Bristol, UK alt-soul singer-songwriter Katey Brooks joins us at West Hollywood staple Joey’s Cafe to discuss her latest album Revolute, the issues that an instant gratification culture can cause musicians, and sharing her experience with discovering self-love.
You are riding the highs of your recently released album Revolute, wanted to say congratulations!
Katey Brooks: Aw thank you!
For those who have yet to discover how awesome it is, would you like to share a little about some of the lyrical themes and instrumental elements that you chose to include?
Katey: Lyrics and themes, it’s pretty love-heavy, and all the trials and tribulations that come with it. There wouldn’t be one situation that someone doesn’t relate to. It covers quite a few bases from heartbreak to expressing love, to calling someone out on their ambivalence, to saying goodbye and saying it’s ok and being thankful for what we shared. But then there’s other themes that are a little more intense, like, a bit more about the other things that we struggle with or dealing with some kind of trauma. Bereavement covers quite a few bases too, but there’s also lots of joy in there! I swear! *laughs*
Life is such a crazy thing that we all relate to in some way or form. It’s great that you’ve covered a bunch of topics that are still relatable to whoever is listening.
Katey: Thanks, I try to.
Which song would you say was your favorite to write and then record, if they’re two separate songs?
Katey: That’s a really good question! *laughs*
It’s like, ‘I love them all!’ *laughs*
Katey: Oh, I don’t know! I’ve had so many moments with each of those songs. I think my favorite song to write, and maybe even to record as well, was “In Your Arms” because the process was so easy and just flowed. I wrote it in like twenty minutes! It just came out of me! It was like I could hear something going on, I could hear this line in my head, and I literally started crying because of it. I was supposed to be in Venice for my ex at the time’s birthday, and I wasn’t there because we had broken up. It was just, ‘You never know how much I’ll love you,’ this thought came into my head, and I picked up my guitar and it all came to me. As soon as the song came out, the whole track kind of came to mind. My engineer, my mixer, also just happened to be on his way to London for us to record something else. It was “Jeremiah” actually, which is also on Revolute, and I was like, ‘Forget that, we need to record this one immediately,’ and it all just came out in a day and a half.
It was like this weird, crazy, universe aligning awesomeness!
Katey: In a way, yeah. I actually had an interesting situation with it , it was so weird. I was playing Sofar Sounds in Santa Barbara in this really beautiful location, this enormous mansion in the garden, really nice people watching, and I was telling them a little bit of the story behind “In Your Arms,” and when I sang the first line, “You’ll never know how much I love you/Just ask the stars, they’ll tell you so” and all of the audience just gasped. Someone went, ‘A shooting star just went past!’ just as I sang, “Just ask the stars, they’ll tell you so.”
Katey: I know! And of course, my romantic brain goes, ‘It’s a sign!’ *laughs* So yeah, it’s a very special song to me.
I love hearing about instances like that! How would you say that the songwriting and recording process for this album was similar or different than that of your past work?
Katey: The recording process this time felt much smoother, and it all felt like it came together really easily. There was no problem track, which was amazing, but I did wonder if I was going to be able to do it because a lot of the tracks are not in the genre I’m used to producing. With my EP I Fought Lovers, that was more ethereal and ambient, whereas with this one, I had a bit more pop elements, a bit more rock elements, and all of these other elements. It was like, ‘What am I gonna do with these songs?’ But it all came together quite naturally, and it was an enjoyable process, which it isn’t always the case for everyone. Sometimes it can be really stressful. And for writing, I wouldn’t say it was really any different. I usually pick up my guitar and then something comes out.
As an artist from the UK getting the chance to play in different parts of the world, including here in L.A./Southern California, what would you say are some of the music related differences that you’ve seen in the different parts of the world that you’ve performed in?
Katey: I’m going to be really honest. I obviously love the UK for many reasons, and there’s lots of really wonderful people there, and no disrespect to the UK, but I actually have found that other countries outside of the UK are more responsive and more engaged. I’ve found the audiences that are like, ‘Wow, I’m gonna follow you on the ‘gram!’ and I don’t know, they just feel a little bit more energized and excited.
It’s probably all of the coffee that we drink.
Katey: It definitely it is, we drink too much tea in the UK! *both laugh* I’ve also found that to be the case in Australia as well. I had an amazing experience in Australia, and they also value music a bit more. In terms of getting paid well, Germany wins that aspect. Germans love live music, and they love to buy CDs!
That’s really interesting to hear, because you never really hear people be like, ‘Yeah! Check out my CD!’ over here anymore.
Katey: Exactly! It’s like ‘Check me out on Spotify!’ But the Germans, they love a good CD, and they love a house concert, which is really cool because that’s a great way to connect on an intimate level. It’s different and the same everywhere in many ways.
Speaking of being in different places in different parts of the world, if you could choose three artists to go on a world tour with, who would you choose and what would you name your tour?
Katey: Oh God, that’s such a tough question! I’m a Libra, we can’t make any decisions! *both laugh* I’m just gonna go with what’s coming to my mind right now, which would be Joss Stone, Michael Kiwanuka, and Hozier. Joss Stone because she looks like a lot of fun to be on tour with. One of my friends is really good friends with her, and she says that she’s always really lovely. Joss and Michael are quite tight, so there’d be no, ‘getting to know yous’ there. And Hozier is just amazing, why wouldn’t you want to tour with him? And what would we call it? Hmm. Maybe ‘Three Brits and an Irishman’ because it would be three of us who are British and then an Irish dude? Yeah, that’s about as imaginative as I can get right now. *laughs*
I love it though! I feel like sometimes people try too hard to be witty when it’s just as cool to be literal.
Katey: Yeah! Let’s be literal! ‘Three Brits and an Irishman,’ final answer!
So with the way that modern music listening has been focused on the streaming aspect, which we were already talking about, as well as shorter releases like singles and EPs, why do you think that’s the case nowadays?
Katey: I think it’s because we’ve become such an immediate society that’s more interested in instant gratification. We want things very quickly, but we’re also easily distracted. Maybe less people are sitting down and listening to the whole album and going on the journey and experiencing it. I hope not, but I don’t know, that’s a very good question. Maybe it’s because we can get it on an app so quickly now that we feel like we don’t need to wait for this whole body of work. We can enjoy just the one single because we know something else will come soon.
Do you think that instant gratification kind of also puts on a pressure for artists to constantly be releasing work?
Katey: 100%. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though. Some people think that writing in a pressurized way or creating in a pressurized environment is bad, but there are some schools of thought that believe that it actually brings out your best. It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve got six days, six months, or six hours to make something. If you’ve gotta make something, you’ll use whatever time you’ve got. I kind of believe that to be true as well, and I think artists should have some kind of pressure one way or another.
I mean, some people can work well under pressure and can chug out songs and albums every month and every year.
Katey: Yeah, they’re the lucky ones. But most people don’t or can’t work in that way, and it’s also not fair for the art because it’s not necessarily the right place to come from for like true, deeply rooted art.
Agreed. And kind of going into how social media could possibly play into it, do you think it’s made it easier or harder for artists to make a name for themselves?
Katey: I think a lot easier, if you’re good at it, of course. I’m still getting my head around the whole thing. I don’t think I’d be on it if I didn’t do what I do. I genuinely think I wouldn’t have a Facebook account, or an Instagram, actually I’m certain I wouldn’t have an Instagram because it’s so unnatural for me to post pictures of what I’m doing. *laughs* Every time I post a picture I’m like, ‘Does anyone really wanna know about this’ or these stories and stuff?’ And I’m just wrapping my head around the stories too! But yeah, I think people who’ve mastered it can really turn it to their advantage. I can’t see it as anything negative.
And it’s so funny, because it’s been around for so long and yet there’s a calculation to everything that we do with social media. And we never realize it until these marketing people are like, ‘You have to post at these times, and you’ve gotta do the stories!’
Katey: It all just feels quite contrived, like we’re not living naturally. When we do something we think, ‘Well that’ll look good on social media!’ rather than thinking, ‘You are enjoying this.’ I’m not quite on board with doing this all the time, but I understand that it’s a necessary part of the game.
Do you think that it also adds on a pressure for the artists to portray themselves in certain ways to their audiences.
Katey: Definitely, and that’s another thing that I struggle with. I don’t know how to portray myself. I just am, do you know what I mean?
‘This is me!’
Katey: Yeah, and I’m different every day! One day I’m wearing baggy jeans, a leather jacket and a shirt, and the next day I might be wearing a tight dress with long shaggy hair, and I might be in a completely different mood. I find it really hard to pin down because I think we’re all completely multi-faceted.
As a female singer-songwriter, do you feel that women in the music industry need to portray themselves in certain ways in order to be successful?
Katey: I think women in general and in life struggle with that, don’t we? They say, of course, that we’ve moved forward a great deal, but it’s still there. I’m pretty sure if I’d gone a slightly different avenue, maybe I’d be in a different place right now. I think we are expected to walk a particular line of how a woman is expected to be, even if that’s not even what women realize, that’s how they’re thinking. It’s a lot more relaxed for men. Sorry guys, love you, but you have got it easier.
Yeah. And we try to ignore it too, but sometimes it makes us want to explode when we keep our opinions to ourselves for too long.
Katey: Yeah, exactly.
So how do you balance your professional life with your work life?
Katey: Not very well. *laughs* I definitely work a lot, I always have and I probably always will. Although, I think getting into a relationship, of if I have kids and things, obviously, I’d want to be a good mom, so then I would want to find a good balance because I want to be around as much as I can. Up until this point, I’ve been all about work. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got lots of lovely friends and amazing family, but I would probably see them a bit more than I do if I got the balance thing down.
That’s the problem with the entertainment industry, or I guess society now, everybody has to be doing something at all times, and then you drive yourself nuts.
Katey: I think a lot of it is that you feel like you have to pick your priorities. A lot of my friends back in Bristol, where I was born and have gone to high school with, some of them have chosen a more family-oriented route, and sometimes I look at them and I’m like, ‘Oh I miss you guys. I wanna be in that.’ Don’t get me wrong, they’ve got amazing jobs, but they’ve definitely dedicated more time to it. I’ve chosen a career that makes it quite hard to do that.
Speaking of dedication, if you could give your younger self some advice in regards to what you’ve experienced so far in music and in life, what advice would you give her?
Katey: Oh gosh! Where do I start? I’d probably tell myself to stop rushing and to stop being impatient because it actually slows you down. I’d tell myself to stop worrying about where things are going and just enjoy where they are, and to enjoy what I’m doing and actually work on what I’m doing. Forget about success and just enjoy the ride. I’d probably tell myself to spend a little more time with my family and friends as well. And what else? I’d want myself to love myself more. I didn’t do that for a long time, and it didn’t come naturally either. I think it’s also one of those things that people live up to this term that gets thrown around so much these days.
Katey: Yeah, and it’s like, ‘What does that actually mean?’ I found out recently that it’s actually really simple and not rocket science, it’s the execution of it that can be difficult if you have low self-worth, or low self-esteem. It’s the execution and knowing what to do that makes it very simple in making positive choices for yourself. It could be as simple as giving yourself a hot bath when you’re feeling anxious, do you know what I mean? That’s an act of self-love, and it’s those things that contribute to this building belief of ‘I am worthy of self-love. And when you feel worthy, you give yourself more! They feed off one another.
Very well said!
What do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Katey: I’d like them to feel connected with themselves. That’s how I feel when I listen to a piece of music that moves me. Whether they’re moved to the point where it brings them emotion, or whether it brings them joy, or if they could feel present or connected to the music, then I feel like I’ve done my job. When I sit down to write a song, it’s completely coming from me and how I’m feeling, so it’s very personal. But then when I get past the raw creative stage, I think about how it could connect with somebody else. If I can get someone to connect in the way that I’ve connected to pieces of music from all the amazing artists out there over time, it’s worth it. Even if it’s just one person.
It’s so crazy to think about the strong power of music. It can connect to people, but like you were saying it can also connect emotions to the person themselves so they can find some kind of solace.
And to end us off, what other big, exciting things should we be expecting from you?
Katey: I very much a fly by the seat of my pants, so everything is very last minute. *laughs* I know that I’ll be doing some touring. I know I will be making another record, and I’m also working on another side project, something a little bit different. So a lot of recording and releasing more music. And then I’m also making a lot more visual content because that’s something that I really love to do. So just look out for more music and give me a follow, as we say in the UK!
About Joey’s Cafe:
Located in the heart of WeHo, step through Joey’s doors to find yourself inside a Hollywood-esque, casual upscale version of your classic diner set to a soundtrack comprised of trendy pop and EDM style music. Cool blues and grays make up the cafe’s color palette, while their furniture is exactly what you would want from your neighborhood diner – cushy, retro, and plentiful.
If you’re looking for a place slightly off the beaten path of the high trafficked tourist areas, Joey’s Cafe is here to serve locals and visitors an array of delicious food options, including all-day breakfast! From classic home style favorites to the food embodiment of the Angelino lifestyle, there’s something for every type of customer. I opted for a (very large) Dijon chicken sandwich and a deliciously creamy and fresh latte this time around, but let’s just say I might be making a few more visits so I can try some of the other items that I was eyeballing on the menu.