Into Music managed to catch up with Kerri Watt, Glasgow-born singer songwriter during some rare time off at home before hosting The Spirit of Song, a brand new event taking place at Glengoyne Distillery, just outside Glasgow, on Friday 20 March. The show will be an all-female line up in collaboration with the movement ‘Write Like A Girl’ to celebrate March’s Women’s History Month and a chance to showcase two of Scotland’s biggest exports – music and whisky.
Now 28, Kerri has been a working musician since her teens. She left home at sixteen to go to performing arts stage school in California and is now looking forward to the release of her debut album, Chasing Aeroplanes, and supporting new and emerging talent.
For anyone who’s not familiar yet can you describe your music?
Well I’ve always been really into blues, folk, country, soul – basically a whole load of genres. Over the past years I’ve experimented a lot with sounds and different styles and what has ended up being on my upcoming debut album is, I think, a perfect representation of all the musical styles that I love and that I’ve picked up over the years. It’s a blend of pop, rock, blues and country – all the best stuff (laughs).
You’ve been a working musician since your teens which you’ve described as being a long hard road to follow. What aspects make it difficult and what inspires you to keep going on your journey?
Well I’ve always loved entertaining; I think that’s at the root of it. From a very young age I loved being on stage. I went to every kind of stage school, acting class, basically everything that was going in Glasgow. It’s one of those labour of loves that I’ll always be a slave to, even though sometimes you think ‘why am I putting myself through this’ because it can be a very long and hard road and it’s very competitive. I think one of the hard things is that the music industry is constantly changing so you’re having to keep up with new trends, new social media platforms appearing every year and having to get your head around those. As a solo artist also it’s quite a lonely job, you can have a whole team of people that work with you but nobody else who understands what it’s like from an artist’s point of view. Some of the hard parts have probably been touring around a lot on my own. I’ve done lots of really small U.K. tours when I’ve just driven myself around for a month. It can be lonely. But then again there are so many amazing parts to it – I can be creative for a job and I get to work with so many really amazing and interesting people and I think there’s no better feeling than being on a stage and connecting with an audience who maybe have never seen you before.
Have you always loved singing and music?
Well actually I started as a dancer and I trained as a dancer and worked in musical theatre for a while. Any version of being on stage I’ve always loved. I was a bit of a late starter though when it came to the guitar, I didn’t start playing the guitar until I was 22.
It must be lovely to be back at home after all the travelling. You’re back to host The Spirit of Song, can you tell us about that?
The distillery is actually just about five minutes from where I grew up. My uncle was a tour guide there for years and years, so I knew all about it although I’d never actually been for a tour there until recently. This is my first time organising an event like this, so it’s been really exciting, especially doing it in a venue so close to home and getting to bring together two of Scotland’s biggest exports – whisky and music. I’m collaborating with a girl called Beth Keeping who runs a movement called ‘Write Like a Girl’ and they support and champion female songwriters, so it was important with March being Women’s History Month to have an all female line-up and support some of the amazing talent that we have here in Scotland.
Do you feel driven to support new and emerging talent and what do you think you can offer these artists?
Absolutely. I think when I started out there were various people that helped me along the way and I’m so grateful for that because it can be a really confusing world to navigate, especially if you know no one or know nothing about the music industry like I did when I started. You just kind of throw yourself in. There are loads of gigs around Glasgow but I don’t think there’s much, that I can see anyway, that really shines the spotlight on new artists and that gives them a platform that’s not small dingy clubs – they were the kind of venues that I had to play when I started out. Something where it’s a bit more of a nice organised event and it’s a bit more tailored to a specific audience, that I call a listening audience who will actually sit and listen to and appreciate the music. These events can be hard to come by especially in the city where people who are going to music venues or bars are often out for a good night and the music is just a bonus- it can be hard as a new artist to make yourself heard in those situations so I’m hoping that The Spirit of Song will be a great platform for new artists to showcase what they can do.
What kind of challenges do you encounter as a woman in the music industry?
I think that people are very accepting now of female songwriters, there’s a lot of us and I think we’ve definitely proved ourselves over the years and some of my favourite songwriters of all time are women like Sheryl Crow or Kate Bush, but I think that women producers, not that I am one, but I have friends who are, often struggle to have their voices heard because production in the past was something that’s been seen as being in the ‘man’s world’. That’s really important to me as there are so many amazing female producers out there and I’ve been working hard to support my friends and build a team of females around me. My manager is a woman, my PR is a woman. There are so many talented ladies out there who have great stories to tell and I want to be a part of that movement and support them.
You’ve spent some time touring around the U.K. and Europe opening for the likes of Coldplay, Celine Dion and Keith Urban. What are you looking forward to mostly about this event?
There’s nothing quite like those sitting down audiences where you can almost hear a pin drop. I definitely get more nervous at those kinds of shows. With the big shows you can’t make out people’s faces so they’re super exciting and there’s loads of adrenaline and energy, but you don’t get that intimacy that you get with a small show. I think it will be really cool. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve played a show like this in my home city, so I can’t wait.
Are you a connoisseur – will you be sitting with your whisky notes after the gig?
Absolutely! (laughs) I wanted to make sure that was built into the ticket so I’ve done a really great collaboration with the distillery who were totally up for it so the audience will get a dram of whisky on arrival and then half way through the show they’ll get another dram. After the show I’ve left about an hour for people to hang about and chat and enjoy some more whisky and just have a great Friday night.
Your single ‘Kissing Fools’ was released on Valentine’s Day followed by an acoustic version, preceding your debut album. Can you tell us about this and the video that accompanies it?
I just love all the 90s movies that I grew up with and I had this idea for ages to write a song that’s like a tribute to them, which is what Kissing Fools is about. When it came to making the video I wanted to make a mini movie. One of my best friends, Millie Upton, is an amazing producer and director so we collaborated on it and came up with the concept and we kind of really pulled everything from our own childhoods. All the stuff that’s in Cody, the boy who plays the main part in the video, all the stuff that’s in his bedroom is stuff from my old bedroom- so I dug out my old Jumanji game, there’s my mousetrap game, a Daffy Duck statue that I had, even the little TV that he’s watching was from my old bedroom. It was really fun to make our own version of a 90s rom-com.
You must be super-excited at the prospect of releasing your debut album?
It’s taken such a long time to get here. I’ve been making music for so long and I’ve had various singles and EP’s but never an album. So now it’s finally happening it’s really exciting. It’s actually been recorded for a while and so I’ve been sitting with it for over a year and I’m just dying now to get it out there and for people to hear it. I think it’s good that I’ve taken this long to piece it all together because if I’d have released an album a few years ago it would have been a very different sound and I’m really confident that what I’m putting out as my debut album is a great representation of me. I’d been an acoustic solo artist for years and I always wanted to make a big sound and I couldn’t really do that without a band. So for my album I’ve brought a band on board and an amazing rock producer so there’s this new kind of wall of sound in there that I think you get glimpses of in Kissing Fools and I’m hoping that will draw in some new fans.
On a different subject can you tell us about Guitarwrist, a project that you’ve been recently supporting?
It’s something I think is so cool. Last year I was at the Country Festival and I met the owner of Guitarwrist. Initially I just thought that the jewellery was so beautiful but then I got chatting to him and he explained the thinking behind it and how he came up with it. Originally it was really just started to stop so many guitar strings going in to landfill, most people just throw them in the trash. He’s had this great idea to collaborate with a jeweller and turn them into jewellery. They go to all the festivals, the artists come off stage, take their strings off and give them straight to Guitarwrists and then they turn them into jewellery in front of fans so the fans can go away wearing the strings that they’ve just seen their favourite artists play with, which I think is really cool. I also love that Ian, the owner of Guitarwrists, had the idea that the proceeds from the sale of the jewellery would go to the charity of the artists choice so I’ve chosen Stop the Traffic which is a charity that raises awareness about human trafficking. It’s something that I’ve learnt a lot about in the last few years and feel that raising more people’s awareness about how to spot the signs is something that we can all do something to help.
As well as the Spirit of Song on Friday 20 March at the Glengoyne Distillery, Dumgoyne, Killearn, Glasgow G63 9LB (Full address supplied because we bet you’ve never been to a gig there!), you can catch Kerri playing live at the Country to Country Festival Acoustic Stage in SEC Hydro, Glasgow on Friday 13 March and the Rambling Roots festival on 25 April. A taster for her debut album, her new single ‘Kissing Fools’, is out now.
Tickets for The Spirit of Song are available HERE.