Kathryn Williams

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@adamleehartley this is number 11…. how many you got?


Biography

Fans of Elvis and/or American industry may already know that Crown Electric is the name of the power company that employed the young Presley as a delivery truck driver until he got the call to record his first session at Sun Studios. Sixty years later, it’s also the title of the tenth album from Liverpool-born, Newcastle-based singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams. “As soon as I said it, the words in my mouth felt lovely,” she says. “It felt exciting and fresh but it also had the sound of a classic album. It has a strength to it. It’s steadfast.”

It’s a suitably emphatic name for Williams’ most ... Read more

Fans of Elvis and/or American industry may already know that Crown Electric is the name of the power company that employed the young Presley as a delivery truck driver until he got the call to record his first session at Sun Studios. Sixty years later, it’s also the title of the tenth album from Liverpool-born, Newcastle-based singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams. “As soon as I said it, the words in my mouth felt lovely,” she says. “It felt exciting and fresh but it also had the sound of a classic album. It has a strength to it. It’s steadfast.”

It’s a suitably emphatic name for Williams’ most potent album yet, confirmation and summation of the songwriting skills she’s been honing since 1999’s Dog Leap Stairs. From the first song to the last, her lyrics have never been more astute, her melodies more memorable nor her arrangements more beautiful.

“I feel strangely giddy about this record,” she says. “I feel like I’ve hit a point in my writing where I don’t feel apologetic.” She mentions the opening line from Tequila: “Be brave enough to be yourself.” That’s what I’m trying to do with this record,” she says. “To feel all the doubts and do it anyway. It’s about coming to terms with where you are and what matters and being happy with your lot. Being able to look back and know that you can be proud of what you’ve done. I think I’m just at peace.”

When Williams released Dog Leap Stairs, which she recorded for just £80, she told one interviewer that she wanted to have a career that lasted long enough for her to develop her craft and move through different phases. Fourteen years later, she’s certainly achieved that. Little Black Numbers (2000) earned a well-deserved Mercury Prize nomination and led to two albums for EastWest: Old Low Light (2002) and the wonderful covers album Relations (2004). After three albums on her own Caw label, she moved to One Little Indian with The Quickening (2010).

After that she enjoyed what she calls a “busman’s holiday”. A conversation with a musician friend, Anna Spencer, about the dreadful quality of songs for children led the pair to form The Crayonettes and release the charmingly surreal Playing Out: Songs for Children and Robots (2010). She then formed experimental folk trio The Pond with Simon Edwards and Ginny Clee, whose eponymous debut (2012) was produced by Portishead’s Adrian Utley.

“One Little Indian were very interested in me making an album with my name on, and I was too,” she says. “It felt like I’d had a nice break. I got to share the responsibility and take a step back so when it came to doing my own thing I knew what I wanted to do.”

Kathryn has hit a prolific streak. With the help of producer Neill MacColl, who previously worked with Kathryn on Two (2008) and The Quickening (2010), Crown Electric was narrowed down from a pool of 60 songs. There’s one she’s had on the back burner for years and another that she wrote in an hour. Some grew out of solitude, others crackled into life during two collaborative songwriting retreats organised by Chris Difford of Squeeze. What unites them is confidence, precision, grace and an eye for the small details that illuminate large ideas. “It’s about having a complex idea and then working out how to explain that simply,” she says.

The album title comes from Gave It Away, which contrasts the troubled stardom of Elvis, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston with the quieter life of a working songwriter. “I’m interested in the idea of icons,” she says. “Because I’m not on that level. There’s millions of us just under the surface, working at a nice little level, making songs. That’s our craft. So it’s the idea of what I do in music versus the idea of what other people think it is to be in music.”
Themes of work and time recur throughout the record. “When you become a mum your time becomes constrained just at the point when you feel most creative and have a massive drive to work,” she explains. “This record is all about how time matters. It’s the most precious thing we have.” Underground, written immediately after emerging from the tube at King’s Cross, describes the sensation of feeling lost in a busy sea of faces while Monday Morning is about “wishing your life away. Everyone negates time and wishes for a weekend.” Count pledges “I’ve got to make these hours count,” while Out of Time asks the poignant question: “When are you supposed to know you’re in your prime until it’s behind you?”

Exquisite first single Heart Shaped Stone, written with MacColl while looking out over Brighton Beach, contrasts romantic idealism with the reality of making a relationship work when everyday challenges intervene. “A lot of what I do is about the idea of a relationship and how reality impacts on that,” she says. Like the idea of a happy ending. The princess marries the prince but carry that story on 15 years…” Two of the most moving songs, Darkness Light and Picture Book, are about Kathryn’s marriage and the self-imposed barriers you need to overcome in order to have an honest relationship.

Kathryn wrote two songs with fellow singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt. Morning Twilight takes it name from a painting by Victorian artist Charles Conder that she saw at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery just before taking the train down to London to see Ed. After he suggested the image of a woman who wants sequins on her eyes after she dies, Kathryn wrote the hauntingly lovely Sequins the following morning: “Even in death the earth cares how you look.”

Perhaps the most surprising song, however, is The Known, which explores entirely new territory for Kathryn. “I think that’s my first ever protest song,” she says. During one of Chris Difford’s writing retreats, she found herself having a heated late-night political discussion with Morcheeba keyboardist Andy Nunn, and noticed that it made the younger musicians uncomfortable.

“There was a fear of confrontation among people who were meant to have something to say,” she says. “Women were pulling back, not saying what they wanted to say — almost a fear of feminism. We thought if we’re the only people who give a shit about this why don’t we go and write a song about it? I know fuck all about policies but politics isn’t that. Politics is everything that we do. It’s knowing what’s morally right or wrong.”

Crown Electric was recorded live in three days at Bryn Derwen studio in Snowdonia with Neill MacColl as guitarist, bandleader and producer, Lamb’s Jon Thorne on double bass and Cinematic Orchestra’s Luke Flowers on drums. The string parts, influenced by Simon & Garfunkel and Beck’s Sea Change, were arranged and recorded by cellist Ben Trigg (Dexys, UNKLE, Arctic Monkeys). Backing vocals were provided by Ed Harcourt (Morning Twilight), Andy Bruce (Tequila), James Yorkston and Chris Sheehan (both Arwen).

These 13 songs are like polished stones which catch the light differently depending on how you hold them, delivering little revelations each time. There are no stray words or unfinished thoughts: every line counts.

“Songwriting is an addiction in a way,” she says. “When I sit down and write a song it just make sense. A lot of singer-songwriters use thousands of words and it’s all vanity. It doesn’t have the ring of truth. I don’t want to use clever words, I just want the listener to get an image. I want it to have physical impact. When I get a lovely image I get a warm feeling inside. That’s the magic. Where did that come from? How brilliant is that?”

How do you know when you’re in you’re prime? Perhaps when you’ve written an album as strong and true and beautiful as Crown Electric.

Dorian Lynskey, June 2013

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

Fans of Elvis and/or American industry may already know that Crown Electric is the name of the power company that employed the young Presley as a delivery truck driver until he got the call to record his first session at Sun Studios. Sixty years later, it’s also the title of the tenth album from Liverpool-born, Newcastle-based singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams. “As soon as I said it, the words in my mouth felt lovely,” she says. “It felt exciting and fresh but it also had the sound of a classic album. It has a strength to it. It’s steadfast.”

It’s a suitably emphatic name for Williams’ most potent album yet, confirmation and summation of the songwriting skills she’s been honing since 1999’s Dog Leap Stairs. From the first song to the last, her lyrics have never been more astute, her melodies more memorable nor her arrangements more beautiful.

“I feel strangely giddy about this record,” she says. “I feel like I’ve hit a point in my writing where I don’t feel apologetic.” She mentions the opening line from Tequila: “Be brave enough to be yourself.” That’s what I’m trying to do with this record,” she says. “To feel all the doubts and do it anyway. It’s about coming to terms with where you are and what matters and being happy with your lot. Being able to look back and know that you can be proud of what you’ve done. I think I’m just at peace.”

When Williams released Dog Leap Stairs, which she recorded for just £80, she told one interviewer that she wanted to have a career that lasted long enough for her to develop her craft and move through different phases. Fourteen years later, she’s certainly achieved that. Little Black Numbers (2000) earned a well-deserved Mercury Prize nomination and led to two albums for EastWest: Old Low Light (2002) and the wonderful covers album Relations (2004). After three albums on her own Caw label, she moved to One Little Indian with The Quickening (2010).

After that she enjoyed what she calls a “busman’s holiday”. A conversation with a musician friend, Anna Spencer, about the dreadful quality of songs for children led the pair to form The Crayonettes and release the charmingly surreal Playing Out: Songs for Children and Robots (2010). She then formed experimental folk trio The Pond with Simon Edwards and Ginny Clee, whose eponymous debut (2012) was produced by Portishead’s Adrian Utley.

“One Little Indian were very interested in me making an album with my name on, and I was too,” she says. “It felt like I’d had a nice break. I got to share the responsibility and take a step back so when it came to doing my own thing I knew what I wanted to do.”

Kathryn has hit a prolific streak. With the help of producer Neill MacColl, who previously worked with Kathryn on Two (2008) and The Quickening (2010), Crown Electric was narrowed down from a pool of 60 songs. There’s one she’s had on the back burner for years and another that she wrote in an hour. Some grew out of solitude, others crackled into life during two collaborative songwriting retreats organised by Chris Difford of Squeeze. What unites them is confidence, precision, grace and an eye for the small details that illuminate large ideas. “It’s about having a complex idea and then working out how to explain that simply,” she says.

The album title comes from Gave It Away, which contrasts the troubled stardom of Elvis, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston with the quieter life of a working songwriter. “I’m interested in the idea of icons,” she says. “Because I’m not on that level. There’s millions of us just under the surface, working at a nice little level, making songs. That’s our craft. So it’s the idea of what I do in music versus the idea of what other people think it is to be in music.”
Themes of work and time recur throughout the record. “When you become a mum your time becomes constrained just at the point when you feel most creative and have a massive drive to work,” she explains. “This record is all about how time matters. It’s the most precious thing we have.” Underground, written immediately after emerging from the tube at King’s Cross, describes the sensation of feeling lost in a busy sea of faces while Monday Morning is about “wishing your life away. Everyone negates time and wishes for a weekend.” Count pledges “I’ve got to make these hours count,” while Out of Time asks the poignant question: “When are you supposed to know you’re in your prime until it’s behind you?”

Exquisite first single Heart Shaped Stone, written with MacColl while looking out over Brighton Beach, contrasts romantic idealism with the reality of making a relationship work when everyday challenges intervene. “A lot of what I do is about the idea of a relationship and how reality impacts on that,” she says. Like the idea of a happy ending. The princess marries the prince but carry that story on 15 years…” Two of the most moving songs, Darkness Light and Picture Book, are about Kathryn’s marriage and the self-imposed barriers you need to overcome in order to have an honest relationship.

Kathryn wrote two songs with fellow singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt. Morning Twilight takes it name from a painting by Victorian artist Charles Conder that she saw at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery just before taking the train down to London to see Ed. After he suggested the image of a woman who wants sequins on her eyes after she dies, Kathryn wrote the hauntingly lovely Sequins the following morning: “Even in death the earth cares how you look.”

Perhaps the most surprising song, however, is The Known, which explores entirely new territory for Kathryn. “I think that’s my first ever protest song,” she says. During one of Chris Difford’s writing retreats, she found herself having a heated late-night political discussion with Morcheeba keyboardist Andy Nunn, and noticed that it made the younger musicians uncomfortable.

“There was a fear of confrontation among people who were meant to have something to say,” she says. “Women were pulling back, not saying what they wanted to say — almost a fear of feminism. We thought if we’re the only people who give a shit about this why don’t we go and write a song about it? I know fuck all about policies but politics isn’t that. Politics is everything that we do. It’s knowing what’s morally right or wrong.”

Crown Electric was recorded live in three days at Bryn Derwen studio in Snowdonia with Neill MacColl as guitarist, bandleader and producer, Lamb’s Jon Thorne on double bass and Cinematic Orchestra’s Luke Flowers on drums. The string parts, influenced by Simon & Garfunkel and Beck’s Sea Change, were arranged and recorded by cellist Ben Trigg (Dexys, UNKLE, Arctic Monkeys). Backing vocals were provided by Ed Harcourt (Morning Twilight), Andy Bruce (Tequila), James Yorkston and Chris Sheehan (both Arwen).

These 13 songs are like polished stones which catch the light differently depending on how you hold them, delivering little revelations each time. There are no stray words or unfinished thoughts: every line counts.

“Songwriting is an addiction in a way,” she says. “When I sit down and write a song it just make sense. A lot of singer-songwriters use thousands of words and it’s all vanity. It doesn’t have the ring of truth. I don’t want to use clever words, I just want the listener to get an image. I want it to have physical impact. When I get a lovely image I get a warm feeling inside. That’s the magic. Where did that come from? How brilliant is that?”

How do you know when you’re in you’re prime? Perhaps when you’ve written an album as strong and true and beautiful as Crown Electric.

Dorian Lynskey, June 2013

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

Fans of Elvis and/or American industry may already know that Crown Electric is the name of the power company that employed the young Presley as a delivery truck driver until he got the call to record his first session at Sun Studios. Sixty years later, it’s also the title of the tenth album from Liverpool-born, Newcastle-based singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams. “As soon as I said it, the words in my mouth felt lovely,” she says. “It felt exciting and fresh but it also had the sound of a classic album. It has a strength to it. It’s steadfast.”

It’s a suitably emphatic name for Williams’ most potent album yet, confirmation and summation of the songwriting skills she’s been honing since 1999’s Dog Leap Stairs. From the first song to the last, her lyrics have never been more astute, her melodies more memorable nor her arrangements more beautiful.

“I feel strangely giddy about this record,” she says. “I feel like I’ve hit a point in my writing where I don’t feel apologetic.” She mentions the opening line from Tequila: “Be brave enough to be yourself.” That’s what I’m trying to do with this record,” she says. “To feel all the doubts and do it anyway. It’s about coming to terms with where you are and what matters and being happy with your lot. Being able to look back and know that you can be proud of what you’ve done. I think I’m just at peace.”

When Williams released Dog Leap Stairs, which she recorded for just £80, she told one interviewer that she wanted to have a career that lasted long enough for her to develop her craft and move through different phases. Fourteen years later, she’s certainly achieved that. Little Black Numbers (2000) earned a well-deserved Mercury Prize nomination and led to two albums for EastWest: Old Low Light (2002) and the wonderful covers album Relations (2004). After three albums on her own Caw label, she moved to One Little Indian with The Quickening (2010).

After that she enjoyed what she calls a “busman’s holiday”. A conversation with a musician friend, Anna Spencer, about the dreadful quality of songs for children led the pair to form The Crayonettes and release the charmingly surreal Playing Out: Songs for Children and Robots (2010). She then formed experimental folk trio The Pond with Simon Edwards and Ginny Clee, whose eponymous debut (2012) was produced by Portishead’s Adrian Utley.

“One Little Indian were very interested in me making an album with my name on, and I was too,” she says. “It felt like I’d had a nice break. I got to share the responsibility and take a step back so when it came to doing my own thing I knew what I wanted to do.”

Kathryn has hit a prolific streak. With the help of producer Neill MacColl, who previously worked with Kathryn on Two (2008) and The Quickening (2010), Crown Electric was narrowed down from a pool of 60 songs. There’s one she’s had on the back burner for years and another that she wrote in an hour. Some grew out of solitude, others crackled into life during two collaborative songwriting retreats organised by Chris Difford of Squeeze. What unites them is confidence, precision, grace and an eye for the small details that illuminate large ideas. “It’s about having a complex idea and then working out how to explain that simply,” she says.

The album title comes from Gave It Away, which contrasts the troubled stardom of Elvis, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston with the quieter life of a working songwriter. “I’m interested in the idea of icons,” she says. “Because I’m not on that level. There’s millions of us just under the surface, working at a nice little level, making songs. That’s our craft. So it’s the idea of what I do in music versus the idea of what other people think it is to be in music.”
Themes of work and time recur throughout the record. “When you become a mum your time becomes constrained just at the point when you feel most creative and have a massive drive to work,” she explains. “This record is all about how time matters. It’s the most precious thing we have.” Underground, written immediately after emerging from the tube at King’s Cross, describes the sensation of feeling lost in a busy sea of faces while Monday Morning is about “wishing your life away. Everyone negates time and wishes for a weekend.” Count pledges “I’ve got to make these hours count,” while Out of Time asks the poignant question: “When are you supposed to know you’re in your prime until it’s behind you?”

Exquisite first single Heart Shaped Stone, written with MacColl while looking out over Brighton Beach, contrasts romantic idealism with the reality of making a relationship work when everyday challenges intervene. “A lot of what I do is about the idea of a relationship and how reality impacts on that,” she says. Like the idea of a happy ending. The princess marries the prince but carry that story on 15 years…” Two of the most moving songs, Darkness Light and Picture Book, are about Kathryn’s marriage and the self-imposed barriers you need to overcome in order to have an honest relationship.

Kathryn wrote two songs with fellow singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt. Morning Twilight takes it name from a painting by Victorian artist Charles Conder that she saw at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery just before taking the train down to London to see Ed. After he suggested the image of a woman who wants sequins on her eyes after she dies, Kathryn wrote the hauntingly lovely Sequins the following morning: “Even in death the earth cares how you look.”

Perhaps the most surprising song, however, is The Known, which explores entirely new territory for Kathryn. “I think that’s my first ever protest song,” she says. During one of Chris Difford’s writing retreats, she found herself having a heated late-night political discussion with Morcheeba keyboardist Andy Nunn, and noticed that it made the younger musicians uncomfortable.

“There was a fear of confrontation among people who were meant to have something to say,” she says. “Women were pulling back, not saying what they wanted to say — almost a fear of feminism. We thought if we’re the only people who give a shit about this why don’t we go and write a song about it? I know fuck all about policies but politics isn’t that. Politics is everything that we do. It’s knowing what’s morally right or wrong.”

Crown Electric was recorded live in three days at Bryn Derwen studio in Snowdonia with Neill MacColl as guitarist, bandleader and producer, Lamb’s Jon Thorne on double bass and Cinematic Orchestra’s Luke Flowers on drums. The string parts, influenced by Simon & Garfunkel and Beck’s Sea Change, were arranged and recorded by cellist Ben Trigg (Dexys, UNKLE, Arctic Monkeys). Backing vocals were provided by Ed Harcourt (Morning Twilight), Andy Bruce (Tequila), James Yorkston and Chris Sheehan (both Arwen).

These 13 songs are like polished stones which catch the light differently depending on how you hold them, delivering little revelations each time. There are no stray words or unfinished thoughts: every line counts.

“Songwriting is an addiction in a way,” she says. “When I sit down and write a song it just make sense. A lot of singer-songwriters use thousands of words and it’s all vanity. It doesn’t have the ring of truth. I don’t want to use clever words, I just want the listener to get an image. I want it to have physical impact. When I get a lovely image I get a warm feeling inside. That’s the magic. Where did that come from? How brilliant is that?”

How do you know when you’re in you’re prime? Perhaps when you’ve written an album as strong and true and beautiful as Crown Electric.

Dorian Lynskey, June 2013

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

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