It’s fair to say that Kezia Gill had one hell of a year last year. From selling out her own tour, to wowing the crowds at The Long Road duetting on stage with Marty Stuart and appearing on a primetime BBC Saturday night show. And let’s not forget C2C, she had a blast performing in 2022… and come March she’ll be on the Spotlight stage in Glasgow.
2023 is already shaping up nicely. Her brand-new single Whiskey Over Ice (due out February 3) received its first exclusive radio play from none other than Bob Harris on The Country Show and there’s a much-anticipated full-length album due this summer.
Six Shooter Country’s Alison Dewar chatted to Kezia about new music, girlfriends and gigs.
AD: Congratulations on Whiskey Over Ice, such a powerful song. You’ve said the music came first and then you just ran with it…tell me more about the story.
KG: I’ve been working with my producer Ben Haynes on library music (songs intended to be pitched for films and TV) for a few years now and he will send me a little clip of music and it’s my job to put lyrics over it. I don’t own any of the rights, it’s never going to be my song, I just put the lyrics to it and it works really well because it means I can be creative but it’s not about me all the time. Quite often I’ve got songs that I write that are not right for me, but are a song nonetheless, and that’s what this was.
I got the music, I loved it straight away, the song came relatively quickly, I knew I wanted it to be a big country sounding anthem, which is why I used the bar analogy and the drinking analogy – which is so popular in country music (laughs) – but very quickly just fell in love with it and thought ‘this is a song I can see me singing’.
I spoke to Ben and said ‘I don’t think I can give this one away, would you be prepared to let me keep this and have it as a co-write, you wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics’, and he said ‘yeah, I think it’s a great song for you, for your upcoming album and ultimately a single’, so this is where we are with it.
AD: You played it on tour last year?
KG: Yeah, we decided to change it up. Usually we wouldn’t play a song until it was released, it’s all about teasers and titbits, but we decided to spin that on its head and just start playing the song and hopefully get people interested and hungry for the song before it comes out. And we’ve done the same with radio play, get it out there before the release, hopefully meaning that on release day, there’s a lot of excitement and people will go and download it. So, we’re trying something new.
AD: You previewed it on Bob Harris’s show and the response was fantastic. You’ve done various things with Bob, are you best buddies now?
KG: Well, I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but he is a self-confessed fan. It’s mad to think a man of such calibre is a fan of my music but it ultimately means that he supports what I do, he supports my releases and I’m sure he would be the first to say if he didn’t like something. I completely respect his opinion, but luckily, he’s a fan of this one.
AD: When did you first meet him?
KG: In March 2020 which, as we all remember, was just before covid and just before the C2C weekend which was cancelled. Due to the cancellation, they invited a few artists to perform live and having met the producer of Bob’s show – Mark Hagen – at a couple of events prior, he rang and asked if I would be interested in going in.
To get the call to drive to London to go to Radio 2, to be on the show and play live and meet Bob was just a dream come true. He is everything you would expect, he’s humble, so nice and he’s got the most amazing voice – yeah, he’s a good guy.
AD: Over the last year you must have had lots of dreams come true….C2C, TLR with Marty Stuart…that must have been phenomenal…
KG: People keep saying what was your highlight and I honestly cannot choose because 2022 was just a cacophony of highlights. From C2C, touring with The Shires in April and May, getting to play venues like the Palladium in London, and The Long Road where I happened to pop up with Marty, going on to do my own tour, which is something I had always dreamed of. Literally from start to finish, 2022 was a dream. 2023 has got a tough bar to beat!
AD: Let’s talk about what’s coming up?
KG: The big thing this year will be new music, I’ve writing on and off furiously through the back end of ’21 and ’22 and it’s time to start getting some of that music out. It’s started with Like I Did Before and now the second single Whiskey Over Ice.
We’re basically going to drip feed singles leading up to the big release of the album, which we’re aiming for the summer/late summer and it’s going to be an eclectic mix of everything that comes out of my head.
It will be a full-length album, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. Having released singles and EPs, I wanted to put a little bit of a body of work together that I can be proud of and put my name to. I’m very excited about it.
AD: Do you have a working title…
KG: I do…but we’re not gonna talk about that yet (laughter) you’ll have to wait a little bit longer. It was lovely, the title song and the title and the whole concept for album came to me all at once. I started to worry…usually I have quite a conceptual vision with an album. I had the songs, but I didn’t really have a concept, and then suddenly it all just came at once. I’m glad now to have a bit more of a direction.
AD: Are you doing any collabs or duets or co-writes on the album?
KG: I’ve done some great co-writing, the first single was a co-write with Kaity Rae who’s an amazing writer, and a couple of the tracks have been co-written with other writers. I’ve got a couple with my producer Ben. It’s an original album in that I’ve got writing credits on every song, about 50% have been purely me going to the studio with an idea, but the beauty of having such a great network of musicians and production friends is that the collaboration possibilities are endless, it’s just great to be able to call someone up and say ‘do you fancy putting a song together’ and it’s quite often just as simple as sending a text, which is really nice.
AD: And are you recording the album here or in Nashville?
KG: It’s all going to be recorded here in terms of the production. A couple of the songs have been mixed and mastered in Nashville, but we’re also using UK mixers as well. Certain songs require a certain sound…Whiskey Over Ice was mixed in Nashville because I wanted that Nashville style that you only really get with a mixing engineer from Nashville, but other songs I think, are more authentic with a British sound. It’s a bit of a hybrid.
AD: You mentioned your ‘gang’ of friends, singers, writers…and you have your Girls’ Night In tour soon. How did the idea come about?
KG: Well, the best thing is that myself, Jade Helliwell, Jess Thristan and Demi Marriner are all just best friends. We were at the Blackpool Country Music Festival back in 2021 I believe, a few people took photos and we joked about what a great supergroup this would be. We always have an annual weekend getaway in January and it was like ‘what if we did it…’ would it be fun, and we said ‘let’s do it’.
We’ve all written together, we’ve all collaborated with each other individually, so we thought it would be a great opportunity to take some songs to the stage that we haven’t released or sung live and to talk about the process of how we wrote it, who we wrote it with…and the fact we’re just girls who are friends, there’ll be lots of banter, probably some wine … it’s the ultimate girls’ night in!
AD: There seems to be a huge wave of female country artists in the UK right now and everybody seems so supportive of each other, what’s the secret behind it.
KG: For me personally, I think being a woman in the music industry, you can feel quite isolated. Because even though there are quite a few female artists, as a whole the industry is very, very male dominated. If you go to a festival, not only the people on stage, but the crew, the people that organise it, it’s very male heavy. Having performed live since my teens, I often find I’d be the only woman at a show, so when you meet other women in the industry, you kind of have a bond and you become fast friends.
With men, and this isn’t generalising, but they will have a beer, they’ll chat to the sound guy and there’s always guys around…but for girls, we’ll latch on together and moan about the lack of mirrors or the terrible lighting, or the fact all the photographers are two foot below us and we all like we’ve got eight chins (laughing). We bond over the fact there’s not many of us and we’ve become such good friends.
Also, I think girls are more emotionally invested in meeting for drinks, going out for dinner, reaching out and saying ‘would you like to write…’ I think guys are a bit more casual, they’ll say ‘I’ll catch you for a beer at the next festival’; whereas girls are more like let’s get a date in the diary, let’s go shopping….that’s my experience. I couldn’t get through the week without messaging one of my girls and either having a moan, having a laugh, having a cry – because they get it, they get what I do.
A lot of my friends who aren’t in the music industry don’t get it at all, they don’t understand what it’s like to be an independent musician, the pressures of releasing new music in a post-pandemic world, financially supporting yourself…yet I can call Jade or Demi or Jess and they just get it straight away.
AD: Sure, it’s the hours spent on the motorway when it’s cold, the lighting that’s crap and all those things…and you’re standing around in the cold.
KG: I’ve always said the 30-45 minutes on stage is the easiest bit, the part that everybody sees is the absolute cherry on the top. That is the bit that I would do time and time again.
I’d do that bit free because I love that it, that’s my passion.
It’s everything else that goes with it – the hours of writing, the practicing, the money on production, the hours driving – and you think ‘yeah, you can pay me what I’m worth’ (laughing).
AD: I have to ask you about the TV programme, I Can See Your Voice on the BBC last year. We were watching in on the Saturday night and we were like ‘that’s Kezia’ and then all the socials lit up.
KG: It was crazy. I always wondered ‘do I look like my voice’ and evidently I don’t because they all thought I was lying. There was a strict NDA so I couldn’t tell a soul and I filmed it a good year-and-a-half ago, and then I got a message to say your episode will be airing and it just blew up. It had over two million views on TikTok.
AD: Did it open doors for you?
KG: Not so much doors, but it came at the right time as it was just before my tour, I noticed a real peak in ticket sales as I think people went on google to find me and buy tickets where they could. It was a really good profile boost, I noticed all the followers going up, Spotify listeners went up, so in terms of a profile, it was well worth doing.
AD: Lastly, festivals, another tour for 2023 I’m guessing?
KG: Yeah, it’s only January and I’m sitting on a whole bunch of announcements. But basically, it’s going to be 2022 but bigger and better.
AD: Fantastic, that sounds like the perfect way to leave it!
For all the latest news on Kezia’s new music and tours, visit www.keziagill.com and follow her: facebook.com/keziagillmusic