In Session: Kate Jackson
There have been a number of musical comebacks in 2016, some of which have been a bit ‘meh’ (see Pendulum and Bloc Party), and others that have been warmly welcomed (see Avalanches and LCD Soundsystem). But one return in particular caught the attention of the Exposed team: hearing that former Steel City resident and Long Blondes singer Kate Jackson was back on the scene with solo album British Road Movies in tow. After a stint spent living amongst the grand sights of Rome, Kate moved back to her hometown of Bury St. Edmunds and re-discovered a collection of songs written with Suede guitarist Bernard Butler – the bones of an elegant British pop record which brilliantly explores senses of place, time and the meaning of home. Upon hearing of her return to Sheffield for Tramlines Festival, we jumped at the opportunity to get Kate in for this month’s In Session recording and grabbed an interview before the cameras started rolling.
Hi Kate, great to have you in for our next Exposed In Session feature. Can you tell us which two tracks you’ll be performing?
Exciting! Yes, we’ll be performing ‘Homeward Bound’ and ‘Metropolis’.
And can you tell us a bit about each one?
I wrote both of these songs with Bernard Butler. The guitar riff that runs throughout ‘Homeward Bound’ made me visualise the Suffolk landscape, so the lyrics of the song are all about driving from the Suffolk coast back to my hometown, Bury St Edmunds. ‘Metropolis’ is about London, but it could be about any city really. Observing the trace of people who have lived in the city before you and leaving your trace for those that will follow. It’s about isolation, communal isolation.
After a long hiatus from music, what drove you to start performing again?
Watching 20000 Days On Earth, the Nick Cave docufilm. I wanted to do something with the songs Bernard and I had written together but didn’t know where to begin. That film gave me the strength to start a band again from scratch. I knew that playing the songs live was essential if the record was ever going to come out.
Was there ever a sense of nerves in stepping back onto a stage again?
Of course! I always get nervous before a show, and this being my solo work means I’m personally exposed to more criticism than I was before with The Long Blondes. If you’re not nervous about performing something you care about then there’s something wrong.
Tell us a bit about The Wrong Moves. How did the remaining members of the band come together?
We’ve all been friends for a long time. Shannon and Seymour are in a band called Horse Party too. I’ve been watching them play for years and always thought they were great. Shannon is my favourite drummer; I first saw her play when she was 14 and wanted to be in a band with her even back then – it’s just that it has taken 10 years for that to happen! Reuben was in a band called Thee Vicars when he was a teenager. He’s an amazing guitarist and bass player and was in the original Kate Jackson Group line-up a few years ago. Ken and I have known each other for 20 years, since I was a teenager! He’s been in many bands but doesn’t brag about it.
We’re a huge fan of your debut album, British Road Movies, here at Exposed. Naturally, travelling around the country is a large part of the record’s theme. Would you say that you’re the sort of person who struggles to settle in one place?
Yes, I like moving around. I’m lucky to have a firm base in Bury St Edmunds, where my family and lots of my oldest friends still live. I think of Bury as home but can’t resist the idea of living temporarily in other places, like Berlin or New York.
What does ‘feeling at home’ mean to you?
Being surrounded by the people who love you and know you the best. Being able to be 100% yourself. Belonging.
How is your relationship with Sheffield today? Obviously it must hold some strong memories for you?
I still feel really at home whenever I come to Sheffield. It’s changed a lot since I left but I’ve walked around the city so much, my mental map of it is as strong as ever and I have memories on every street. It’s lovely to come back and feel like I’m building a new relationship with Sheffield.
Was moving away from the city a decision which helped make the step towards moving on from The Long Blondes?
No, I moved away before The Long Blondes came to an end. Dorian and I had both moved to London before discovering it was too expensive! It took a long time to move on from The Long Blondes but now I look back on it with so much pride. That band is very much still a part of who I am.
There’s a lot of reflection evident on the new album, none more so than in tracks like ‘16 Years’. Was it a cathartic experience putting together the record?
It was great to be able to write more personally. I wasn’t really able to do that in The Long Blondes as we had a certain aesthetic and also because Dorian wrote a lot of the lyrics. ‘16 Years’ is a song about lasting friendship. None of my lyrics today are as arch as anything Kate Jackson from The Long Blondes would say!
Musically, what else does the future hold for the band?
We’re currently writing a new album, so hopefully new recordings and another release fairly soon. We’ve also just announced some autumn tour dates for September and October. Full details and ticket links are on my website, katejackson.co.uk.
Words: Joseph Food
Photography: David Emery
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