Kate Stewart Is Reclaiming Her Sound
Kate Stewart, one of West London’s most exciting R&B voices, releases her first single and video of the new year. Titled “Hate You,” the hypnotic song brings us along her journey from heartbreak to self-empowerment as she captivates the world with her honey-hued vocals.
Born and raised in Maida Vale, music played a major role in her household. Kate’s mother was a dancer, her father was an entertainer, and her brother is a superproducer. “Music is really the only thing that I know how to do and feel comfortable doing,” she shares.” The singer cites Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Rihanna amongst countless others who’ve both influenced her sound and sense of fashion.
Kate Stewart made a name for herself under the Warner Music umbrella although it was clear that it wasn’t the music she wanted to make at the time. Fast forward to 2018, she formally reintroduced herself to the world as an independent artist with the release of In The Beginning. The 8-song offering contains songs such as “Distraction” and the fan-favorite “Bad Enough.” None of which, she shares, she’s as passionate about as her forthcoming EP, You Had To Be There, which is due later this year. “I mean it took me years and years to find mine and only this EP is where I feel like I’ve truly found my sound,” Kate emphasizes.
2022, however, signifies a new era for the rising singer-songwriter. In our latest interview, we chat with Kate Stewart about her new single “Hate You,” her definition of love, and how style empowers her artistry to name a few topics. Read on for our conversation below!
Let’s talk about your new single, “Hate You” How would you describe this track, and considering the legendary music icons that helped orchestrate, what was that experience like?
Funny enough, it has a story behind it. I write all of my music and I’ve written every song that’s on the upcoming EP, but this song, I didn’t write it. I never cut other people’s work and I heard this one and was like “I need this song.” It resonated with me and the melodies felt very fluid when I was singing them.
I was in New York with Swag and he was playing a bunch of songs that he had done recently. One song had H.E.R on it, she was singing on the demo and I was like “wow, this is going to be an amazing song for her.” And he replied, “no, no, she’s not taking it. You can have it, it’s yours.” Swag kind of just wrote it in Miami and he was kind of just mumbling the words, and I kept them underneath my vocals as well. It’s really slight but you can just hear it throughout the instrumental.
That’s the story! I can’t really sit here and I say I wrote it, but it’s the only song that I’ve ever felt strongly enough to take. It’s just an amazing record. This was ages ago, last January in 2021. It was the first song that started a domino effect of me wanting my other music to sound in a similar vein as that one.
The visuals are just as alluring as the song itself, bringing the record to life—how did you end up working with Betsy Johnson and Jack Bowden for this release?
I basically came up with the concept that I wanted the video to be like Jessica Rabbit from the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. She sings “Why Don’t You Do Right?” in a cabaret club. Obviously, she’s a cartoon but she’s on the stage and all these guys are all watching and drooling all over her, but she’s not paying them any attention. She’s just kind of singing and walking around and being sexy. That’s what I wanted the video to look like aesthetically so I went to my creative director Betsy Johson and her stuff is amazing.
Her work is very dark and it’s got a real look to it; she did stuff for Kanye West’s Donda, that kind of dark energy is her forte. I went to her and asked how we could do this idea but darker. She came up with the guys with demonic faces and having them make you feel really uncomfortable. Then she went off and did her thing with the styling; I knew that I wanted it to be very glam to contrast the guys. We also said we didn’t want to look like it was from an era so the girls look like they’re from space and the guys look like they’re from some horrible place.
This video has been in preparation for a year. The song and video were meant to come out last February, but things happen. I had quite a difficult time until I approached Jack Bowden who directed the video. I’ve been wanting to work with him for ages so once I came to him with a concept, he just loved it. It was quite easy because he didn’t have to send me loads of treatments since it was already a finished concept.
Out of all of the music you’ve released thus far, this song aside, which track or album do you feel most connected to and why?
Honestly, none of it really. I’ve been through a really difficult journey with music. I was signed to Warner when I was quite young and it was a shit show. It was not what I would ever think it would be in the worse way. When I left, it was mutual, I was on this journey of self-discovery with my sound. I went really far in R&B in the beginning and was inspired by Sabrina Claudia and old Alicia Keys. That kind of music I love still, but it just didn’t sit right with me. I put music out because I felt like I had to and I am still really proud of the In The Beginning EP.
It takes ages to find your sound. I mean it took me years and years to find mine and only this EP is where I feel like I’ve truly found my sound. I don’t regret any of the stepping stones, I feel like it made me a stronger writer and opened up my eyes to different genres. For now, I feel really comfortable with what I’m doing now.
A lot of your music focuses on self-realization, dating, and intimacy—what is your definition of love and how has it changed since you were young?
I love love, but I’m not soppy. I don’t really know. I think I’ve been in love maybe once or twice, but I’m still not really sure. I think maybe once and it felt like anxiety. Honestly, love for me is just associated with anxiety. Maybe that’s why I write all of my songs about hate haha, well this one specifically.
Your forthcoming EP You Had To Be There arrives just over three years since 2018’s In The Beginning. What are you most excited about in regards to putting out new material?
It’s a sticky one! I honestly don’t know the answer to that. In terms of love, I love what I do. That’s my passion, I tend to keep to myself and I’m an extrovert but I’m an introvert at the same time. I keep what I do quite private. I think the only thing I’ve ever… I don’t know.
I’m just excited for people to hear what I’ve been doing. Honestly, I’ve been doing it so privately and I don’t really post on Instagram. I’m in the studio a lot and I don’t feel the need to show people that I’m working because I work in silence. I work really hard so I’m excited for people to hear what I’ve been doing on my own.
What does music mean to you and what changes do you hope to bring to the world with your work?
Music is something that I’ve grown up with because I have a very musical family. My mom was a dancer, my dad was an impressionist and is always on stage doing show-busy stuff. Me and my brother were always destined to do music, he produced and wrote “Dynamite” by BTS so that was his exciting thing last year. Music is really the only thing that I know how to do and feel comfortable doing.
The main thing for me is, unfortunately, no one really takes vocals that seriously in the UK. Here, people kind of just like the songs as long as it’s like a big dance record or a song you can play in the club. I personally want to be a singer that has vocals, we don’t really have that. Even though I’m starting in a place that’s a lot cooler, I want to end up in a place like Whitney Houston ballads or Beyoncé singing on stage. That’s what I want for myself, that’s what I see.
We’re moving back into the normalization of the music industry where there’s fan interaction, concerts, and tours. How has that transition been for you?
I do gigs over here, I perform at this Jazz cafe called Ronnie Scott’s. It’s a really elite jazz club, and I’ve tried out some of my new stuff there. I did some songs a few months ago and they went down really well; it felt amazing to sing them. I also did this show a few months ago called Brass House. Basically, there’s this brass band that I worked with and I’m not a soppy person, but I was really emotional doing that show. I couldn’t believe that I was hearing my songs in that capacity and arrangement.
As a musician, style can obviously be extremely important when it comes to shaping identity. How does your clothing empower you to express your true self — whether you’re performing or recording in the studio?
I’ve always been massively into fashion and all of that stuff. I think if I wasn’t in music then I would be in fashion. I love it just as much, not in the same way, but I love it. I always think as an artist, you should show yourself off in a way that you want people to see you. I feel like being an artist is a whole package, it’s not just music. If you look like a superstar, you’ll feel like a superstar.
I’m the type of person, and not in a dick way, but I wear sunglasses inside sometimes. My brother is the first person to tell me if I look like a diva, and he’s like “you can get away with it somehow.” Rihanna is like my idol when it comes to clothes so I always incorporated fashion within my music because it’s really important to me.