With her spry pop framework, Katie Kittermaster articulates the melancholy of young adulthood with wit, warmth and clarity. On songs like ‘The Problem’ and ‘Lukewarm Lover’, Kittermaster is able to express some of the more difficult, confusing aspects of human relationships in a lucid, plain-spoken way. That makes her songs, even in their most downcast moments, a study of resolve, strength and triumph. Because in the end, that’s what great songs tend to do: they clear up murky matters into something more transparent and easy to grasp.
Kittermaster was well aware of this power from the starting gun, leaning mostly on guitar and voice on her 2019 EP Coming Home At Dawn. Hitting the road with the likes of Kaiser Chiefs, Scouting For Girls, Ronan Keating, Lucy Spraggan, and Boyzlife (Brian McFadden and Keith Duffy) in her career’s formative stages made it abundantly clear that crowds really homed in on her honest, conversational songs, which have gathered millions of plays worldwide. As her words were sung back to Katie manifold, she was compelled to explore the potential of her music a little deeper
The 2020 single ‘One Of A Kind’ introduced a more condensed, pop-focused direction for Katie, without sacrificing the relatable, down-to-earth magnetism that marked her previous material. The song holds the looking glass under a long-term relationship in your teens, and the quandary of letting go of that to fully embrace all the life that’s still up ahead. In her current creative phase, highlighting small, often unspoken subtleties of relationships has become somewhat of a singular feature of her music.
To connect on a deeper, more immediate level with her listeners, Katie is directly engaging with them on TikTok to witness firsthand how her unfinished material resonates. It introduces a fresh impulsive dynamic into her creative process. “One day I sat in my car and put on an unreleased song through the car speakers and sang along to the demo,” she recalls. “I put the lyrics on the screen so they could read or sing along. It gives you automatically a feel on whether people connect to it or relate to it.” The big response affirmed why Katie was enraptured by the song in question, ‘Friends’, in the first place.
“The song is based on that post-breakup line where someone says ‘we should definitely keep in touch and stay in contact’,” Katie clarifies. “You both kind of know it’s bullshit, but it's something you say to soften the blow and to make the other person feel better.” ‘Friends’ laments the folly of salvaging fragments of something that once was whole: the remnants can sometimes be too painful to become attached to. “The other person would be like : ‘We’re just going to talk.’ I remember going out for a drink after being dumped, and it’s really tricky, because if two people have shared something really special, that’s not just going to disappear overnight.”
‘Friends’ is a song about deciding whether to sever your ties completely or keep some vestige of a relationship alive. Ultimately, it talks about processing what’s best for the self and finding comfort in the letting go. Katie once again brandishes a gift for marrying real tangible moments with innermost reflections, capturing a multitude of familiar emotions in a single line: “My coffee’s going cold/I don’t care/Too busy trying to drink in your stare”.
While being in a more sunny phase in her life, Katie draws a lot of inspiration from the past trials that have shaped her. Recent writing sessions have unlocked new layers of her craft, jettisoning the naivéte of her earlier music and penning songs from more refined perspectives. “I really struggle to write songs when I’m happy,” she laughs, “so lately, I’ve been having to reflect on times when I wasn’t as happy. People will be like: ‘Damn, you’re still not over that breakup?’ And I tell them I’m actually fine, I just needed some inspiration, so I had to go back into my memories and think about how things felt in the past. I’m not going to lie: I just don’t like happy songs! And when I try, I usually just stop halfway and go back to sad bangers. It’s hard to write happy songs, and to not sound really cringe-y.”
Being happy writing sad bangers may sound a bit like an oxymoron, but like on ‘Friends’, the element of hindsight gives Katie’s music a palpable joy no matter what, often acting like a big sister to her younger, more wide-eyed self. She is becoming more and more shrewd at managing her own creative instincts, and recognising the impact of her music to the outside world. Not only by churning out new tunes from old scars, but also being more in tune with herself as an individual flourishing into adulthood. Katie Kittermaster the artist is a candid extension of Katie Kittermaster the person, and the journey up ahead looks very bright indeed.