Brick by brick

Kate Nash talks to Tony Clay­ton-Lea about fight­ing sex­ism, re­build­ing her al­bum ‘Made of Bricks’, and get­ting to grips with the world of ‘Glow’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

Kate Nash is one of the more glar­ing ex­am­ples of how the mu­sic in­dus­try giveth and then taketh away.

In 2007, aged 19, Nash was one of the more cel­e­brated fe­male UK-based solo acts. The daugh­ter of a Dublin-born nurse, she grew up in a small but fer­vent Ir­ish com­mu­nity in Har­row, went to Ir­ish danc­ing ev­ery week­end, played the tin whis­tle, and lis­tened to Christy Moore, The Dublin­ers and The Pogues. From her teens, how­ever, she laced her storytelling style of song­writ­ing with a no­tice­ably Bri­tish twist.

Although she ini­tially trained as an ac­tor (more about which anon), she opted to learn the gui­tar when she was laid up in bed with a bro­ken leg. Cue a stint record­ing Art Brut tunes on to her lap­top, the re­sults of which is why we are talk­ing. Nash’s 2007 de­but al­bum,

Made of Bricks, will shortly be on the re­ceiv­ing end of a 10th an­niver­sary edi­tion, and while there are, per­haps, other al­bums more de­serv­ing of such trum­pet­ing, there are surely none as beau­ti­fully naive or one that mixed chav ver­nac­u­lar with folk/pop sen­si­bil­i­ties.

The al­bum’s songs, re­call Nash, were all writ­ten when she was 16. “I was just start­ing to feel as if I was cre­at­ing my own iden­tity, and I was at the age when I fi­nally felt that I was speak­ing in my own voice. That was es­sen­tially what I was en­gag­ing with back then – el­e­ments of strug­gling to fig­ure out where you fit in, who you are, and ex­press­ing that as a teenager.

“At that age, it’s es­pe­cially hard be­cause you’re still not sure of any­thing, really. It’s in­tense, that pe­riod of time, par­tic­u­larly what you go through at that age.”

Ac­cord­ing to Nash, her world was chang­ing. Her de­but sin­gle,

Caro­line’s a Vic­tim, was a barbed taster for Made of Bricks, which was a turning point for con­fes­sional Brit-cen­tric pop mu­sic, par­tic­u­larly so for fe­male teenagers who found in Nash’s songs all they wanted to hear but couldn’t ar­tic­u­late. Ten years later, the songs still ring true.

“The search for truth is what I’m all about in my life, as a per­son as well as an artist,” states Nash. “Naive? I’m sure there’s some­thing of that in ev­ery artist’s first work. That’s why peo­ple love their de­buts so much, be­cause you’re not jaded in any way. A lot of what I wanted to do, also, was to tell sto­ries. I came from a the­atre back­ground, and I think you can hear that from the songs, that sense of cre­ativ­ity.”

Nash stood apart at the time. There was noth­ing then that sounded like Birds, Foun­da­tions, Mouth­wash, Pump­kin Song, and Nicest Thing. And yet she was lumped in with the likes of Lily Allen, Duffy, Adele, Amy Wine­house.

“I guess you’re fight­ing to find your own iden­tity be­cause you get lumped in with th­ese other women, which for some rea­son is ac­tu­ally con­sid­ered a genre. We all know that ‘fe­male’ is not a genre, yet walk into record shops and you still find a sec­tion la­beled ‘fe­male/women’, and that just isn’t right.

“We have to do what we can to break down those walls, and break down sex­ism; it’s a slow jour­ney, but ev­ery­one to fight for their own iden­tity is im­por­tant. And also not to turn against each other, to sup­port other women, and not to be ma­nip­u­lated by the in­dus­try to pitch against each other.”

At the time, Nash be­gan to dis­tance her­self some­what. She didn’t stop writ­ing mu­sic. Two fur­ther al­bums were is­sued: 2010’s ma­jor la­bel re­lease, My

Best Friend is You, and 2013’s self-re­leased Girl Talk.

“When you’re young, you don’t want to be com­pared with any­one else – you want your sense of in­di­vid­u­al­ity. It both­ers me less now be­cause I am that in­di­vid­ual per­son, unique in my own way, and so on, but back in the day it was hard not to feel a level of op­pres­sion. Now, I have more con­fi­dence and I’ve worked hard to carve out that.”

Her stance played against her prospects as a ma­jor la­bel pop star, and fairly quickly she was shoved on to the back burner. For sev­eral years now, she has suc­cess­fully grafted away as an in­de­pen­dent artist, fus­ing song­writ­ing and singing with act­ing.

“I’m sim­ply do­ing what I feel like do­ing to be an in­de­pen­dent artist and to there­fore hold on to my creative free­dom. In­de­pen­dence for mu­si­cians, for creative peo­ple, is cru­cial be­cause the in­dus­try is so used to be­ing in charge of us, and telling us that we’re fail­ing.

When you’re young, you don’t want to be com­pared with any­one else. It both­ers me less now be­cause I am that in­di­vid­ual per­son, unique in my own way, and so on, but back in the day it was hard not to feel a level of op­pres­sion

“Most artists I know don’t think they’re suc­ceed­ing, be­cause the in­dus­try is al­ways telling them they’re not good enough, or that they’re not sell­ing enough records, or aren’t on ra­dio enough.”

Nash says there are plenty of well-known artists who are com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful “yet are made to feel the op­po­site be­cause they’re not tick­ing all of the boxes. You just need to smash the boxes, don’t you, and just do your own thing. Oth­er­wise, you’re never go­ing to be happy. You have to fig­ure out how to mea­sure suc­cess and what it ac­tu­ally means to you.”

Along­side her mu­sic, Nash has re­turned to act­ing. She has a sup­port­ing role in the new Net­flix show Glow (Gor­geous Ladies of Wrestling), which pre­miered on June 23rd. Co-ex­ec­u­tive pro­duced by Jenji Ko­han and Tara Her­rmann ( Or­ange is the New

Black) and co-cre­ated by Liz Flahive ( Nurse Jackie, Home­land) and Carly Men­sch ( Or­ange is the

New Black), the 10-episode 1980s-set com­edy came her way via a pre­vi­ous con­nec­tion with Ko­han.

“I did a pi­lot for Jenji a few years ago,” says Nash, “but the show didn’t get picked up. She liked my work in it, though, and she asked me to do Glow. I got the part last Au­gust, did wrestling train­ing for six months. It’s all about women, friend­ship and empower­ment; mis­fits find­ing their way through the world of wrestling. It’s the coolest, big­gest thing I’ve done so far, and it turned out to be the dream job I never thought I’d be in­ter­ested in.”

Nash agrees, a bit rue­fully, that it’s been a strange ca­reer. “I feel like I’ve been able to over­come some of the bat­tles I’ve had – get­ting through them, sur­viv­ing them. To me, that’s suc­cess – I still have a ca­reer, and I’m still work­ing to­wards some­thing. That’s suc­cess, too.”

Glow is avail­able to stream on Net­flix. Made of Bricks 10th An­niver­sary edi­tion is re­leased in July

Kate Nash “Most artists I know don’t think they’re suc­ceed­ing.” Be­low: with Ali­son Brie in the Net­flix se­ries Glow

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