Katy B Talks Coming to America, ‘On a Mission’ Album + Accidental Wembley Stadium Show
British singer-songwriter Katy B combines pop with R&B, house and dubstep influences to create her own signature sound. The 22-year-old’s debut album, ‘On a Mission,’ reached No. 2 in the U.K. and has produced four (and counting) big hits. Sassy songs like ‘Easy Please Me’ and ‘Katy On a Mission’ have made her one of the most buzzed-about singers in music, and on Sept. 13, her record was officially released in the U.S.
PopCrush caught up with Katy during her recent visit to the States. She seemed unsure of her chances when we surprised her with the news of her Q Award nomination for Breakthrough Artist (she’s up against Jessie J and James Blake, among others). She was more certain about whether the subtle Beyonce hints we hear on her record are intentional. “I was a big fan of Destiny’s Child,” she confirms. “I loved them. ‘The Writing’s on the Wall’ is one of my favorite albums.”
We also chatted with Katy B about 'On a Mission,' her most intimidating concert moment, and whether her lyric about not being able to find a man to please her is really true.
You just played a concert in New York. Was that your first show here?
It was. I was here back in June and I did a mini-showcase thing, but it was just with a DJ. It was only two tracks. This was kind of like my first big show (here). It was amazing. I had a lot of fun. The New York audience was great.
What is your live show like?
I want people to come and have a real live experience when they came to watch my show, so I’ve got horns, bass, drums, keys. Even though my music is quite electronic, it incorporates a lot of things. And I’ve got a U.K. tour in October, and I’ve got to make it even bigger and better.
With your album out now in the U.S., is making it big here something that’s really important to you? Or do you sort of feel like, if it happens, it happens?
I dunno … America is very big, isn’t it? I think it’s more like, I will take my music anywhere that people are hearing it. I like traveling. I like to do new things. If people want to see a Katy B show then I’ll come out here, you know? Whether it’s America or China or Australia or anywhere in the world, really.
Have you had an overwhelming moment where you thought to yourself, ‘I can’t believe I’m here?’
Well, there’s a radio station in London called Capital and they do summer shows and gets lots of different artists to perform. I thought it was going to be at Wembley Arena, which is like 12,000 people, so already I was like, ‘Wow, 12,000 people!’ But then I got there and it was actually the football stadium, which holds 85,000 people. So I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ It was just insane. It really was good fun, having 85,000 people put their arms in the air with me.
Watch Katy B Perform 'Lights On' at Wembley Stadium
Your album ‘On a Mission’ features a lot of different styles. Did the record come out the way you expected?
Yeah, definitely. My label is called Rinse and they’re a radio station. When we were planning it, they wanted to use the DJs from the station to put together a mix, like a CD to showcase their productions to people, and they wanted someone to sing over top of it. So I knew what kind of genres were going to be involved. I knew what we wanted to make. It’s definitely turned out with that vision, but in the beginning it kinda wasn’t my album. It was Rinse’s album featuring me, and then it just turned into my own thing.
On ‘Easy Please Me,’ you say no man is able to please you. Is that actually true?
[Laughs] No ... the thing is, it was more about when boys try and lie about things and then they try and pretend to be someone they’re not. And you can see right through that, and you’re just like, ‘Alright mate, calm down a little bit.’ Especially at my age, boys sometimes have this weird outlook that they’re trying to get one over on you. It’s me just saying, ‘I’m a person, with feelings. I’m not some fox that you can hunt down.’
You give a bunch of "thank yous" at the end of the song ‘Hard to Get.’ That seems to be a clever way to thank people in the digital era.
[Laughs] Yeah, cause, you know, people don’t really get sleeve notes anymore. I did this gig at a jazz café in London last year and performed that song. It was the song that we did last, and the band jammed and I introduced the band, so when we did this album, I was like, ‘Let me introduce the people that made this possible.’
What did it mean to you to get a Mercury Prize nomination along with people like Adele and PJ Harvey?
It was great. It celebrates music that is sort of forward-thinking but also of the times, so that was quite cool. It’s just nice to celebrate an album as a whole, a whole piece of work. It’s nice to have your album celebrated, rather than a single.
What was touring with Tinie Tempah like?
It was a lot of fun. He’s a great guy. He’s really friendly and a very warm person. His show is amazing, it’s very slick and it has a lot of energy. You never really got bored, you know what I mean? He’s got a lot of stage presence.
Your album was written with dance clubs in mind. Can you compare British clubs with American clubs?
Well, I haven’t been to a lot of American clubs. When I’ve been in New York, I’ve been out a couple of times, but I don’t think in the same context as what ‘On a Mission’ is about. Like, one club was just kind of bourgie, one was more of a bar. So I don’t think I can compare yet. But I’m coming out in January to do some more club stuff so I’ll be able to tell you [then].
I know you didn’t really have any expectations for the first couple of singles you put out, but now that you’re having success, has that changed your expectations and goals for the rest of your career?
No, not really -- I just enjoy making music. I guess I’ll always put stuff out there. There will be certain things that I’ll cater to certain people. If I put out a club track, I would want it to get played in the club. You’ve just got to make sure you’re enjoying what you’re doing.
Finally, if you had to spend a week entirely away from music, what would you do?
I’d definitely be on a beach somewhere. It would be a spa thing, getting pampered and rubbed down [Laughs].
Watch the Katy B 'Easy Please Me' Video