Katy Alex can break your heart with just one song
She has a stunningly emotive voice with a warm, jazzy undertone that’s well beyond her years. Her lyrics are raw, real and painfully relatable. Even though she is a tiny, gem of a girl, when she takes to the stage, she confidently commands the audience’s attention with a graceful ease that draws you into her. And once she’s got you, you’re locked in. Later this year, Katy Alex will graduate from the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, but Katy hasn’t been waiting until graduation to start making her mark. In 2014, she was given a place in the prestigious LIMF Academy. In 2015 she played at every major festival in Liverpool, from Threshold and SoundCity to FarmFeast and The Mersey River Festival and everything in between. In September, Katy performed with Liverpool legends, The Farm, live on stage at The Echo Arena for the With Love From Liverpool charity concert in aid of the Syrian refugees. Katy sang the female vocals in their classic hit “All Together Now” to close the gig hosted by John Bishop and Janice Long. If all of that wasn’t enough; at the end of last year, she was crowned the winner of Merseyrail Soundstation 2015. Still only 20 years old, this girl is most definitely going places. Meet the sassy. fast-rising, pop starlet that is Katy Alex.
Ellie: How did you first get into music?
Katy: When I talk about myself as a musician and where I started. I got all my inspiration from my great-granddad, who played piano and violin. And that’s where I kinda started. It wasn’t until I was about 13 that I started singing, and I was about 15 when I got lessons. Then I started doing solo gigs and open mics, and then I got a place at LIPA, which is where the band came together, and Katy Alex really started becoming what it was.
Ellie: What’s LIPA like? A lot of people see it as this all-singing, all-dancing stage school where everyone is doing cartwheels down the hallway. What’s it really like?
Katy: You know what sometimes it is like that. There are some days where everyone is a bit wacky. It is really really great. It’s all the opportunities that come with it. If you need someone, or you need help, or you need to record a song, you’ve got it within an hour, dya know what I mean? All the names and all the people, everyone’s there and they’ve got the contacts that the lecturers and the staff can help you with. It’s just perfect who anyone who wants to be in performing arts. I’m actually working towards the Tube Extra on April 22nd. It’s the LIPA Festival: 8 days of 4 acts going on each night, and it’s what we get marked on for our performer module at LIPA.
Ellie: You’ve not even graduated yet, but you’ve achieved so much already, like being in the LIMF Academy.
Katy: Well I was in the class of 2014 with some of the other guys like Xam Volo and Little Grace. I think that really really helped shape Katy Alex, or at least boost awareness I suppose. Some of the really good shows we got off that, and all of the mentoring and industry help that we got with it were just perfect to guide us in the right direction.
Ellie: That was in 2014, and then last year you became the Merseyrail Sound Station 2015 winner. That must have been a great day!
Katy: That was really exciting. The day itself was really long, but it was just perfect. It was great seeing all of the different acts, everyone was so different from each other. Then winning it and being dragged straight over to do a live radio performance was a whirlwind. It’s great because with winning it I get a years worth of mentoring, so I’m looking to get help with PR and pushing promotion and that kind of thing. I also got to do a recording session as well.
Ellie: Talking about recording. You released a very special single at the end of last year, didn’t you?
Katy: Yeh, that song was called Light. It was quite a quick turn around to be honest. I only wrote it for songwriting at LIPA, and it just turned out so well, with the Sound Station final coming up we just thought why not give it that extra push? And hopefully the traffic around that final would help the single. It got really well-received by everyone, and we had quite a few plays on Juice haha and a few plays on BBC Introducing too.
Ellie: And you’ve been in the studio today haven’t you?
Katy: There’s a guy who graduated from LIPA last summer, and he’s also in a band called Native Kings. He produces at Bold Management. Initially it was just a writing session because I want to work with different producers and finalise a sound that I’m happy with for Katy Alex. But it went so well that we ended up recording a track within 2 days. We finished off all the vocals today, and I’m thinking of keeping hold of that one and release it with a music video as well. That’s the plan I’ve got anyway.
Ellie: Outside of Katy Alex, you’ve got other projects too haven’t you?
Katy: Yeh I’m in another band called Halem, it’s an electronic-pop kind of trio. There’s me, a drummer (who also plays keys), and another guy who plays the keys too. It’s very Chvrches/Aluna George kind of feel. It’s nice to do something so different to Katie Alex. That came about at the end of December 2014 and that’s been doing really well as well. We’ve got quite a bit of interest from higher industry as well.
Ellie: Do you find it difficult balancing both?
Katy: I did at first, but it’s not too hard now. When you enjoy both of them so much, it’s hard to not love it, and I love both of them.
Ellie: Have you had any real pinch yourself moments yet? I remember turning up to From Liverpool With Love at the Echo Arena last year, and being like “is that Katy Alex on stage with The Farm?” Haha! That must have been incredible?
Katy: Haha yeh that was really cool. I think I actually got asked like a week before to do that, and we only had one rehearsal. That was crazy! I remember having a soundcheck and being like “I’m actually on stage at the Echo Arena – I can’t believe it!”. That was ridiculous. I wouldn’t have got that if I didn’t go to LIPA because obviously I wouldn’t know Keith Mullin. Other pinch-myself moments: when I was 15 I played my first proper gig which was a sold out show at The Cavern. As far as first gigs go, I couldn’t really have got better. My first actual band gig, Yaw from LIMF Academy asked me if I wanted to play the Grand National on Ladies Day. He said it had to be with a band, so I just told him I had a band, but I didn’t! And then I had a month to get a band and a hald hour set together, so I was like on the LIPA group page like “does anyone wanna be in my band?” haha! And we pulled it together in a month, and later on that day Katy B played on the same stage, so I suppose you could say that we warmed up for Katy B. I dunno!
Ellie: Haha you can totally say that!
Katy: But that was really cool, because it was like: are we actually gonna be able to pull this off in a month? But it worked really really well!
Ellie: You graduate from LIPA this year. What’s next for Katy Alex?
Katy: I’m gonna do some festivals and keep gigging. Hopefully get some more outside of Liverpool and try and finalise the sound, because it’s gonna be nothing like I’m performing at the moment when it’s there. I know that already. I’ve got an idea and what I’ve been working on today is probably closer to that. So I’m gonna keep working on the brand and the image, and when it’s ready release something in the autumn.
Ellie: What do you want your sound to be?
Katy: A lot of people say to me: “you’ve got that jazzy kind of Erica Badu-ness about you”. But as much as I love her and I love that, I don’t want to do that. I want to be fun on stage and lose myself. A bit like Charlie XCX or Marina and The Diamonds. That kind of really fun girly kind of pop but in a tomboy kind of way. Dya know what I mean? I wanna get really excited on stage and run around and basically lose my head a little bit haha! At the moment I wanna get away from the jazz and I’m thinking a lot about how I want it to look on stage.
Ellie: So, after you’ve defined your sound and performance, where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Katy: I’d love to say with a record deal. I mean my ultimate goal is to headline Glastonbury. I think that’s most musicians’ haha! After watching Florence And The Machine headline this year and how much fun she looked like she had, I really really wanna do that. But, who knows?