British musician Kate Nash just completed her sold out American tour for her third record, Girl Talk – a huge coup after having been dropped by her label and producing the album on her own. I met up with Kate, 25, a few hours before she rocked the stage at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY. Nash entered the room, all smiles. Her full mane of thick black hair has a blonde streak that runs off to the side, giving clues to her powerful duality as a person and an artist. Nash’s lyrics are so dark and powerful, she describes them as “a punch to the face,” but her inherent lightness glows. Dressed in all black, Nash has very open energy, and a politeness to her that is way beyond her years. Or perhaps because she’s so very British.
We chatted with Nash about her overcoming odds, how to handle cruelty, and her work with Plan U.S.A. /Protect A Girl, an organization that gives girls hope, resources and power in Africa.
LS: What motivated you to write ‘Girl Talk’? It’s all about female empowerment.
Nash: Really personal stuff. I got to a point where I learned that I have to put myself first. It took me a long time to realize that. I started to take care of myself and I didn’t give a f*** about what anyone thought about me anymore. Taking care of myself made me a nicer, better human. I had been treated really badly by someone who really didn’t love himself. You have to really love the f*** out of yourself in order to be great to other people. Look at Oprah, she loves herself and she’s one of the best humans ever.
LS: Well, she gives away free cars. I’d be her friend just for that and I don’t even drive. Anyway, the new album is a totally different vibe from your previous albums. I didn’t expect it. How would you describe it?
Nash: It was like therapy. I went through a lot – my friend died and I had other tough things happen. It was one of those transitional years that shapes you as a human. I just had to make this record. I wrote everything on the base, and that changed everything because it’s this loud, powerful instrument. It was a total release. I told my neighbor, I either write this album or go to a mental health clinic. Then I got dropped by my record label later in the year.
LS: Why? Do you think they weren’t ready for you to evolve?
Nash: It was never really explained to me. But I started my own record label, which I think is way cooler. With my own label I got to hand pick a team. There’s more challenges, but it’s worth it. When I got dropped, the record was made and I just wanted to get it out. Waiting for a new label would have been too long of a process. They would have only come in and wanted to make changes I didn’t.
LS: This way you own your own work. You’re not waiting around for a suit to walk in the room, wearing Converse and tell you to sound more like Justin Bieber. So, tell me about your trip to Africa and you work with ‘Plan U.S.A.: Protect A Girl’.
Nash: I went to a little village called Ho Ho in Ghana. I visited the elders, the Chiefs and the schools. Protect A Girl sets up programs for girls in developing nations. The particular program I signed up for is “Girls Making Media.” They learn how to use technology. We taught them about everything from sexism, to sexual assault, to hygiene. They then go into the villages and interview people. We’re selling merch on the tour that goes to fund the project. We’re trying to raise awareness as much as we can to get people to donate.
It was great to see the girls learn that they have options and hear them say, “I want to be a journalist.” There was one boy in the group who said, “I’m educating my parents now that girls can have careers and they’re not just supposed to be in the kitchen.”
LS: I love that there was a boy in the group.
Nash: Me too. I loved that he was there and felt inspired to educate his parents.
LS: I don’t believe in segregation within the feminist movement. It’s not about excluding men, we need them to hear us and be on our side in order to move forward. What has inspired you to be good to other women?
Nash: I have two sisters and my mom is really outspoken and political. I’ve been attacked so much in the media. When my first album released, I was still a teenager. I was called everything you can think of. They said I was too fat, that I was ugly, and I received death threats on the Internet. It became sort of a cause for me. Now I don’t think about how all that makes me feel, but how it makes teenage girls and other women feel when horrible things are said to them.
I also found out that there are far less female composers than males. It made me really upset. I started a program for girls where they could learn how to be songwriters. We did drums, bass guitar and lyrics. We also talked about how girls are affected by the media in such a negative way.
LS: That is really cool.
Nash: Now I feel they can’t touch me. They can say anything about me, it’s already been said. When I read or hear mean things about me, I laugh and say, “You’re six years behind on that.”
Be inspired by Because I am a Girl. Encourage your male friends to back the cause to help young girls in developing nations who have been sexually assaulted, as well as others start to learn, prosper, and have a fighting chance.
Image courtesy of Christopher Dadey