wears the trousers magazine

voice on the verge #46: katey brooks
February 11, 2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: feature, voice on the verge | Tags: , , ,

voice on the verge #46: katey brooks

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Katey Brooks just keeps on impressing us. First it was with her True Speaker EP way back in 2006, its deep, soulful beauty confirmed by a performance at one of our live showcases; then came her contribution to Beautiful Star, the Wears The Trousers tribute to Odetta, for which she turned in a stunning a cappella version of ‘What A Friend We Have’; and now she’s set to do it all over again with Proof Of Life, an album that’s all her own. Released through her own label True Speaker Records at the end of the month, it finds the Bristol-based singer-songwriter exploring all the quirks of what it means to be human in that husky authoritative voice which never fails to capture our attention.

It seemed a little ridiculous that we hadn’t already done an introductory feature on Katey so we belatedly sent her our trusty questionnaire. In return we discovered why she’s embarrassed by Westlife and a certain hairstyle, and how an inadvertent CD mix-up could have gone horribly wrong…

* * *

What’s your middle name?

Joy. My first name means pure so my parents thought they’d be clever and call me Pure Joy…

Who was your childhood idol?

I’m embarrassed to say, but Rachel from ‘Friends’. I bet that’s secretly a common one for a lot of women my age. It was the hair…I got the ‘Rachel cut’ for years, until I realised I looked more like Monica Lewinsky. She just seemed so cool (Rachel not Monica) and sure of herself. So feminine too, and I didn’t really feel that girly when I was a kid so I guess I idolised her for this in some way.

What did you listen to when you were growing up?

Elvis, John Lennon, and lots of music from different parts of Africa as my mum grew up in Kenya. Oh, and I always remember my dad blasting out Talking Heads and Terence Trent D’arby in the car when we’d go to visit. Love them all. I used to feel really sad when I thought of Elvis and John Lennon though because my mum had told me they died tragically. Although I wasn’t alive when they were around, it really affected me for some reason.

What’s the biggest guilty pleasure in your record collection?

Westlife. I almost daren’t write that!! I bought their Greatest Hits years ago because they have a few songs I can’t help but sing along to. I’m embarrassed about the album but I’m kinda glad because I’m just not a music snob; if I like the tune, beat etc. then I’ll buy it, whatever it may be!

Which female musicians have most inspired you?

Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell…the usual suspects…! Because of their exquisite writing. Tracy Chapman has this way of speaking to your heart and relating to you, even if you haven’t been through what she’s singing about. Also, for male musicians, Otis Redding…the man just seemed to put his whole body and soul into the performance of a song.

What kind of person would have sex to your music?

Hmmm, I don’t know really…people in serious relationships!! I’d like to say something cooler but it seems people like falling asleep/walking up the aisle to my music, which is lovely but isn’t very rock ‘n’ roll! On another ‘sex to music’ note, I recently sold what I thought was my True Speaker EP to a lovely couple in their late thirties so that they and their small children could listen to it. A day or so later I received an email from the mother saying that sadly, much to the family’s dismay, when they got home to play the EP it had not been my CD in the case but an album entitled ‘Bedroom Songs’ featuring the likes of R.Kelly and Usher to name a few. I literally have NO IDEA where it came from!! It was both baffling and so cringeworthy. Fortunately the lady was very sweet and good humoured about the whole thing, and I sent a replacement straight away!

What’s been the best moment of your career so far?

Recording at Abbey Road Studios for Children In Need by far and away.

What would you be if you weren’t a musician?

A therapist. People are always telling me I have a weird way of bringing stuff out of them (I’m not trying to!!), and I love talking to people and hearing about what’s going on for them. I’m fascinated by the way we humans are.

Do you have an instrument you’d still like to learn? What’s stopping you?

I really wanna master the piano. I can play a few classical pieces but that’s it, and I would love to be an accomplished player. Time is what is stopping me at the moment…or lack of. I think once my album is out and I’ve toured etc., I will then give some time to it. It’s such a beautiful instrument, and wonderful for songwriting too.

If you could star in any TV show, past or current, which would it be and what kind of character would you play?

Has to be ‘Friends’!! Without a doubt. How much fun would it have been to be a part of that show? It’d be a toss up between Phoebe and Ross, I can’t decide. They’re so funny, apart and together. They’re both just so quirky, and behind closed doors (and often not) I’m quite similar!

What’s your tipple?

Flor De Cana and Diet Coke…..mmmmm.

What are your pet hates?

Meanness. It’s so unnecessary, and actually way more tiring than being kind I think. It’s something I’ve never gotten my head around.

What’s your biggest fear?

Others thinking negatively of me would be in the top 2/3.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever worked and what was so bad about it?

It’s got to be working in a greengrocers when I was 15. When I went for the job I was so keen to get it that I didn’t even think to ask how much I would be paid. When I eventually did the boss lady said “£1.75…It’ll go up over time”. At first my heart sank, but I quickly reassured myself that it was probably just a trial low payment, and that it would soon rise. It wasn’t until I was chatting to a girl who had been working there 6 months and had received two pay rises that I realised I wasn’t onto a winner. Hopeful I asked, “So how much are you on now?” She replied “£2 an hour”… I handed in my notice straight away! I worked for TV Licensing too for a while. That was hardcore; not a ‘liked’ bunch I can tell you.

What would you tell your 18 year old self if you could go back in time?

Love the ones you’re with.

Do you have a tattoo?

Yes. It’s a symbol that means Joy (as mentioned my middle name) I thought it’d be nice to have something that means happiness tattooed on me. It’s on the right side of my lower abdomen.

What’s the biggest problem facing the world today and do you have any ideas on how it could be addressed?

I wouldn’t wanna claim to know what the biggest problem is, but I think the crux of so many of the big problems is pride and ego, and ultimately fear. When I say ego I don’t mean people thinking too much of themselves, but ‘the self’. We can get so attached to it that we miss the point, we miss what’s real, what’s true – love. In the end, to quote thousands of others, love is all that matters. We have such a huge capacity for it underneath all the hard exterior, the pride and self-consciousness that keeps us so separate from one another.

What’s your favourite quote?

“As I love you and you love me I ask that you bind my breast and buy me a boy’s wig” – ‘Shakespeare In Love’

How would you describe your new album in 10 words or less?

Songs to speak to your soul and soften your heart.

Would you rather see a ghost or simply have a piece of toast and watch the evening news?

Toast all the way. I can’t decided between thick wholemeal toast with butter and raspberry jam, and a mug of proper coffee…or thick white bread toast, slathered in butter and smooth peanut butter with a cup of strong but milky tea, with 2 heaped teaspoons of sugar. Love ’em both; you can’t tell I’m a ‘foody’ can you…?

* * *

Alan Pedder

If you live in the Bristol area, Katey is having an album launch show at The Thunderbolt on February 27. CD copies of Proof Of Life will be available from that date; digital distribution to follow.


1 Comment so far
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Katey Brooks! The woman’s a legend in waiting. The most astonishingly individual voice – can’t wait to hear the new album.

Comment by Trevor Raggatt

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