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A man of many creative colours, troubadour David Kitt sits down with Mike McGrath-Bryan to talk about his new record, New Jackson, and Quarter Block Party.
The long-lasting legacy of the noughties singer-songwriter boom is now clarifying itself, as the trajectories of those at the centre of the hype are made apparent. Some of the big names are still living high on the hits, while names like Wallis Bird eschewed the limelight in favour of discovery and progress. With David Kitt, hitmaker of 2001 with charttopping album ‘The Big Romance’, the journey has branched off in several directions over the years: solo explorations, excursions into electronica under the pseudonym of New Jackson, and stints as a producer and UK alt-rockers Tindersticks.
The last several years of activity in these veins has led to new album ‘Yous’, out in March on All City Records. Intending to just release it on the down-low before friends started talking him into making a bigger deal of it, Kitt discusses the creative process of the record, and what put him in mind of a ‘soft launch’, so to speak. “None of this was really planned as such. The initial scale of the release was a matter of time and resources. A: I didn’t have the time to really push it, as I was focused mainly on my New Jackson project and B: I didn’t have the resources to push it on any great scale myself. It just felt like I needed to get something out, as the wait had been so long. Once it was done, people started responding to it well, and that’s when I played it for Olan at All City and we discussed giving it a proper release when there was a good window to do it, which is now.”
As stated, All City are handling the release of the record, following from their work together with New Jackson. The label is growing ever more broad in scope in recent years, including recent archive compilation ‘Quare Grooves Vol.1’, and Kitt is eager to discuss his place on the label and how it all works. “All City is a very artist friendly label, most artists on the label have the freedom to explore the full breadth and scope of their vision. I’m sure Olan would draw the line if I handed in an hour of me burping into a Space Echo or went all Metal Music Machine or something, but so long as there’s a quality there, I don’t think it has to fit into any particular sound as such. That’s healthy for everyone involved, and it puts the pressure back on the artists to get the best out of themselves. It’s more about an attitude and general quality control, which is clear from the rich back catalogue. I’m proud to be part of that.”
What difference, if any, exists in the creative processes of David Kitt and of New Jackson? Is it a different headspace one enters when making things, etc? “Yes, there’s a different headspace in the writing for sure, especially lyrically, but also with the instrumentation. New Jackson is more machine music, and the David Kitt stuff is more played for starters. They inform each other a lot too. I have plans to make a David Kitt record from vocoder songs of New Jackson some day, I’m constantly changing the lyrics of New Jackson tunes like ‘Of a Thousand Leaves’ and ‘Sat Around Here Waiting’ when I play them live with the hope that one day they’ll be finished songs I can play on guitar. ‘Made It Mine’ on ‘Yous’ is an example of that.”
Similarly, Kitt has been producing and remixing for other artists, as well as a full member of UK veterans Tindersticks. The changes in process in a collaborative or production situation are plenty, and Kitt is careful to emphasise his balance in approach to that work. “The big thing I’ve realised as I’ve gotten older with production stuff, is that you’re not there to prove anything about yourself, or tell any big part of your story or impose your musical vision too much on other people’s work. You’re there to serve them, and help them realise their vision, but often you’re hired for your style and taste so it’s a matter of getting the balance right and trying to leave your ego at the door. I’m very opinionated when it comes to music, and I can get too involved with other people’s stuff, I think I’m getting better at getting the balance right. It’s different with remixes to an extent, there’s more room for your own vision and style with that stuff.”
First single from the record, ‘Still Don’t Know’, released last week. Kitt, like many of us, is still taken with standalone single releases as a listener, and opens up about the effect the like of Spotify has had for him as an artist, in terms of previous big singles drawing attention to his catalogue. “I like singles when there’s a physical release, and you get to have b-sides like we do with the two singles on this album. It’s a different format with different expectations to an album, which takes you down different musical paths. I’ve had high hopes for Spotify saving me from poverty and obscurity. It’s about to be floated on the Stock Market. I hope its future remains bright for smaller players like myself.”
Kitt and Anna-Mieke Bishop will be appearing at ‘Slumber’ in the Triskel Christchurch for Quarter Block Party on Saturday February 3rd. Kitt reflects on Quarter and the nature of the Cork scene. “I’m very excited about the show. It’s a great line-up, and I’ll be doing some stuff I haven’t done before, including playing a Buchla Music Easel live. That should sound cool in the church. I always get to do more weird and wonderful stuff in Cork.” 2018 seems to be verdant creative territory for Kitt, and a big year of touring and releases lies ahead. “Planning some New Jackson releases, and another release on All City that we’ll keep quiet about until it’s done and dusted. But it’s a collaboration I’m very excited about. Just confirmed a short New Jackson tour of China which is very exciting. More stuff I’d prefer not to jinx by talking about it, but it’s music non-stop generally.”