Katy B: ‘My mission is to make underground, overground’

Inga Abramian talks to Katy B about memorable moments, student life and her mission on the world music scene.

In terms of longevity in today’s fickle music industry, Katy B’s two top five hits and guest spot on Magnetic Man’s banger ‘Perfect Stranger’ pretty much make her an ‘established artist’ already – all before she’s even released her first album, ‘On a Mission’, which is set to hit the shelves on 4 April.

Hailed as the princess of UK funky (or dubstep, depending on who you ask), the Peckham-born 21-year-old has risen fast from obscurity, much like the genre she represents. But, as with many young stars, the journey has been longer than you might first imagine: “Music’s always been around me from the moment I was born really, but I think I first took it seriously when I went to BRIT School.”

Based in Croydon, the performing arts school is partly funded by the BRIT awards and has taught some of Britain’s biggest talents, including Amy Winehouse, Adele and Leona Lewis. Having graduated from there, Katy’s journey to stardom gained pace with record deals from major labels landing on her lap, before eventually signing with Rinse in 2009. There was just one small problem: she had a degree in Popular Music to finish at Goldsmith University.

“It was definitely hard work,” she says. “When I was recording my album, everything was compromising each other. I couldn’t be in the studio so often, and I couldn’t really focus on doing my essays and I’m really bad at organising my time.”

But after all the hard work – no matter how disorganised – knowing the album is done, dusted and ready to hit speakers and shelves simultaneously must be a buzz? “I’m very excited. I can’t wait!”

When asked to describe the album in two words, the singer offered, “Electronic and soulful.” An intriguing mix, but a logical one when you consider the myriad styles she incorporates into her songs. Dubstep, garage, house, funky – the list could probably go on. Asked about the influences for the album, Katy said, “I went to different clubs and listened to different genres. Also the producers that I’ve worked with have helped me a lot.”

One collaboration on the album has the past meeting the future with Ms. Dynamite co-writing the hit single ‘Lights On’. Katy was overwhelmed by the chance to work with the multi-award winning singer/rapper: “I love her! She’s very humble, and I’m very, very happy that I got to work with her. She’s great!”

Having also collaborated with Magnetic Man for his hit ‘Perfect Stranger’, VF asks who else is on Katy’s collaboration list? “I’d love to duet with Cee Lo Green,” the singer replies. “I love his vibe.”

Crowds at this summer’s festivals will love Katy’s vibe, too, as she’s already been announced to play a few, including Wireless, Bestival, Creamfields, Beach Break Live and more. “I’m definitely a big festival lover,” she says. “Last year, I did Reading with [Magnetic Man] and that was so amazing, so hopefully they’ll invite me down again.”

However, despite her confidence and obvious talent, the singer is still nervous about performing to such huge crowds, especially after one incident involving a water bottle: “I remember at one gig I picked up my bottle of water to wave to the audience, and there was no lid on top of it, so I tipped the whole bottle on me. I was saying goodbye to everyone, thanking them and thinking, ‘Oh, well, what an exit!’”

As we bring the interview to a close, VF can’t help but ask what mission Katy is on. “I guess my mission is to make underground, overground.” If the last few months are anything to go by, she may well succeed.

Katy B‘s debut album ‘On A Mission’ is out on 4 April on Rinse. She is currently touring the UK.

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