THERE are few people who can boast they have had a song…
A-listed by BBC Radio 2 AND worked/toured with Embrace. Kerri Watt is no ordinary artist and someone who has immense talent and promise. Old School Love is a single that mixes vintage sounds and modern urgency – a departure from her previous work but the signs of an artist who is always moving and pressing forward. I ask Watt about her previous material and why Old School Love has a different tone. She talks about Embrace and how her music comes together; the importance of getting backing from big stations and the musicians who inspire her.
I find out more about Watt’s career highlights and whether music was a pivotal part of her childhood; the albums most important to her and the advice she would offer any new songwriters coming through.
Hi, Kerri. How are you? How has your week been?
I’m feeling great, thanks.
The week has only begun but there’s an exciting few days ahead!
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a singer and songwriter from Glasgow.
My lyrics tell the stories of my great loves and adventures of my life so far. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the U.K., Europe and the States supporting acts such as Embrace, Starsailor; Nina Nesbitt and Ward Thomas to name a few - I’ve also got to play some really fun festivals including Glastonbury and Isle of Wight!
I lived in California for a while, as a teenager, and it was at music school there that I really learnt about different styles – so, there’s definitely some Americana influences in my sound.
Old School Love is your new track. What can you tell me about it?
Old School Love is a song straight from the heart.
A couple of years ago, I was on the road with my tour manager, Steve, telling him how amazing and different this new relationship I was in felt.
I said to him: “It feels like an old school love” and Steve goes: “That’s the name of your next single!’. So, when I got back from tour, I went away and wrote it.
It came really easily because I could use the way I described the relationship to Steve as lyrical inspiration for the song.
How do think Old School Love differs from previous singles. It seems quite a shift from earlier work.
When I’m writing, I don’t consciously think ‘does this fit with my other songs?’ - I find it’s best to just write what comes naturally and then, if the demo gets some good feedback from people, and I also love it, I know I’m onto a winner. In my eyes, it’s just a natural progression.
I’m always evolving and learning as a songwriter. The thread that ties all my music together is the lyrical content - I always want people to feel something move inside them when they listen.
The song mixes new styles and production values but it has a great, vintage sound. Was that a conscious decision – to mix styles and periods, as it were?
I think the thing is, with Old School Love, when you hear the title you automatically get an idea of something that’s a bit vintage and true.
So, naturally, I wanted the feel of the production to relate to the title of the song. I think, because the song tells a story, it didn’t need production to do any of the talking for it.
How do songs come together for you? Do you set time aside to write or do they come naturally?
The writing process is always different.
I do plan weeks of writing where I’ll go to Nashville and have a number of songwriting sessions arranged. Sometimes, I’ll have some of my musician friends around the house hanging out and we’ll start jamming something - and a song will just sneak up on us out of nowhere!
Other times, I’ll have gone through something and feel so strongly about it that it just has to come out of me that day! Those are usually the best.
With Old School Love, as I mentioned, I had the title and the idea. So, as soon as I had the chance to sit down, it came flowing out.
Can we expect any more songs in the future?
I’ve got loads of songs demo-d at the moment; so, there’s plenty of material waiting to be recorded. You can definitely expect to be hearing more music very soon!
You have worked with Embrace in the past. How did you come to know the band?
I was introduced to the singer of the band Danny by a friend. He was very helpful and would give me advice after coming to see me play.
After I wrote Long Way Home and let Danny hear it; he introduced me to his brother Rick (the guitarist of Embrace) who is also a producer. He had some amazing ideas for the song so we started working together and the rest is history.
I’ve played festivals with them: the full band play on my recordings and this week I’ll be joining them on stage to support Coldplay at Cardiff Millennium Stadium! I’m so grateful for the doors they’ve opened for me.
Stations like BBC Radio 2 have backed your music. What has that been like for you?
Having BBC Radio 2 support my last two singles has been a dream come true. For a station like that to get behind an unsigned artist, which I was at the time and put me on the A-List, is an absolute dream.
Getting to perform live on Radio 2 is one of my career highlights so far.
When did you get into music? Was it always part of your childhood?
My parents introduced me to Michael Jackson very early - I’m talking like eighteen-months-old! They had the V.H.S. of his live tour and used to put it on the T.V. while I was in my cot! He stuck with me throughout my childhood and I was always in awe of him and his stage presence.
As I got a little older, I discovered Celine Dion and LeAnn Rimes. They were probably the two biggest female influences for me growing up.
I’m finally getting to see Celine live in London later this month!
Can we expect to see you tour anytime soon?
I’m just confirming my first headline tour for the Autumn which is super-exciting.
But, I still have a bunch of shows throughout the summer - which you can check out the dates for on my website!
What, would you say, how been your career highlights to date?
A real moment for me in my career so far was joining Starsailor on stage for a number at Paradiso in Amsterdam. The place was packed and the crowd so enthusiastic.
I really felt like I was living out my dreams – but, I have a feeling Coldplay might top that this week…
I also remember my first open mic in Glasgow - the audience consisted of my sister, her friend and three drunk old men. That was really a test for me. Am I willing to do these kinds of gigs for as long as it takes for someone to notice me?! I’m glad I stuck it out.
Are there any new artists you’d recommend we investigate?
Keelan Donovan - Love of Mine - that’s my new favourite song.
Keelan is an artist from Nashville that I met at a songwriters conference in L.A. in May: he’s like a mix of Paolo Nutini and Thomas Wrett.
Can you name the three albums that have meant the most to you – and the reasons why?
Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
This album just makes me feel so happy and so relaxed. Van is one of my biggest inspirations as a songwriter - and I think Astral Weeks is really a work of art.
Michael Jackson – HIStory
I mean; this album is just my childhood. I don’t know how many hours I spent in front of the mirror in my room, as a seven-year-old, making up dances to Billie Jean and Don’t Stop 'Til You Get Enough.
Eagles – Hotel California
It’s a hot, sunny day: you’re driving with all the windows down; The wind is blowing your hair. You’re singing at the top of your lungs with the friends you love.
It’s the soundtrack to the perfect summer.
What advice would you offer any new artists coming through?
People will like you more if you are completely honest and totally yourself. If anyone tries to change that, they’re shouldn’t be part of your journey.
Going back to the open mics: it’s always hard in the beginning and it continues to be difficult. It’s a seriously competitive industry.
But, if you think you’ve got something the world needs to hear, and you’re willing to put in the work - there’s nothing stopping you!
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name any song you like (not yours as I’ll do that) and I’ll play it here.
Move On Up - Curtis Mayfield
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