My best friend asked me, 'Kate when are you going to stop living out of a suitcase?' I don't have anywhere to unpack. 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 a woman who has 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 at 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 cafe in London. She is here to discuss her confident double single written alongside the 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 on stage and sing those words and front that band, I had to sing very aggressively. I don't feel that anymore at all."
Anyone who heard her sing a slow version of Blondie's "Picture This" at London's Roundhouse in October will have witnessed her toning things down. It was one of her most terrifying performances, 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.
"Obviously he's an amazing songwriter and one of my heroes." She went into the studio at 2pm and two hours later was on her way home after recording "Lie to Me", her first demo. "I've never been more excited," she says.
The Long Blondes broke up in 2008 but Jackson had been contemplating a solo career some time before that. "Certainly towards the end," she says. "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.
Jackson credits Cox with her career path: without him and the Long Blondes, she says, she wouldn't be sitting here, 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; being musicians had never been a career option. "Until Dorian asked me to sing in a band I'd never thought about it realistically."
Cox is so much recovered that he has returned to music, but it is clear the friendships are finished. "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."
Kate Jackson's double A-sided 'Wonder Feeling' and 'The Atlantic' is out in collaboration with The Vinyl Factory nowReuse content