Sugar and spice and everything nice. That’s what Kate Nash is made of.
Whether singing quirky tunes about a relationship’s cracking "Foundations" or calling a guy out for being a "Dickhead," the brassy 20-year-old Britpop singer hit the right note with fans when she posted songs to her MySpace page while bedridden with a broken foot.
Her punk-influenced brand of pop led to Nash’s first meeting with ATC Management’s Ollie Slaney, who contacted the singer after hearing her songs online. He went to see her play a gig and was blown away by her performance.
"She’s just got that presence that you don’t find every day," Slaney told Pollstar. "She’s got something really special, and when you see her live, she just captures it."
That stage presence may have come straight from Nash’s days studying performing arts at London’s BRIT School – the alma mater of fellow British singers Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse – but the comparisons end there.
Nash grew up playing the piano, as well as traditional Irish instruments including the tin whistle and bodhran, before picking up the guitar and drums. Her album and live performances have put those skills to the test.
On top of that, Nash’s love for the DIY ethic has played a big part in shaping her career.
"It’s really important to me," she told Pollstar. "That’s something I try and keep hold of … just know what’s going on all the time. It’s definitely a really important thing I don’t want to let go of."
Slaney explained that after meeting Nash, he realized just how driven she was. hi
"She did a lot herself," he said. "She did her own recordings on her computer with Garage Band … and booked a lot of the early gigs herself. She even sent home demos to [XFM’s] John Kennedy, who played them before I met her."
With Nash’s momentum in full swing, Slaney said ATC Management hooked her up with producer Paul Epworth (whose credits include Bloc Party and Babyshambles albums) and basically funded Made of Bricks before she ever signed to a label.
"We wanted to make sure that the label knew what kind of an artist Kate was, and Kate knew what sort of an artist she was before we got too many people involved," Slaney said. "We wanted to have less people as well in the creative process; take the lead with that."
After Slaney brought in 13 Artists agent Angus Baskerville early on, Nash set off on her first rounds of touring.
"I remember when we first started and my first tour was to like 100-capacity venues," Nash said. "I was like, ‘Oh God! This is so cool!’"
As she went out on larger tours and adjusted to life on the road, Nash realized how important it was to surround herself with a good team.
"I find it really important to build a community of people that you trust and that you like and you can have a laugh with and also you can have a fight with," she said. "Because you’re living in confined spaces, it’s kind of dirty and it’s not that comfortable."
Still, she said she wouldn’t have it any other way, explaining how much she loves touring and playing venues where she can connect with the crowd.
"For me there’s nothing like the intimacy," she said. "I like being able to see my audience. When I perform, I like looking into people’s eyes and acting it out."
Nash has also taken an especially DIY approach to connecting with her crowds by producing a ’zine entitled My Ignorant Youth that she hands out at shows.
"It’s just no bullshit," she said. "Like I literally cut stuff out, print it off the computer, stick it in, photocopy it, and give them out for free."
But her first attempt to pass out the ’zines from the merch table led to mass fan pandemonium.
"It was like panic – the merch desk got broken; it was like in a zombie film when all the arms are coming up," she said, laughing, explaining that she decided to throw copies out into the crowd after that first incident.
Slaney said it’s always been clear that Nash likes to keep things real and has the final say when it comes down to the direction she takes her music.
"She’s never done any adverts or whatever with her music," Slaney said. "She made it clear that she didn’t want to be a celebrity and she just wanted to be known as a musician. … We can advise her on what we think’s right, but at the end of the day, all the decisions are made by her."
"I definitely put a lot of truth in my songs," she said. "If you don’t like my album, we won’t get on … you won’t like me as a person, because it’s who I am."
After wrapping up a U.S. stint on the NME Awards tour, Nash heads back to the U.K. and Europe for festival season.