There are some podcast guests who have huge connections with Paul Weller and it actually becomes hard to find time in our hour together to dig into their considerable achievements outside of the Weller story and there are others who have a small connection – a fleeting moment – that whilst important for our story arc on this series and helpful to paint a picture of the great man – actually mean that we can settle in to their own incredible body of work a little more.
Kathryn Williams is in the latter camp – and being honest, I really wanted to get her on as I’ve been a fan of her music for ages and have just always wanted to interview her (but without a radio show to my name for the last decade or so, I’ve not had the vehicle to do it). When I mapping out our conversation, I had no idea it would take us off into such a rich direction of Weller related material though and one of my absolute favourite moments in the podcast series so far.
I pride myself on taking the time to research my guests properly. I have a little notes page on my phone for things that I find, ideas that I want to dig into, info and questions on songs and albums and those all important Weller connections. My guests are using giving up an hour of their tiime, sometimes more, and they deserve the respect of a well armed interviewer. I often end up with pages of notes unused but it’s a safety blanket and being well prepped helps me to really listen to my guest, knowing that whatever they say, I can take our conversation into those areas of their career with plenty of background to keep on track. It doesn’t always work but it’s important to me. With Kathryn, I had three Weller connections in my back pocket.
Number One – He’s a big fan. I’ve read articles where Paul has called out Kathryn’s music and how much he loves a single track or an album. As recently as 2021s Mojo special where Heart Shaped Stone was referenced in Paul’s Top 10 tasty 45s currently stacked in Paul Weller’s inner jukebox.
Number Two – Concert for Corbyn – I knew that they had performed on the same bill together and was curious about that evening, how it came about the other people involved. The gig was at Brighton Dome – 16 December 2016 and featured Paul Weller, Robert Wyatt, Danny Thompson, The Farm, Temples, Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind, Edgar Summertyme, Ghetto Priest and of course, Kathryn WIlliams…
Number Three – I knew that Kathryn was a Weller fan. I’ve no idea where or how I picked up on this but I remembered seeing her mention a love for Gravity, Aspects and The Ballad of Jimmy McCabe somewhere.
Not a huge amount to go on right ? And I had absolutely no idea that they were working together on a song and that a collaboration between Weller and Williams was already in the works. I had zero idea that Kathryn had already written a song at Paul Weller when I lined up the interview and even when we started our conversation. Kathryn’s embarrassment at telling the story, wondering if she should and then going for it was a very special moment in the series. It felt like we’d established a connection and a safe zone for the big reveal and that meant a lot. What I’ve subsequently realised is that’s Kathryn. Open. Honest. Warm. Funny. You can hear it in her music. You can see it in her live performances. What you see and hear is what you get. And she’s simply brilliant.
I was super chuffed to meet Kathryn after her London gig in November, chatting over a beer about the podcast and her latest work, me quizzing more about the Weller collaboration and spending time with her friends and other fans. BRILLIANT!
EP49 – Kathryn Williams – Singer – Songwriter – Author "When you gonna find the strength to be, clear your mind of the darkness that you see." – Paul Weller Fan Podcast : Desperately Seeking Paul
After you’ve listened to the podcast, I would encourage you to dive into her incredible back catalogue.
Kick off with 1999’s Dog Leap Stairs (recorded for just £80) before moving on to the sheer beauty of Mercury-Prize nominated Little Black Numbers, through to 2002’s Old Low Light (“a journey through hearts of darkness”), then on to Relations (a fabulous album of cover versions which includes subtle reworkings of Big Star, Nirvana, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and more), Over Fly Over (MusicOMH called it “the sound of a woman reborn…her best album yet”), Leave to Remain (The Guardian claimed to be ‘both beautiful and intense, her best album yet’.), Two (a sublime and intimate collection of songs with Neill MacColl), The Quickening ( “We should savour Williams’ talent – a soft soul with hard edges, who shows us how quietness can resound so loudly. Jude Rogers), Crown Electric (A Weller favourite described as “Magnificent and melancholic” by The Metro), Hypnoxia ( inspired by Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar), Resonator (teaming up with revered jazz musician and vibraphone player Anthony Kerr to create a complete re-imagining of classic jazz standards.) through to 2017’s Songs from the Novel – Greatest Hits (another collaboration – this time pairing up with author Laura Barnett who approached Kathryn with the idea for a collection of songs based on her second novel, Greatest Hits.)
You’re in for a real treat.
Christmas 2021, also saw Kathryn add to her impressive list of previous collaborators by teaming up with celebrated poet Carol Ann Duffy for a beautiful festive-themed LP. Midnight Chorus – the results of the meeting of two of our most gifted writers, ruminating on a season with obvious affection and a joyous, honest tenderness which never shies away from the darkness beyond the light.
Discography (Click on the Links for more info)
Dog Leap Stairs (1999)
Little Black Numbers (2000)
Old Low Light (2002)
Over Fly Over (2005)
Leave to Remain (2006)
Two (2008) with Neill MacColl
The Quickening (2010)
Crown Electric (2013)
Resonator (2016) with Anthony Kerr
Songs from the Novel ‘Greatest Hits‘ (2017)
Midnight Chorus (2021) with Carol Ann Duffy
Night Drives (2022)
The Book – The Ormering Tide (as featured on the podcast)
The Ormering Tide is a coming of age story set amidst a series of darkly foreboding events. Rozel lives with her triplet older brothers and her parents in the bay of a small island. One of her brothers goes missing and the family’s landlord, Mr Willow, is implicated as the menacing truths are discovered. The island is rich with nature; and the islanders lives and the steady passing of the seasons contrast sharply with the realities of violence and inevitable revelations.
The Ormering Tide explores the inherent human need to keep and bury secrets. Kathryn Williams‘ first novel, The Ormering Tide, is about processing the past, after the fact. This is a brooding and astonishing debut from the Mercury Music Prize nominated singer-songwriter. The Ormering Tide shines as brightly as the beautiful shell from which this novel draws its title and is as impressive and adventurous as the authors music.
You can buy the book here
New Album 2022 – Night Drives
Singer, songwriter, novelist, and painter Kathryn Williams is proud to announce her new album ‘Night Drives’. The collection explores a more filmic sound, with a larger ensemble of instrumentation, particular emphasis on the strings and production from Ed Harcourt. It’s out on July 15th – and available here.
Journeying from leftfield contemporary pop to soft acoustics, Kathryn Williams uses her latest LP to explore a variety of fresh ideas driven, in part, by a host of collaborators. Kirsty Logan, Oystein Greni, Romeo Stodart, Matt Deighton, Simon Edwards, Yvette Williams, Neill Maccoll, Andy Bruce, Ida Wenoe, Joel Sarakula, Emily Barker and John Alder all have credits on various tracks across ‘Night Drives’.
Kathryn explains “I’ve been releasing music for 24 years now. That fact blows me away, and things have changed so much over those years. The biggest change has been my love of co-writing and writing for other artists. This began when I first went on a writing retreat with Chris Difford forming close friendships and working relationships that are represented here”.
Heart Shaped Stone – A Weller Favourite…
The song featured in 2021’s Mojo Special, edited by Paul Weller, with the note “A lush, string drenched tale about searching for love and the subsequent ebb-and-flow of a relationship from the honey-voiced English singer-songwriter, a big Weller favourite.