Belfast Telegraph

Firm foundations

Her overnight success was almost overwhelming and Kate Nash found herself yearning for life before "ugly, sweaty, vile creatures" - the paparazzi. With a little help from her mum, she managed to stay on track - " for all the lonely girls at the back of the bus". Interview: Edwin McFee

Eight months ago, London lass Kate Nash played to about 60 people in Belfast's Spring & Airbrake. To say the 20-year-old was an unknown is an understatement, but when 24/7 interviewed her then - knowing a good thing when it heard one - even we had no idea just how quickly, and how much, her life would change.

It all started in April when she announced via MySpace that she had signed to Fiction Records (home of Snow Patrol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and that her first single would be a newly penned song called Foundations.

It spent five weeks at No 2 in the charts - despite being initially ignored by the mainstream - and was held off the top spot by Rihanna's Umbrella and Timbaland's The Way I Are (which sold just 16 copies more than Kate's single). A star, as they say, was in the making.

"I think everyone was surprised," smiles Kate when 24/7 talked to her again last week. "It was just so unexpected. I literally went from playing tiny gigs in Camden to doing telly appearances and stuff like that. A journalist said [Foundation] was 'an anthem' and I couldn't stop laughing. I think it's so weird that people have reacted to it that way."

Foundations was one of those songs that only comes along every now and again. Its touching tale of a romance that's reached breaking point is something that everyone can relate to. Whether you're a be-fringed indie type or a chav in a tracksuit, you've probably been through a similar situation. Of course, once Kate had that initial success, the music-industry sharks moved in and rush-released her debut album Made of Bricks, moving it forward by an unprecedented five weeks.

In its first week on the shelves it sold a staggering 56,000 copies and was instantly certified gold.

"My album was supposed to come out in September, but they decided to put it in the shops early. I was literally working on it until the very last minute, making sure everything sounded right. In some ways I feel like the Press have demanded this album from me.

"A lot of people wanted more songs like Foundations and they wanted me to deliver them. Making a record was an odd process for me as I'd never been in a studio before and didn't really know what I was doing. But I'm proud of how everything turned out in the end."

And so she should be as Made of Bricks shot straight to No 1 in the album charts while also managing to keep her credibility intact. Unlike some other artists, you won't find Kate taking pot shots at celebrities in the media, you won't bump into her staggering around stoned and cancelling gigs, and you certainly won't see her posing for the paparazzi.

In fact, she's just recently hired a minder to deal with the more enthusiastic photographers.

"The paparazzi make me want to cry," she confesses, her voice trembling at the thought of the excitable snappers. "Seriously - I hate them so much. They all look like the zombies from Shaun of the Dead. They're ugly, sweaty, vile creatures. I really don't understand their interest in me. It's not as if I'm Beyonce or anything. These days we have to try and avoid them at all costs. Sometimes I feel like I'm a spy on the run or I'm one of the kids in Jurassic Park trying to escape the dinosaurs. It's genuinely scary for me."

Part of Kate's charm lies in her vulnerability. Her music is raw and honest and people empathise with that. When she sings about unrequited love on album highlight Nicest Thing, you can almost hear her heart breaking as she intones: "I wish I was your favourite girl, I wish I was the reason you are in this world."

"I've always tried to stay true to myself, no matter what anyone says," she offers. "When I first started out I used to be a bit self-conscious about singing my lyrics in case someone in the audience knew who I was talking about, but you can't be a songwriter and shy away from subjects like that. A few months ago I did Jools Holland and got some great advice from Patti Smith. This was way before Foundations came out and I was just starting to get a bit of recognition.

"She told me to 'ignore all the b******t that surrounds you and just get on with making music'. I've tried to follow her advice ever since as Patti is my absolute hero."

But it's not all sunshine, lollipops and chin-wagging with her idols now that Nash is a bona-fide star. As the rest of the world clamours for Kate's attentions, the singer is currently coping with the pressures of new-found fame. Most days are fine, but there are times when it all gets too much.

"When I get time to chill out and think about how massive everything has become, I sit and wonder to myself: 'Have I just ruined my life?' I went from playing to 300 people to 3,000 in the space of a few months and that scares the s**t out of me. It would scare anyone though, wouldn't it?

"I was about to pack it all in a few months ago when I did T4 at the Beach actually. That day was the most frightening of my life. I remember ringing up my mum in tears telling her I didn't want to go on. I felt so out of my depth and she had to talk me round.

"I wasn't having a Christina Aguilera moment or anything - I just felt really bad about myself. I was on a bill with people like Girls Aloud, Mutya and Amerie and I felt like the ugly girl with the scraggly hair and ladders in her tights.

"Once my mum convinced me to go on I thought that I would do the gig for all the lonely girls at the back of the bus that no-one will talk to, coz I'm one of those girls too."

Perhaps one of the coolest things about Nash becoming a chart-topper is that she's helping to dispose of lad-rock cliches in modern music.

"I consider myself to be very pro-feminist and I want to make a difference," she concludes. "I think more girls should be out there making music and if one of my songs helps convince someone to start a band of their own then I think that's the coolest thing in the world."



Kate Nash plays the Mandela Hall in Belfast on November 16. The gig is sold out. She also plays the Waterfront Hall on February 24, 2008. Tickets range from £17-£19 and are available from all Ticketmaster outlets.

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