Kate Jackson - The indie-rock firebrand who got in touch with her softer side

As frontwoman of the Long Blondes, Kate Jackson adopted an aggressive alter ego. Now she's gone solo, she can at last be herself, she tells Elisa Bray

My best friend asked me, 'Kate when are you going to stop living out of a suitcase?' I don't have anywhere to unpack to. That is my life. I'm much more at home when I'm packing," says Kate Jackson, with a radiant smile. At the age of 32, some would feel unsettled without a permanent base, but for someone who's spent six years touring with the Long Blondes, it's understandable.

When they burst onto the indie-rock scene in 2005, the Long Blondes, with the charismatic and stylish Jackson as their frontwoman were soon hailed as the best unsigned band in Britain. When their songwriter and drummer, Dorian Cox, had a stroke aged 27, the band split. Three years later, Jackson is back, stylish as ever, but not quite as we know her.

"I had a persona with the Long Blondes, which wasn't necessarily me," says Jackson, when we meet at a French café in London. She's here to discuss her confident double single written alongside former Suede guitarist-turned-producer Bernard Butler.

"A lot of the [Long Blondes] lyrics were written by Dorian, but the character that he created wasn't me, it was Kate Jackson. It was quite a powerful, dominating, sometimes embittered, character – always singing about broken relationships and kitchen-sink dramas."

None of which seems to fit the warm, smiley, self-deprecating woman who sits opposite me. So who is the real Kate Jackson? "I'm really soft. In order to go onstage and sing those words and front that band, I had to sing very aggressively. I don't feel that anymore at all."

Anyone that heard her sing a slow version of Blondie's "Picture This" as a guest singer at London's Roundhouse in October will have witnessed her taking the tone down a level. It was one of the most terrifying performances of her life, she says, because her vocals, backed by just cello and synth, rather than as part of a five-piece rock band, were that much more exposed. But not as terrifying as going to Edwyn Collins' West Heath Studios to play her first self-penned composition to Butler.

"It was the most nerve-wracking thing I'd ever done. Obviously he's an amazing songwriter and one of my heroes." She went into the studio at 2pm and by 4pm was on her way home after recording "Lie to Me", her first demo. "I've never been more excited," she says.

She may be "soft", but Jackson knows what she wants. The Long Blondes broke up in 2008, but Jackson had been contemplating a solo career some time before that. "Certainly towards the end," she confirms. "I think we were all getting a bit tired of it."

Butler featured in the future career she imagined for herself. She recalls: "We were on tour driving through America and I was listening to Suede on the headphones. I was thinking it would be amazing to write a piece with Bernard Butler." When Cox fell ill, Jackson went to Geoff Travis, the boss at their label Rough Trade, and suggested solo work with Butler as her producer. To her delight, he agreed, and Jackson has spent the past three years writing songs. Her debut album is set for release next year.

Jackson credits Cox with her career path: without him and the Long Blondes, she says, she wouldn't be sitting here today, talking about music. It was Cox who called her up one day when she was studying English and history at Sheffield University and said: "Kate you look like a singer, do you want to be in a band?" Up to that point Jackson and Cox were both DJs around Sheffield; being musicians had never been a career option. "Until Dorian asked me to sing in a band I'd never thought about it realistically. I would have been happy playing records."

 

Cox is so much recovered that he has returned to music. "I think he's got a new band called Former Lover, but I haven't heard any of it," says Jackson so dismissively that it's clear the friendships are no longer. "No," she states, her sunny demeanour suddenly clouding over. "Being in a band is like being in a marriage with five people. We were in that situation for six years – it's horrible how it ended, but I think we were all relieved that it was over."

So it's no surprise that, with the Long Blondes era behind her, the music, too, has a different edge. Gone is the angular guitar sound and the punk edge that made the Long Blondes' music so distinct; in its place is a blast of melodic indie guitar pop partly inspired by the love for David Bowie and Brian Eno that Jackson and Butler share. "What I'm trying to do is a little bit more melodic – my influences are 1970s glam, classic, country rock, pop and warmer guitar sounds to what Dorian was doing."

Going solo has also been an opportunity for Jackson, who quit art school to join the Long Blondes, and did all the artwork for the band, to try her hand at screen printing. The result is an eye-catching six panel, monochrome cover for the limited edition double A sided vinyl, designed and signed by the artist. She pulls her phone from out of her bag excitedly, showing off pictures of the screen prints in the workshop. "There's Martin Creed's and Damien Hirst's! And then there's mine, in the middle of them all."

It's in both the artwork and her lyrics that her love of travel, and feeling most at home, when, perversely, not having one, is apparent. One image on the vinyl panel, a scene from "Wonder Feeling", shows a couple on the motorway, while "The Atlantic" is set on a plane. The songs are inspired by images from films. "When I'm writing lyrics, I write from images," she says, citing Wim Wenders and David Lynch as inspiration. "It's not so much the concept, it's more about the visual and aesthetic aspect, the way they use the camera and the cinematography." But she admits they are just as autobiographical. "The Atlantic" is about a relationship she had with a boyfriend who was living in New York when she was based in Sheffield. "It's about being stuck in the middle of two places. In a literal sense it's a party that happens in an aeroplane, but it's a metaphor for being stuck and trapped between two places and never being able to be in one place, so the upshot of it is it ends up being a big hangover. I'm actually in another long-distance relationship now. Maybe I just can't help myself," she laughs.

But with her love of travel, and a penchant for the travel writing of Alain de Botton, it's not such a disaster. What Jackson is most looking forward to is travelling and being back on the road. That, and stepping forward as a pop star in her own right in a guise that's both true to herself and entirely her creation, and not the creation of another writer. "I didn't think of myself as a songwriter, but I do now," she says, eyes shining with excitement. "I want people to hear the songs that I've written."

 

Kate Jackson's double A-sided "Wonder Feeling" and "The Atlantic" is out in collaboration with The Vinyl Factory now

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests