Kate Nash came to the United States as a member of the great British-girl-singer invasion of the late oughts. While Lilly Allen had the famous pedigree to work the tabloids and Amy Winehouse proved to be too talented and troubled to last for long, Nash flew almost completely under the radar. Her debut, Made of Bricks, showcased a songwriter slightly wiser than her years delving into the problems of the young and disco friendly. Pop music is a very “What have you done for me lately?” game, and a promising debut means nothing if the second album fails to deliver the goods. My Best Friend Is You moved away from pop and incorporated sounds ranging from Bikini Kill to the Shirelles, indicating that Nash wasn’t afraid of comparisons or to extend her range as a musician. Here, Nash discusses the specter of the sophomore slump, possible career moves, and why she won’t be reading this interview.
How does it feel to be young, talented, and famous?
I don’t know, really. I don’t stop and think about it. It is nice to be able to get out and play my music. Other than that, I’m too busy to think about it.
You’ve had a tremendous amount of success at a very young age. How do you deal with it?
I think it’s important that I stay grounded and stick to the plan. I want to focus on writing good songs and playing good shows. That was my original goal, and as long as I can do that I’ll be happy. If I ever get off track, I have a great group of friends, family, and a boyfriend to help keep me on track.
Was there a moment when you had to step back and take a breath?
In August 2008, after my first album was released and I’d finished the tour, I had to get away from it all. I was so exhausted that I literally needed to take some time and get back on track. If I had kept going from that point, there was no way I would have been inspired to do the next album. There needed to be some time to recharge.
When you first hit the United States, there was a tendency to group you with Lilly Allen and Amy Winehouse. Did you find that frustrating?
It used to be, but you have to move on from that sort of thing. “Female” isn’t a genre. I just try not to pay attention to what the press is saying and write the best possible songs. It would be tiring to constantly worry about what the press is going to say about one song or the other; I just don’t pay attention to them. When I went in to the studio, I tried to make a record that was raw, passionate and aggressive. My Best Friend Is You is the record I wanted to make, and that’s what sets me apart from anybody else.
Were you concerned at all about the sophomore slump?
I think there’s always pressure when you’re making the second album. I’m lucky, I guess, because I ended up being really proud of My Best Friend Is You. It was also great to have a record label that allowed me to grow and explore new areas in my music without pressuring me to go in any particular direction.
This album is something of a departure from your first album. Why the drastic change?
To me, it doesn’t seem like a big departure; it’s more of a natural progression. I don’t see the point of re-creating something that I’ve already done. Nothing good could come from making Made of Bricks II. I wanted it to reflect where I’m at musically today, not where I was three years ago.
So where you’re at now is stuck between ’60s girl groups and Riot Grrrls?
When I was out on tour and when I was writing for this album, I was listening to both kinds of music. It kind of soaked though into my own music. There are equal parts of Bikini Kill and the Shirelles in there. I hoped these two influences would work together to make something original and exciting.
How do you approach writing?
I just find a quiet place to sit down and make myself write. It could be out on tour, or sitting at home with a guitar and my laptop. I write a lot of things, but I try to have pretty strict standards about what moves forward. If I don’t immediately remember a verse or a melody, I get rid of it. So far there have been enough songs that stick that I can get rid of the ones who don’t.
Where do you see yourself going in the future?
I have ideas, but I’m not even thinking about that right now. I’m focusing on playing gigs for My Best Friend Is You. I don’t have a master plan. As long as I’m writing good songs and playing good shows, that’s enough for me.
That seems to be a plan. What constitutes a good song and a good show for you at this point?
It depends, really. A good song is one that people will remember at the end of the day. If they don’t forget my song, I’ve done my job. Shows are different. There are nights when I feel good, and other times the audience is really into it. Sometimes you get lucky and the paths cross. I’ve had some good shows on this tour. Some people are there checking me out for the first time, but there’s also a good number that are familiar with the songs. That’s always encouraging for an artist.
You started your career so early that you haven’t had a chance to try many other things. Can you ever conceive of a time when you won’t be making music?
I was actually a waitress for a while before I was a singer, so I have done other things. I can imagine myself doing something, but music will always be a part of my life in some aspect. I suppose if music hadn’t worked as well as it has, I would have been an independent film actress. I absolutely love watching Film 4.