Kate Nash has the type of success story that would be impossible to explain to your mother:a bedroom blogger who became an internet star almost overnight when Lily Allen (that myspace connoisseur and other darling of the myspace groupies) bumped her up to 8th in her friend list. I don’t understand, says your mother. Sssshhh, you say, all that matters is that thousands of people were listening to her songs before she even had a record deal. By the following April she had signed a record deal, and by August she was celebrating a number one album. And then, last year, everything went quiet in Nashville. She took a gap year from music, citing reasons close to a ‘breakdown’.
‘I was just really exhausted. I just thought, fuck, I need to go and get the excitement back. ‘And’ she adds, betraying a little more ironic self-awareness than you expect of a singer telling someone how hard life is on the road, ‘I also needed to write a second record that didn’t consist of me just moaning about being on tour. Or about no one understanding me.’
Kate Nash doesn’t immediately warm to me. Probably because one of the first questions I ask her accidentally comes across as me trying to bait her into bad mouthing the Brit school, the infamous arts school that was, essentially, her sixth form college.
‘People turn their nose up at it. A lot of time in education people end up feeling like they have to do certain things, they get a grade C and they’re told that’s not good enough but that’s the best they can achieve and the smartest they can be. So, to suddenly go to a school like the Brit – they encourage you to be a different kind of person, a creative person. Show you that there are other skills you can learn in life. It can completely save someone’s life.’ Ah, that’s told me then. But Nash is rightly wary of leading questions, her strong opinions are one of the few ways she can legitimately be compared to Lily Allen (so, therefore, people do it all the time). But, once you get her talking about things she is – cue awful media cliché – passionate about, she warms up. In fact, there’s almost no stopping her. She’s come back, clearly stronger, as a bit of a woman on a mission.
The song on her album that seems to sum this is up is ‘Mansion song’, a track with an aggressive spoken word intro that begins with the line ‘I wanna be fucked and then rolled over, ’cause i’m an independent woman of the twenty-first century’. It’s about the groupie culture of festivals, the girls who live for one night stands with rockstars.
‘It is explicit. I mean, it just came out of me, thinking about the stereotypical bullshit of girls hanging round festivals with everyone laughing at them and thinking they’re stupid slags, while they think they’re living this really crazy exciting lifestyle. They just get picked up in one town and dropped off in another.’
‘I think a lot of girls use sex and sexual favours as a way of getting some self esteem and I think that’s just so damaging and negative.’
So, is Nash the new voice of girl power in the music industry? The combined and updated Spice Girls with real opinions that aren’t just used to sell a couple more records?
‘There need to be bigger voices. I think people are afraid of the word feminism.’
I can see her point. Feminism in the current age, is either a dirty word, or used by Page three girls and strippers to defend why they take their clothes off. Although, obviously, it’s not as clear cut as that. But, what does it mean for Nash? After all, she made a whole single lamenting that her other half was being a ‘dickhead’, and that could be described neither as liberating, nor empowering. It just had a bit of swearing in it .
‘There’s loads of fucked up stuff about this industry and I’ve known that for along time now, but you don’t have to sell yourself to be successful. There was this song I wrote after I went to this award ceremony. I hated everyone there – it was all really seedy. I wrote a song after called Model Behaviour, and it’s got this lyric which goes ‘You don’t have to suck dick to succeed’. You don’t have to sell your soul, you don’t have to be a slag. I’ve done it now and I did it on my own terms and I didn’t become a prick.’
‘First off all, it’s just so offensive to be called a chav and second of all it’s offensive to be called fake. I hate it when people say ‘Oh look at you with your ‘mockney’ accent’ and I’m like well, I don’t understand why people think i’m putting it on. It’d be too exhausting.’
‘My mum is working class and has a working class accent and she’s always taught me to be as smart as I can possibly be. There’s nothing to be proud about being stupid. ‘
And whilst this, in black and white, looks dangerously like someone with a chip on their shoulder having a bit of a rant, actually, it’s the symptom of quite an interesting awareness of the music industry, and all its obstacles. She ends, simply, with a sentence that all wannabes (I’m talking to you, X Factor contestants) should read. The bluntest, truest quote about the weird showbiz world and how to get through it without going mad.
‘You know, it’s really fucked up, but you just have to be proud of who you are.’