[Written by Deri Ronan (she/her)]
On the 15th January 2021, Glaswegian singer-songwriter Kerri Watt released her long-awaited debut studio album, ‘Neptune’s Daughter’. Recorded with the Texas-based producer Machine, best known for working with artists such as Lamb of God & Fallout Boy – the album is the fruit of an unanticipated collaboration. Yet, it seems this unlikely pairing has aided Kerri in affixing a new edge to her contemporary pop/rock sound.
Kerri is clearly an innovator at heart. Besides the release of the wonderful ‘Neptune’s Daughter’, she has recently appeared on BBC Scotland, been writing musicals, planning podcasts, and heading culture projects directed at students and creatives across Glasgow – she is really keeping the cities creative boat afloat!
In early January, I was fortunate enough to interview Kerri about all of this and more and I’m excited to share it with you all below.
DR: Hey Kerri, I’ll just start by briefly introducing myself! My name is Deri Ronan and I’m the music columnist for Glasgow University Magazine. It’s lovely to get a chance to learn more about your music! Could I start by asking you to share a little more about yourself and your journey as an artist? When did you start songwriting and decide to pursue this as a career?
KW: I didn’t start early in music, actually prior to writing songs and playing guitar I was pursuing a career as a dancer in musical theatre! It was on a West End tour of a musical in my early 20’s that I picked up the guitar and fell in love with writing. I decided to make the bold change from one side of the entertainment industry to another and have never looked back!
DR: Moving on to your album ‘Neptune’s Daughter’, which will be released on the 15th January. Has this been a long-term project? What was the writing process like for it?
KW: The journey to releasing a debut album has been a long one, although the writing and recording of the songs took place in a very short period of time back in 2018. I was feeling super inspired in the Spring of that year to sit down and write a body of work. I wrote about stuff I was going through, experiences I’d had recently and really just a lot of what was in my heart and mind at that moment.
DR: Who are some of your biggest influences? When I was listening to the album, I heard elements which reminded me of HAIM and also of KT Tunstall (the latter particularly in the verses of Jessie). Both of these are artists I love; would you consider them as having influenced your music?
KW: My influences range widely from Sheryl Crow to Eagles, Van Morrison and The Rolling Stones. I was listening to a lot of Train and Kaleo while writing the album too. I love both of those acts you just referenced and it’s really awesome to be mentioned in the same sentence as them!
DR: Also, on that point, Jessie is one of my favourite songs on the album (I think my other favourite is You Can’t Catch Me) & I’d love to know more about what it is about if you’d be happy to share?
KW: Totally! ‘Jessie’ is a unique track in the album in that it’s the only ‘story’ song. Ie – it’s not about something I went through, but about a character. Jessie is loosely based on the character of Lucy from the musical story Jekyll & Hyde (the show I was in when learning guitar) and was one of my earliest pieces of work. Besides Spoonful of Sugar, it’s the only track that was written prior to 2018.
DR: I understand Machine produced the album, and that he’d also worked with artists like Fall Out Boy and Clutch, and I definitely hear a rockier element to your album in comparison to the artists I’d mentioned above. What was the process like working with him?
KW: It was so much fun! He’s an incredible creative mind and an awesome dude. We really connected on a personal level which helped our collaboration musically. Every day was like a wild ride, we never knew what we were going to come up with for each song and his enthusiasm for the project really drove me and the session players to bring it every day! It helped to be out in Austin, Texas during a hot summer too – extra good vibes!
DR: How did you decide on ‘Neptune Daughter’ as the title track? Is it your favourite track on the album? If not, do you have a favourite track?
KW: It absolutely is my favourite track on the album because I remember how much fun we had recording the live band – it was just a party and I think that comes through on the record. It wasn’t actually going to be included in the album originally, because I never got my vocals finished during the recording sessions. But towards the end of last year when we had a release date for the album, I decided to finish up the vocals in my home studio and make it the title track! There’s a lot of adventure, water and nature references in my writing which is a reflection of my life outside of music so I thought it tied the songs and me personally together nicely.
DR: What are your plans to celebrate post-album release? (I understand this will be limited greatly because of lockdown !!)
KW: I have an album launch party with Banquet Records on Jan 18th which is taking place on Zoom. I’ve got lots of creative projects in the works to keep the celebration and promotion of the album going for months – so keep your eyes peeled! Podcast in progress…
DR: I listened to a lot of your acoustic performances on YouTube as well as the album, and absolutely loved your Under the Apple Tree acoustic version of ‘Kissing Fools’. Obviously, that performance was different from a live gig with a larger audience, but what do you miss most about playing live performances and gigs?
KW: I really miss the personal connection. There’s nothing like looking out there and locking eyes with someone in the audience, especially during those more intimate shows. I also just love the buzz of a huge crowd when I’m playing with a band, rocking out and feeling the music with me – I can’t wait to have that back!
DR: How has lockdown impacted upon your creativity? Has it been hard to keep writing?
KW: Actually, I’ve never been busier. I decided not to focus on writing for myself during lockdown and instead have been pouring my creativity into other projects – I’m currently writing a children’s musical!
DR: Do you think growing up in Scotland has influenced your music at all? And who are some of your favourite Scottish artists?
KW: Absolutely. The adventures I have here hiking and exploring inform my lyrics and from a musical point of view, some of my heroes are acts like The Temperence Movement, Paolo Nutini, Deacon Blue to name a few. When I started out, I was playing lots of open mic nights around Glasgow and was so pleasantly surprised to discover how much blues people were playing in the bars – that really influenced who I listened to and I’ve carried that through the years with me as a writer.
DR: Finally, apart from listening to ‘Neptune’s Daughter’ on repeat, where else can we see/hear more of Kerri Watt in 2021?
KW: I’ve got some tentative festival bookings in the diary – fingers crossed for those! This weekend you can spot me on BBC Scotland, Saturday night at 7:15pm appearing on ‘The Edit.’ And besides my musical, I have another exciting music/culture project on the go which will really be directed at students and creatives in Glasgow. I’ll come back to you on that in a couple of months!