wears the trousers magazine

kate walsh: letting off the happiness
September 15, 2009, 1:12 pm
Filed under: feature, words in edgeways | Tags: , , ,


words in edgeways with kate walsh

After recording his BBC Radio Four show Loose Ends, legendary broadcaster Ned Sherrin used to treat his production team to a slap-up, boozy, lingering Saturday lunch in an old-fashioned, un-gastro’d central London pub. In tribute to Sherrin, who died in 2007, the team have kept on the tradition. This week Kate Walsh is joining them, having appeared on the show playing tracks from her excellent new album Light & Dark. Braving the clatter of glasses and the boisterous “It’s the weekend!” whooping (literally) of the merry punters, she sits down with Wears The Trousers for a chat.

Light & Dark is Kate’s third album and, despite previously being signed to both Kitchenware and Mercury Records, she decided to release it on her own label, Blueberry Pie. It seems like a surprising move. Why turn your back on a ticket to ride the major label wave of power, influence and money? “We released the last album, Tim’s House, on my own label,” she explains, “and then when it went to #1 on iTunes, suddenly all the major labels were like, ‘Who’s this girl, we’ve never heard of her’, and so they all kind of scrabbled to say hello and we ended up going with Mercury.”

However, like much of what was going on for Kate at that time, it wasn’t the experience she hoped it would be. “I lost a lot of job satisfaction being on a major label because we’d built it up from nothing and every little progress and every little success we’d had daily, we felt and were privy to. As soon as you go to a major label you hand over your baby and all the tiny little successes that they deem insignificant we just weren’t hearing about; I just felt like I was on a conveyor belt really. And that’s how it is. It has to be like that because it’s on such a big scale, but I just didn’t feel comfortable. It didn’t sit well with me in the end and I lost sight of what I was doing and I wasn’t enjoying it. So now I’m releasing on my own label again and I’m loving it!”

The ‘we’ she constantly refers to is what she affectionately labels ‘Team Walsh’, her little family of manager and trusted friend Jonathan Morley, producer extraordinaire Tim Bidwell and Jo Whippy, the cellist in the band who is also her cello teacher. “It’s just this really lovely homegrown team,” she elaborates. “And because of that we’re all just so ready to pick up the phone, 24 hours a day if we need to, and that’s really important to me. In the past with managers or labels I’ve felt like I’m just in my box and it shouldn’t be like that at all. We’re all like mates, we’re all best friends and it’s lovely.”

Now based in Brighton, where the love affair that is Team Walsh formed and continues to flourish, Kate grew up in Burnham-On-Crouch in the heart of Essex. She left home around the release of her first album Clocktower Park, moving to Newcastle – home of Kitchenware Records – but left are only about a year. “It ended up being quite fruitless so I moved to London where the streets are paved with gold and all that crap,” Walsh relates, drying. “And basically I had to get a job to fund me being there, so I didn’t do any music, worked in an accountant’s office, was thoroughly miserable, had a massive break-up…and so I moved to Brighton, I’d heard about the college there, the Institute of Modern Music. I think I found out about it one week and I was living there three weeks later. I’d never been to Brighton before either and I just love it; I’ve made such lovely friends there.”

One thing Kate Walsh will never be accused of is hiding her feelings in her songwriting; she’s well known for her frankness. And the tracks on Light & Dark are no exception to this rule. “People say, ‘How can you be so honest?’, but…” She smiles. “I never write the songs for anyone, it’s just real self-indulgent therapy. And so that’s why it comes out honestly ‘cos I’m not trying to pretty it up, and I’m not trying to write a song in three and a half minutes or anything like that. It’s just what it is and then afterwards I make sense of it and decide whether I want to show it to anyone.”

The album’s title track is written with an honesty that’ll make you almost wince and contains the tragic lines, “I left you for another man and he doesn’t deserve me / I know this inside / But he holds my heart between light and the dark / And I wish it was you”. It’s all the more heartbreaking because, for starters, this is apparently all true (why am I surprised?) and, for main, both men concerned heard the song independently and knew it was about them. The result? “A lot of trouble.” And also, a truly wonderful song of course.


"I just can’t be bothered to waste my time wallowing anymore"

As well as being brutally honest about her relationships, equally as revealing on the album is the track ‘1,000 Bees’ where Kate admirably exposes her issues with alcohol and the side of her brought out by the demon drink. Crucially, it’s this issue which very recently led to an epiphany of sorts in Kate’s life. Five months prior to the day of our meeting, she decided to knock the booze on the head and jumped firmly on the wagon. “It’s such a big thing to do,” she states. “For me, it was a massive thing to do and I can’t even begin to tell you how much my life has changed in five months for the better.”

Quite overcome with enthusiasm, she continues. “I’m enjoying my job again. I wanted to give this up. Even three months ago. I couldn’t enjoy the music, the job of the music. Music was always my sanctuary, my release, my hobby, my love, my passion. And as soon as that becomes your job you don’t have an escape from anything again. It’s 24/7. You can’t shut your door on the musical job and then get home and get on with being the real Kate.” So, like so many of us, Kate used drinking to escape all her issues rather than dealing with them. And for her, again like so many of us, that just led to more issues. “People don’t realise what an emotional load of baggage drinking [produces] if you’re an unhealthy drinker,” she states. “And I can be a very unhealthy drinker. The baggage…it’s like chainmail that you carry. Like Jacob Marley and his chain, he’s been carrying all his debts all his life. It’s emotional baggage I’ve been carrying my whole life.”

She pauses, laughing at herself for, once again, being almost too honest. You can see her searching for the right words, struggling to stop herself from revealing too much. But then she can’t help herself. “When you get drunk you don’t deal with anything,” she continues, more seriously now. “You’re adding another bit of baggage. And it’s just a massive, massive sense of low self-worth which just builds up and up and up. Now the drink’s gone there’s no release, there’s no escapism, I really am left with everything I am. And it’s only now that, for the first time in my life, I can actually look at what I have and be thoroughly grateful. I was so ungrateful all my life! I wasn’t a bitch or a moany cow or anything but I was just, ‘Oh woe is me, poor me’. And you think, ‘Nobody understands! Nobody understands how hard it is for me!’, because I’m either wallowing in the past, dwelling on everything I haven’t got in my life, totally missing everything I do have in my life. And worrying totally about what I’m gonna do in 10 years’ time! I mean fucking hell!” Her happiness really is great to witness. I’m having to stop myself from using the expression ‘born again’, but I’m starting to appreciate its meaning.

Her analysis of her circular treadmill of issues is fascinating because there are times when the level of emotional outpouring in her songs does tip into melodrama. Take new song ‘I Cling On For Dear Life’ for example; emotionally extreme on its own, you’d think, but Kate pushes the damsel in distress image still further, completing the title lyric with a knowing “till he says so”. It’s fair to say then that there’s still a certain amount of emotional wallowing going on. “Oh yes! There’s masses of it in there! It’s so self indulgent!” she shrieks. But Light & Dark is no less of a beautiful record for it. After all, so many great works of art are produced by that archetypal tortured soul of an artist. And if Kate can produce this standard of material in a haze of hungover self-loathing, what will sobriety produce? The next stage of her career is presumably going to be the most crucial. Kate herself agrees that, yes, of course her writing will change, and has a wonderfully carefree outlook on the future. “I’m really getting happy for the first time ever, I think. And I just can’t be bothered to waste my time wallowing anymore.”

She’s about to go out on tour in support of the album: twenty dates up and down the country from late September through October. Though she’d previously hated being on the road, this time she can’t wait. “For the first time!” she says. “I’m beaming! I feel like I’ve been in a coma for 26 years. I never thought I was seeing things as the glass half empty, but in hindsight…” She pauses to collect her thoughts. “I always just thought I had this little bit of me that wasn’t quite up to scratch and never would be, that I’d just have to deal with it; that life’s shit and I’d never be truly happy. But I deserve [happiness] now and I can see that, I’m just waking up to that now. This is all gushing out of me today because this is so recent for me. Like every day I get up now and I’m just so grateful for what I have. And just for that I’m grateful!”

In line with her analogy of waking from a coma, she talks of how she’s only recently feeling the real emotion wrapped up in the tracks on Light & Dark, even though some of the songs were written four or five years ago. “I was feeling them, but it was a wallowing emotion. It wasn’t true emotion, it was wallowing; it was just like an outpour. It’s only now that I’m singing them that I really feel what I was feeling back then. You know, it’s like going to watch a sad film where some scenes are like you’re actually in it, like you really feel what they’re feeling. I think I’m only just grieving for all those things that I was doing, whereas before I was just in this cloud of wallowing, romantic crap. Thankfully, because I got the songs out of it. But I’m feeling it all now, I’m really feeling it.”

It’s quite inspiring, hearing the story of someone turning their life around. And from what Kate is saying, she will probably continue on that path to happiness. She’s adamant that, financially, she only needs to break even and clearly has no interest whatsoever in the superficial trappings of the music industry. “I don’t care about money and fame. I’d love to be well-respected within my field and it’s lovely to have my music out there to as many people as possible,” she states. “But the idea of being famous fills me with unease. I like my quiet life.”

Sacha Whitmarsh
Light & Dark is out now on Blueberry Pie. Visit Kate on Myspace for more info and tour dates.


1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

[…] & The Kids – Where The Wild Things Are OST [4.5/5] 55 Kate Walsh – Light & Dark [3.5/5; interview] 54 Inara George – Accidental Experimental [4/5] 53 Dragonette – Fixin’ To Thrill [4.5/5] […]

Pingback by best of 2009: readers poll results 99–51 « wears the trousers magazine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: