If you take one look at Katy B, you might understand the literal interpretation of Little Red, her sophomore album title. As the singer-songwriter born Kathleen Brien quickly points out, she too is petite and redheaded. The title, derived from a track that's now on the cutting room floor, has produced a few other meanings for Brien since. It's been reported that she feels a sense of fiery red passion from hearing the record, which you can now stream here on Exclaim.ca ahead of its February 11 release date, and you're forgiven for thinking that sounds familiar.
"Yeah, there's definitely a similarity," Brien tells Exclaim! when asked about comparisons to pop star Taylor Swift's most recent release, Red. "I was like, 'Oh, man!' when she came out with Red and that explanation, but I had already come up with it, so I can't say something different. But, it is Little Red anyway. If I ever see her, I'll tell her, 'You got there first!'"
That's pretty much where the pop correlations end, though. Sure, the graduate of the famed BRIT School — home of such talents as Adele, Amy Winehouse and Kate Nash — has an admitted love for radio hits and pop song structures (she calls herself a "Beyoncé fanatic"), but she also has no desire to be pigeonholed.
"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."
In fact, Little Red very clearly shows off a diversity of sounds, drawing from a plethora of dance subgenres, from house to dubstep and even dipping her toes into synth-pop.
Whereas Brien previously worked with instrumentals given to her, building lyrics atop the bombast beats and complex rhythms someone else created for her, Little Red also includes tracks that have been built from scratch by Brien and her producers.
"I was going to the studio with a clean slate and I've done that before being in bands," Brien explains. "So I was excited to do it like that rather than just getting an instrumental, even though I love writing that way as well, because the music just evokes so much in me."
Now transitioning through her 20s, the star has grown up a lot between her 2011 album On a Mission and Little Red. Personally speaking, she doesn't detail specific life-changing moments, but does reveal that her personal life has informed her musical growth.
"I definitely feel different being in my early 20s and just having a little bit more responsibility," Brien says. "You know when people are like, 'Shit got real?' That's what it feels like!"
Little Red is out February 11 via Rinse/Columbia, but you can stream the album now by clicking here.
Read an interview with Katy B here.