talent and something different to create a buzz until the conventional music industry has to sit up and take note. And her self-effacing charm and no-bullshit lyrical honesty are key to her thoroughly deserved success.
‘Simplicity is the key for me,’ she says. ‘I can’t write clever songs; I just can’t do it. I tried and it didn’t work so I thought, fuck it, I’ll just write what I think. And that’s what I do.’
Oran Mor, Glasgow, Mon 29 Oct.