Dropping your first new material in five years could be a daunting move, but when you’ve got the kind of backing Katy B has, it’s no sweat. “POP EMERGENCY,” one Twitter user proclaimed in excitement. “The prospect of a new Katy B record gives me enough serotonin to make it through this lockdown,” another noted.
“It’s been really nice,” Katy herself beams, hyped by the fans’ reactions. “We had a little YouTube unveiling chat room thing and there were loads of people from all over the world, which is mad.”
Returning with dance-ready R&B-tinged jam ‘Under My Skin’ last month, it marked her first solo release since the arrival of 2016 album ‘Honey’. Teaming up with prolific producer - and fellow South Londoner - P2J for the track, he may be best known for his work in the funky house world, but Katy has a slightly closer connection with him. “He actually went to school with my brother,” she smiles. “And he was saying how my brother was always coming in like, ‘You’ve got to work with my sister!’”
Eventually coming true on her brother’s wish, ‘Under My Skin’ marks the first glimpse into what Katy has been working on for the last few years. Wanting to take a break after touring so much, she built a studio in her basement with some friends, with ‘Under My Skin’ being the first song written there, before the pandemic hit and halted plans. Now she’s gearing up to kick things off all over again, and she’s got even more surprises up her sleeve.
“Especially with the pandemic and life before, this project is less in the club but it’s still got club clues to it, if you know what I mean?” she explains. “It’s just deconstructing what I’ve done before, but in maybe a bit more of a chilled-out way. But to be fair, I don’t see myself just making really chilled music for the rest of my life. I still love writing songs for the clubs, so it’s not like I’m going to be singing really slow songs forever, but this is a bit more chilled.”
“I still love writing songs for the clubs, but this is a bit more chilled.”
Working with producers Mike Brainchild, David Stanforth, Jake Edwards-Wood (who she was in a band with at school) and ‘Lights On’ collaborator Geeneeus for the project, she describes the process of crafting her upcoming music as being as chilled as the songs themselves. “It’s the opposite to how in the industry sometimes you go into sessions and it can feel really contrived, but it’s so natural,” she notes. “It’s nice when you have that safe space with people.”
Although not giving away too much, she does tease that a collaboration with a female artist is also set to appear. “I think growing up and being in bands and doing projects or being behind the scenes as a featured artist is quite nice because you just get to be in the background and just do music,” she explains. “I kind of get a bit self-conscious in terms of being on my own, so when I get to do a collaboration or have a journey with someone, it’s a really special moment because you get to share it with someone. We’re both singing about being heartbroken on this song and there’s this kind of sisterhood in it. In lockdown, me and my friend lived together and it reminds me of living with her and just complaining about boys!”
While looking forward to the future and excited for her new step, lockdown also gave Katy a chance to reflect, with the tenth anniversary of her seminal debut ‘On A Mission’ arriving in April.
A thrilling listen - the album scoring a Number Two spot on the UK charts and a Mercury nod to boot - its lead single ‘Katy On A Mission’ still has the power to make a crowd lose their shit even a decade later. “When I first performed it at Matter there was a Rinse rave and I came out on Benga’s set and they picked me up and tried to make me crowd surf,” she laughs. “Then at Reading & Leeds people were going crazy, I’d never performed to a crowd like that. The energy, I will never forget that feeling. ‘On A Mission’ was a bit mental really. I remember being in Leicester and they went crazy and snapped the bar in half. I don’t know what it is about that song but it turns people a bit loopy!”
“It feels good to kind of start again,” she continues. “I think it’s a positive thing rather than a negative thing. I don’t know if I do see the new music as a continuation because it actually has been quite a while… Maybe a next chapter, maybe not a whole new book.”
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