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Katy J Pearson

Katy J Pearson - Vocals/Guitar

May the wind be always at your back chants Katy J Pearson over the opening seconds of her third solo record. Though lifted from the age-old Celtic Blessing, it is also disjoined, glitchy; transformed into a murky, modern good-luck charm for an electronic advent. Indicative of a shift in heart and sound, it fires the starting pistol for an album on which Pearson refuses to kick her heels; running red lights, resisting retrogrades, and exercising her own autonomy — in life, in love, and in the recording studio.


Following 2020’s Return and 2022’s Sound of the Morning, Someday, Now sees Pearson’s signature acoustic-led, sweetly-voiced singer-songwriter fare transmuted through the desk of electronic producer Nathan Jenkins, aka Bullion [whose previous credits include Carly Rae Jepsen, Ben Howard, Nilüfer Yanya and Avalon Emerson]. After a period of burnout, self-enforced exile from music-making, and solo travel, Pearson came back to her practice with clarity of mind and vision. “I knew exactly who I wanted to work with, I knew exactly who my session band were going to be, I knew where I wanted to record. It felt like I was finally calling the shots for myself, and that was so empowering”, she reflects. Having shied away from pop music since the souring of an early-career relationship with a major label (“it made me terrified of pop”), Someday, Now showcases the songwriter’s natural knack for a hook — presenting ten glistening tracks which are pop by nature, rather than design or demand. “I’ve found my way back to myself”, she summarises. It is a move both metaphorical and literal: Jenkins did not push Pearson to sing at the very top of her impressive vocal range, and helped her train herself out of an accidental American twang — instead making room for her to sing in her natural accent, cut soft by sandy Gloucestershire limestone. “Although Bullion was at the helm, I felt there with him, like we were co-producing. I felt so involved in my own music, which is ridiculous to have to say — but sadly, I think as a woman, it takes a long time to be confident in your assurance of what you’re trying to make; to trust yourself sonically in a studio setting.”


Where previous Katy J Pearson records were made with a slower, more piecemeal approach, Someday, Now was rigorously written and rehearsed ahead of time, and laid down efficiently over a couple of weeks at Rockfield Studios in Monmouthshire, with a band composed of Heavenly label-mates Huw Evans [H. Hawkline, Aldous Harding, Cate Le Bon, and Pearson’s Sound of the Morning and The Wicker Man EP] and Davey Newington [Boy Azooga], along with fellow Broadside Hacks collaborator Joel Burton. It was engineered by Joe Jones [Aldous Harding, Dry Cleaning, Jane Weaver].


The newfound discipline of the recording process can be heard in the music; Bullion’s light but discerning touch honing and distilling Pearson’s songs until they shine with a brilliant lucidity. “I feel like Bullion really captured the purity and the essence of how I record myself when I make demos” Katy says. Consequently, Someday, Now shows Katy J Pearson in her truest, most natural state, its songs full of both aesthetic and emotional honesty. Album opener ‘Those Goodbyes’ — a fully realised pop hit, replete with glitches, big chorus and sparkly synths — immediately introduces the lower-pitched vocal. “It’s funny, I used to feel like I had to go high for people to hear the vulnerability, but actually, singing in your natural range and being relaxed in it — I think there’s something a lot more vulnerable about that.” Throughout the record, there is a compelling tension between the smoothness of the electronic production and the texture of an authentic human voice. On ‘Someday’ — compact, raspy, and titling the album — “I was knackered: you can hear that my voice is cracking quite a lot. But Bullion was great at not flogging a dead horse — at making me feel like I could just let go of a performance and trust it, that things shouldn’t be polished over, and that I could accept where I was in the moment.”


Someday, Now packs lyrical vulnerability, too — Pearson’s focus turned inwards. You open me up / see I’m not so tough she sings on ‘Save Me’ — laughingly referred to as an “homage to the trauma dump” with echoey Arthur Russell-esque, and later full-on disco, strings. On lilting ballad ‘It’s Mine Now’, she takes a leap of faith and firm ownership of disaster (modern catastrophe / it’s mine now / this tragedy’s mine now) and on the transcendent ‘Maybe’, she is vulnerable to love and life…maybe I don’t need your love / to show me I’m good enough. It is on the dirgy ‘Siren Song’ — written in a session in LA with Jonathan Rado [Foxygen] — that Pearson is at her most visceral; cries bubbling up and body washed through water all over your floor / I wish I could hold my breath for longer…it’s chasing me down / dragging me to the wreckage.


A wide and interesting palate of inspirations informed the record: Beck, Neneh Cherry, Charlotte Gainsbourg; Kate Bush, Tears For Fears, Arthur Russell. ‘Long Range Driver’, which cuts fuzzy country guitar with uncanny, ultramodern sax across a big old open road, is “kinda Sheryl Crow vibes…that very traditional Americana fiddle [played by Evie Hilyer-Ziegler] with the compressed modern saxophone sounds [provided by Younghusband frontman / Cate Le Bon collaborator Euan Hinshelwood] is such an amalgamation of my tastes.” Amalgamated tastes abound elsewhere too, bending, mixing, and totally disregarding genres: uniting irresistible, syrupy vocals with scratchy, reverby guitar lifts and organs on ‘Grand Final’; climbing piano and wistful laments augmented by Louis Forster’s [The Goon Sax, Expiry] Aussie backing-drawl on ‘Constant’. Ever adamant, I’ll play the game Pearson trills, but not like you said.  


Conceived by Katy and shot on wet plate collodion by Kasia Wozniak, Someday, Now’s cover captures its artist armed with a heavy sword: a fitting, cherry-on-top visual metaphor for a woman who has “always been shy of taking up space” well and truly finding her power. Katy J Pearson’s third record, she asserts, “is my best work so far, and I’m not afraid to say that.” As she puts it on album closer ‘Sky’, Not on my knees / Look how I go / I’m an eagle / I am the sky. That yearned-for, dreamed-of someday is, it seems, happening right now.

Words by Diva Harris

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Someday, Now
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Katy J Pearson & Friends Presents Songs From The Wicker Man - Record Store Day 12"
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Sound Of The Morning
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Return (Remixes)
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Tonight 7"
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Katy J Pearson