Published Feb 19, 2014Four years ago, a fresh-faced graduate of the famed BRIT School (its alumni include Adele, Amy Winehouse and Kate Nash) brazenly stamped her name on the music scene with a ferocious dubstep track aptly titled "Katy On A Mission." Since then, singer-songwriter Katy B has firmly secured herself a spot in clubs, on charts and on the radar of dance and pop fanatics alike — even clinching a Mercury Prize nod for her 2011 debut, On A Mission.
Admittedly, the artist born Kathleen Brien (she also briefly performed as Baby Katy) has grown up over these handful of years and as she navigates the most important years of her life— the sometimes dreaded "20-something" — Brien's maturity is informing a more sophisticated sound.
"I definitely feel different," Brien offers, citing more responsibilities as an overarching factor. "You know when people are like, 'Shit got real'? That's what it feels like!"
Brien deflects inquiries about specific events or experiences that may have played a part in her recent development ("I don't feel comfortable talking about it just yet, but in time"), but it's apparent in the insightfulness of songs on her new album, Little Red. Songs not only stretch across a broader spectrum of the dance sub-genres, from gritty house beats to glossy synth-pop, but Brien describes certain tracks as "songs to cry to," almost as much as she confers the infectiousness of their rhythms and production.
"I think any kind of story can fit over dance music, whether it makes you cry or not," Brien argues. "Every song has a different setting, so in a way, you could listen to it before going out, on a train, on a long journey.
"I love it when people come up to me and say that they listen to my music at the gym. It makes me happy to think that my music has given someone motivation and energy — so hopefully people can listen to this album at the gym!"
Even her lead single, "Crying For No Reason," could make a strong case for such a soundtrack, with its emotional crescendo into a fireworks display of a chorus and explosive finale, bringing to mind some of Robyn's best moments on 2010's Body Talk.
But as age intensifies Brien's experiences and, in turn, magnifies her songwriting, the redheaded star has only gained more confidence and may appear to be on a mission more than ever. Casting aside any sophomore album pressures, Brien assures that the keys to success are "making sure you have a sense of who you are and not feeling afraid. I just wanted to relax and kick back."
And while Little Red's pop sensibilities ride parallel to the album's predominant dance elements, there really is no need to put Katy B in either box. "I don't really care about putting a label on myself, I just listen to music, I listen to what I like and my only ambition is to express myself and make a living off of it," she rationalizes. "I love dance music, but I also love listening to the radio — I kind of like being a hybrid."