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Katie V - The IndieLondon interview

Katie V

Interview by Rob Carnevale

NORTH London singer Katie V talks to us about her debut EP Songs From Under The Covers, appearing on Coca-Cola reality web series Green-Eyed World, gigging at the Royal Albert Hall and reality TV.

She also talks about the inspiration behind some of her songwriting, why she has plenty to say in her songs, and which 10 songs are never far from her iPod…

Q. Hi Katie, congratulations on getting your first EP [Songs From Under The Covers] together! How was it putting it together?
Katie V: An incredible and inspiring experience, to say the least! I have co-written some of the tracks with some hugely talented writers, who have been such an inspiration to me as well as fantastic mentors: James Bryan, Sacha Skarbek and Stefan Skarbek.

Q. Can you talk us through the five songs and why you opted for a ‘50s/’60s swing/jazz era influence?
Katie V: I grew up listening to the greats, such as Etta James, Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, so I have taken huge influences from them – combined with my favourite band of all time, Queen – and the way they write. I didn’t want to ‘copy’ any other artists’ sounds, so I took the most influential parts of all my favourites and put my cherry on the top!

Q. What influenced the lyrics behind some of the songs?
Katie V: My emotional journey over the past eight months! I am a huge romantic and believer in love and, good or bad. I get swept away in the emotional rollercoaster ride every time! I met someone who inspired me, who promised me the world but never gave it, so I wrote about it. Fight For Love is a big example of this!

You can see the mini-adventure we had. I tend to write as if I’m writing a journal, except my words, thoughts and feelings are heard by many and not just kept in a book under my bed! I’m not afraid of putting it out there. One thing I have learnt in life is that we are all human and all deal with emotions in many different ways. However, at the end of the day, whatever we all may go through, it takes us ALL to the same emotional place. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be happy, it’s okay to want to fight for what you believe in.

Q. How was being hand-picked for Green-Eyed World? And how has it helped your career?
Katie V: Well, it was nail-biting stuff and also a very long story which proves my point that everything happens for a reason! I have been working on my music now for nearly seven years, constantly writing, performing and hoping for a break! But, like every musician, I had to work a nine-to-five while trying to fulfil my dreams. I was at work one day and an old school friend of mine popped in, someone I hadn’t seen in six years! She told me that she was going to the USA to study and that I must come to her leaving party that afternoon.

As I arrived, she introduced me to a cousin of hers, Gideon, who was working at AWAL, now my digital distribution company, at the time. We spoke about music and I gave him my MySpace and contact details, as you do, and we kept in touch. What I wasn’t aware of at the time was that Gideon had passed on my MySpace details to the CEO of the company who was involved in the search of finding the artist for the Green-Eyed World show!

So, as I was getting on with my nine-to-five and the constant battle for my music to be heard, behind the scenes something exciting was happening. Approximately 250 girls were shortlisted for this show and out of the blue I got the phone call telling me I was down to the last seven! As you can imagine, I couldn’t believe it! So that’s how it happened, and I did everything in my power to make sure that I was chosen, I never gave up!

How has it helped my career? Well, it’s got my name and music in front of a lot of people. I think it’s given me a launch pad and hopefully the people who watched my story unfold on Green-Eyed World will want to continue to follow my career in the future.

Q. Did it ever get tough living your life under such public scrutiny? Or is it good preparation for dealing with media scrutiny?
Katie V: No, not really. It’s something that I have always wanted to do, I wanted to show the world what it’s like in the music industry and that there is no such thing as an overnight success. It takes a lot of hard work and determination! We are only human, and are entitled to have our ups and downs. It was a risk I took to have the camera rolling 24/7 but I knew that I wouldn’t be judged as much as people assumed. If anything, people related to my adventures. They were excited when I was, hurt when I was and could understand why certain things were happening. I do think it’s good preparation for the media. However, a lesson you learn when getting into this business is that you have to be tough! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion in life, it’s whether you choose to listen and take notice that either makes or breaks you.

Q. What’s been the most surprising/alarming reaction you’ve had from Green-Eyed World? Do you feel any pressure or burden of expectation now?
Katie V: As an artist I always feel a little pressure to be the best I can be. But I do it to myself. There are so many people that have invested so much time, love and money into me as an artist that I’m not just trying to succeed for me now, I’m doing it for my ‘family’! I have a responsibility now to show everyone that believes in me that they are right to do so!

Q. Do you think there’s too much reality TV? Or is it a good way of making a name for yourself nowadays? How does something like Green-Eyed World compare to something like The X-Factor?
Katie V: It all depends on what genre of reality TV you are talking about. Shows such as Big Brother are entertaining and give the public something a little different to what Green-Eyed World gave. Unfortunately, shows such as Big Brother attract people either because they want the experience or because they just want to be famous.

So, it all depends on what you want to be known for really. Green-Eyed World is a ‘rockumentary’, it follows the journey of a singer-songwriter trying to make it in the music industry by constantly writing new material, meeting new people and networking, having faith in the emotional and inspirational moments that whirlwind their way into life. The X-Factor, on the other hand, is a singing competition. There are genuine artists that feel that this is their way to get themselves out there, but it would be very interesting to see what made them apply and what their music lives were like before the show.

Katie V

Q. Likewise, the Internet… You have a Myspace and Facebook following. Is that now an invaluable tool for making a name for yourself, where it’s not all about the whim of a record producer or label?
Katie V: I love the people I have met online through the show!! I had a following before the show came about but that has now quadrupled! Online is definitely the way forward!! It’s all about new media now, the music industry is changing drastically so, as an artist, I personally feel like I had to take a stand and do something different. I wanted to connect with people on a ‘real’ and ‘personal’ level and where better to do that than on social networking sites? I think it’s important that ALL artists do this, whether they are signed to a label or not.

Q. How much do you learn from songwriting with someone like Glenn Matlock? And what was the experience like?
Katie V: It was just great!!! I truly felt so honoured to be able to write with such a legend and I loved listening to all the rock ‘n’ roll stories!! It was very old school – we sat and jammed together, shared stories and put them into songs, had numerous amounts of cups of tea and had a great time. Sometimes it’s nice to back away from technology and make it just all about the music.

Q. You’re working with some big producers now. How is that as an experience?
Katie V: Again, I feel honoured. I really try to learn so much from these guys, as an artist I’m always trying to expand my knowledge and skills to perfect my art so by writing and recording with people such as James Bryan and Sacha Skarbek, I couldn’t ask for anything more!

Q. You’ve been gigging for some time – what’s your favorite live memory?
Katie V: Wow, I actually have a few, from funny to just pure ‘oh dear’! I remember going to the Royal Albert Hall for Mark (King’s) birthday (he is in Level 42) with my manager and it was breathtaking! When their show was over and everyone started to leave, I snuck onto the stage and said to my manager at the time: “One day, I will play here… one day!!!’

A couple of weeks later, we got a call to say I had been offered a tour support on a big UK tour and that the Royal Albert Hall would be the last venue to play! Can you believe that?! I just had to laugh and say: “See, I told you so!”

The moment I walked out on stage to a full house, I had to pause for a moment and take it all in! You can see the moment I do it on my DVD, it’s hilarious. But I was just so proud and it was such an achievement to play there.

Q. Given your exposure to US audiences as well as UK audiences, will you be looking to make a name for yourself in America simultaneously with the UK?
Katie V: I would LOVE to!! I can’t wait to tour the world!!

Q. What do you love about London?
Katie V: It’s my home! Oh and also the Chinese food here is brilliant!! You try getting our version of Chinese food in any other country, I must warn you, you will be very disappointed! Haha!

Q. You started playing piano at a very early age. Why? And when did you know you wanted to pursue it professionally?
Katie V: I was just drawn to it. When my grandpa Jimmy Vogel was in hospital my mum bought him a Casio keyboard and I fell in love with it!! I knew the moment I played it that I wanted lessons!!

Q. Why are the piano and the guitar your instruments of choice?
Katie V: Well, the piano because it was my grandpa’s choice – I adored him and really looked up to him. It was my grandpa Jimmy that played me my first jazz record. I thought if he likes it, then I like it! The guitar, wow, well I have always tried to tackle this instrument! My dad played when he was younger, so there was always a guitar in the house! I constantly tried to play it, I taught myself a few chords by ear and using guitar books, but it was really at the beginning of this year that I properly learnt it. Sprite were looking for a singer-songwriter that played guitar, so I was determined to learn every song of mine on the guitar with my eyes closed! And I did it!! I taught myself every chord and scale and just didn’t put it down. I love it!!

Q. What are your hopes for the future? Have you started work on an album?
Katie V: I’m always writing! There are so many stories to tell through the beauty of music. So yes, I’m working on an album right now, and I can’t wait to hit the road next year!! I’m off to play SXSW in Texas in March and from there it would be fun to tour the USA.

Q. Do you have details of any UK touring schedules?
Katie V: No, not yet, but we’re working on them now!

Q. If you could cover any song, what would it be and why?
Katie V: Wow, what a question! It would depend on how I was feeling at the time, but I would love to do a version of The Jungle Book song King of the Swingers!

Q. Finally, what are the 10 tracks that are never far from your iPod player at the moment?
Etta James – Fool That I Am
Queen – I Want To Break Free
Etta James – I’d Rather Go Blind
Etta James – Sunday Kind Of Love
Kings Of Leon – Be Somebody
Neil Diamond – Songs Of Life
The Kinks – You Really Got Me Going
The Kinks – Dedicated Follower of Fashion
The Doors – Alabama Song
Queens of The Stone Age – No-One Knows

Katie V’s Songs From Under The Covers EP is out on Monday, November 30. View photos of Katie V