Behind the Music: Interview with Kerri Watt

‘Creating ‘Neptune’s Daughter’ was one of the most fun experiences of my life!’

Ahead of her debut album ‘Neptune’s Daughter’ (out 15th Jan 2021), Kerri Watt chatted with us about her musical journey to this point, decade-driven nostalgia and what we can expect from the much-awaited release. 

When did you first realise music would be a huge part of your life? It’s hard to pin point an exact moment because music has been running through my veins since I was a mere 2-year-old! I danced from a very young age and that was my real introduction to music. I absolutely loved moving my body in sync with the sounds I was hearing, and some of my earliest heroes were singers who danced – Michael & Janet Jackson, Madonna, Britney and JLo. As I got a bit older, I learnt to play instruments and discovered I had a voice too. There was never really a question of doing anything other than performing. 

What are your biggest music/non-music based inspirations? As a songwriter, Van Morrison and Sheryl Crow, and in terms of artistry, definitely a few of those mentioned above plus The Rolling Stones and Eagles. Non music based, I have always been super inspired by the actor Steve Martin (although he does play the banjo very well.) I also draw from my experiences in nature, hiking in the mountains of Scotland and surfing the waves of California! There’s a lot of ‘adventure’ imagery in my writing. 

What initially drew you to Americana style music? I spent time living in the States as a teen. This was also where I studied music and really got to know a lot of styles I wasn’t familiar with growing up such as blues, gospel, country and folk. Hearing all that music for the first time, and at such an impressionable age, definitely left a mark that I carry through not only in my writing, but in my personality too. Every time I pick up the guitar, I’m naturally drawn to writing in a style that falls somewhere between all those genres and luckily there’s now an umbrella term for that: ‘Americana!’

You clearly have a phenomenal vocal range, as well as an ability to seamlessly switch styles. How do you go about deciding which ones to use within your releases? Thank you! It’s not really a conscious choice, I just write the melodies and songs that come to me. It depends on the day, what mood I’m in, or perhaps what other music I’ve been listening to recently. That all comes out in the songwriting. 

And on the topic of music creation, what does your typical song-writing process normally involve? Songwriting is different every time. As most writers do, I have a million voice notes on my phone with ideas that come to me when I’m in the most random of places – like Asda! So sometimes I sit and listen through those, or sometimes I’m struck by a great phrase or sentence I’ve read in a book that really inspires me. More often than not, I sit and write when my heart has something to say – usually at the piano, or with a guitar, and I try to write those heartfelt songs in one sitting. If they take longer than that, they’re not worth pursuing. 

‘When we finished mastering the album in 2018, I decided not to listen to it until it came out.’

Turning to your forthcoming album, what is the story behind the title ‘Neptune’s Daughter’ and how did it come about? So up until a few weeks before announcing the album, it was called ‘Chasing Aeroplanes.’ Then, as we were putting the finishing touches on the record, I was like ‘Wait a minute, I’ve got this one song that’s half-finished that just has to go on the album,’ and it was Neptune’s Daughter. I’d been struggling with ‘Chasing Aeroplanes’ being the title for a while because when that decision was originally made, I was kind of ‘finding myself’, which is what that title represents. I feel much more confident in who I am now and wanted a title that was a reflection of the album as a whole, rather than one song. So, to answer your question… the song ‘Neptune’s Daughter’ was inspired by my adventures round the globe, travelling, spending time at the ocean, and feeling really connected to nature. Essentially ‘child of the ocean.’ There is so much of that imagery in songs like ‘Band of Gold’ and ‘Waking Up In California’, all of which are about enjoying the good things in life, and this is really where I’m at this past year! I’m so pleased we changed the title last minute although now everyone keeps calling my dad Neptune! Haha!

What was the most surprising element/biggest benefit of working with a producer from a different musical background? That music is a universal language and it doesn’t matter your taste or background, you will always find common ground. Actually, it goes much deeper than that. It’s about having a real understanding of each other at a core level, and we feel music on a different astral plane than your average listener. There was also a profound respect from each of us about the others’ musical tastes. We learnt from each other, discovered a new appreciation for each other’s natural genres, and made something I hope people feel is unique. 

Judging by your announcement video, it seems like it was huge fun. Who else was involved in the creation of the album, and how important is it to work with musicians who share your vision? It was one of the most fun experiences of my life! The best part about it was that all the session musicians we’re pulled in from the local Austin scene and felt that style of music in their bones. I didn’t have to explain it to them, they just knew instinctively how to groove to it and getting on so well, it made for an awesome few weeks of collaboration. Both Machine (my producer) and I were open to ideas from all the players, and I think their quirks and talents really shine through in the record too. Oh, and my brother Fraser was involved too! He and I covered all the backing vocals for the album. 

So other than working with a different producer, what else has driven such a development in sound from your earlier releases? I think becoming clear about who I am and what I love. I guess not trying to ‘sound’ like anything or anyone but trusting my instincts. A bit of hosting an ‘Americana’ radio show in Scotland and through that discovering all the great Americana music that was out there – old and new impacted as well. And… age! 

With the album being recorded in 2018, have you revisited any final mixes ahead of the release and if so, have you made any alterations? When we finished mastering the album in 2018, I decided not to listen to it until it came out. I loved the experience of making it so much that I didn’t want to over play any of the songs and get bored of them! So no, nothing has been revisited. The only addition as I mentioned is ‘Neptune’s Daughter.’ It was originally going to be part of the album, and we recorded the live band playing it while I was out there back in 2018. However, we ran out of time to do the vocals, so the ones you hear on the finished track were recorded in my living room over lockdown! 

How did you decide which tracks to pre-release, and are there any new ones you have written since that you wish were part of the album? I wanted to slowly introduce people to the new sound, letting them hear glimpses of what was to come. ‘Cut Me Loose’ for example is a bit rockier than anything I’ve done previously, and before I unleash the full album – which has a very rock tune on it – I needed to ease my listener base in! I’ve written so many songs since recording the album but have never felt like adding them in. ‘Neptune’s Daughter’ is a real body of work written and recorded over a 3-month period – a moment in time really, and it wouldn’t make sense to take away from that by adding anything. 

  ‘When the record is out and shows are back, I’ll be so excited to unleash the songs into my live set!’

Turning briefly to the visuals for your releases, I love the vibe of your videos for ‘Chasing Aeroplanes’ and ‘Kissing Fools’. What steered the concept of these and how involved were you in the production process of them? When I was writing the album, I was also making a mood board of what I wanted the vibe to be aesthetically which included colours of previous decades – both ones I’ve lived through, and ones I wish I had! I suffer from extreme nostalgia and had a real vision to incorporate this into the visuals as well as the sound. For all of the music videos over the past couple of years, I’ve gone to my friends who are in entertainment with a bunch of ideas, references and my vision boards and together we created some movie magic. I always choose to work with them when it comes to music videos as it feels much more like a collaboration and is way more fun than hiring a crew I don’t know. It also means I can be involved every step of the way from set design to costuming, which I love so much. I also to give people a glimpse of my personality by adding a touch of humour too.

We’ve all missed out on live music since March 2020, but you’ve put on an incredible number of live streams. How do think these have helped yourself and your fans through these tricky times? Playing live streams was definitely keeping me sane in the beginning, though I think by August it was actually having the opposite effect! However, it was an amazing way to connect with my followers. By doing a weekly stream and interacting with them during it, I felt like I got to know them personally and what they liked which massively helped with how I now present content to them. Many of them told me how much they looked forward to my streams, and it was the highlight of their week. It’s a very nice thing to hear and brings a tear to my eye! 

Also on the topic of live music, when it returns, which track/s from the album are you most looking forward to performing and why these ones? Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to keep at least half of the album under wraps in terms of what I’m playing live. When the record is out and shows are back, I’ll be so, so excited to unleash songs like ‘Spoonful of Sugar’ and ‘Waking Up In California’ into my live set! There’s also a great ‘Nanaa’ section in ‘Neptune’s Daughter’ which was just written for a crowd so that’ll be loads of fun. 

And finally, what are three things you know now that you wish you had known at the start of your career? That I am my own best representative, that being a solo artist can be very lonely, and that it would lead me to my future husband! #recentlyengaged

Thanks Kerri Watt for chatting with Listen to Discover
Photo Credit: Hana Haley
  

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