Hi Katy, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Busy. I’m excited to finally launch the record after a big show locally in town to promote it. It’s exciting to hear the band fleshing our all the parts and seeing how audiences react. I have been getting lots of messages from people who are relating to the songs.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “In Your Shoes (For Daisy)”?
I had previously written a song about my daughter Lily (Present 2015) and had been mulling over ideas for quite a while. I wanted the songs to be as unique as each kid, I probably put a little too much pressure on myself as it took several years to feel happy with this one.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
Yes. Daisy is a deep thinker and loves to write. This song was inspired by a mothers day card she wrote It was more like a letter than a card and one of the lines stuck out. “I know you’ll never give up on me, and I know you’ll never give up on me either”. It was so sweet and so intense, just like her. So I tried to write from the point of view that we all want what’s best for our kids but they have to experience life too.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
I asked a good friend if I could borrow her daughter. She loves to dance and sing and isn’t shy I felt like it would be extra sweet to have a younger child. Daisy is a teen now. I had worked with Cobey Rouse before as I appeared in a video for his band batteryboy. So we discussed ideas and did the whole shoot in just a couple of hours. The idea was for a mother and child to mimic and play together. It was pure coincidence that we took along similar dresses.
The single comes off your new album Suit of Hearts – what’s the story behind the title?
I have always been very open with my feelings. Since I was a child when I lost my parents I have felt it’s important to discuss grief and emotions rather than pretending things are always ok. Now that we live in such a digital age of sharing everything online I sometimes feel like I have gone beyond wearing my heart on my sleeve to the point where I show my entire Suit Of hearts. Rather than feel embarrassed about that I decided to declare it and own that vulnerability.
How was the recording and writing process?
The writing was done during my first UK tour in 2016. It was my first extensive time away from home and the longest amount of time I’ve been in the UK since I moved away from there when I was 21. When I got back to MN I worked for several months with my band. We all had fun adding parts and finding a good feel for each song. That led to a pretty smooth transition into the studio and allowed me to invite in additional players, such as strings and a choir. This is for sure the most ambitious record yet. Every member of my band really gets a chance to shine.
How Lilly Allen and Brandi Carlisle has influence your writing?
I’d say they influence my performance more than my writing. It’s funny that people often comment that I’ve lost my British accent when I sing. Lily Allen songs are so catchy and cheeky and fun and you can always hear her accent. That’s something I try not to lose. I think writing most of this records songs while I was in the Uk add to them feeling more inherently British. Brandi is just an inspiration in every aspect. I’m so glad to see her mainstream success. Her vocals are so pure and powerful. She is so truthfully herself and that’s always inspiring.
What role does the UK play in your music?
I’ve always loved British music. Still can’t beat The Beatles when it comes to songwriting and production. I feel proud to come from a place that so many iconic people have come from. It’s just always been in my life. Im actually Welsh, although I was born and raised in London, and there is such a long history of singing and choirs in Wales. I like to think it’s in my blood.
Touring there was a huge shift in the way I saw myself as a performer. I was encouraged to apply to a large ukulele festival and ended up playing two of them. For the rest of that six week tour I independently booked 19 other dates in pubs, clubs, and house shows. It was a huge leap of faith and I had the best experience. To play for brand new audiences gave me faith in my songs and performance and literally opened up so many new doors to me.
How your transition from one culture to the other has now has influence your approach to music?
I never thought of a career in music while I still lived in London. I thought I might do musical theater but I didn’t see myself being a musician. I’ve always approached music as a singer only. Moving to Minneapolis showed me that acoustic music really had a scene and as a songwriter I could collaborate with people and find my way in. I think that has more to do with the local scene here and perhaps not the US as a whole.
What aspect of mental health and sobriety did you get to explore on this record?
I was still quite newly sober when I started the record. To be on my own for six weeks was a true test of that and I was worried I might relapse. So some of the songs come from that fragile state. I also knew that it would take strength to keep on track and that I wanted to document the possibility of happiness that everyone can hopefully find. I didn’t want to write songs about giving up. Writing these songs helped me focus on my own happy ending.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
The UK being my birthplace but no longer my home plays a big role in the record. I have so much sadness and grief associated with London, but I still love it. One of the most impactful times in my tour was spent get time in Wales. I connected with my cousin who showed me around where my mother and grandmother lived. I felt so close to my roots and for the first time really had the feeling that I belonged somewhere. I wrote ‘Sonebody’s Daughters daughter’ And decided it needed a choir of women to give those women in my life that I never knew their own voices.
Any plans to hit the road?
I’m off to the UK again in June and I keep saying I need to plan a US tour. I’m going to Texas soon as a finalist for the Kerrville Folk festival soon and I’m really looking forward to that.
What else is happening in Katy Vernon’s world?
I’m curating a music series with a non profit called Dissonance. We help connect artists with mental health and sobriety support. Because the organization has an active online presence I found it easier to reach out to them when I was struggling. They were able to share resources and also just be a kind and non judgmental sounding board. I put together a month of concerts in a downtown building to help raise awareness. There are so many barriers and excuses why people don’t or can’t find help. The goal is to normalize these discussions.
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