Kate expectations: Kate Nash
Kate Nash is back. And she's grown up a lot since releasing her meteoric debut Made of Bricks, at the age of 19. Born and raised in North-West London, Nash is best known for the glottal stop-tacular Foundations. Now, aged (almost) 23, she's ready to talk about her year off, female pop counterparts and her brand new album.
'Normal' is a word that comes up often in conversation with Nash as we talk about her sophomore record My Best Friend is You. Wearing an oversized black T-shirt, leggings and ballet pumps, with flicky eyeliner and a smear of red lipstick, she looks like an every-girl. Albeit one with a very good fringe.
After a gruelling American tour promoting Made of Bricks, Nash decided to take a year off, to "clean up my life a bit, because it was a bit of mess when I got back from touring. I was living out of a suitcase. You just need to be normal for a bit".
Now co-habiting with long-term boyfriend Ryan Jarman (he of indie rockers The Cribs), Nash felt she needed to return to -- and here's that word again -- a normal life, if only for a year. "To be honest, it was nice to just get back into social situations. When you're on tour, you live with this weird family. I love my band, but you don't communicate in the same way that you communicate in real life. You go out with friends and you're like, 'I don't know how to do this anymore'."
Despite having a top-10 hit before she reached 20, she doesn't view herself as famous. At all. "I don't see myself as a celebrity, I protect myself in that way. I haven't sought it out, so I don't have to worry about being stalked by the paparazzi. I remember being out at an outdoor gig and there was a lot of people into music all on the streets. And I got recognized, and it was a bit" -- she pauses, searching for the right word -- "uncomfortable."
Nash is far more comfortable viewing herself as a role model of sorts for the average 14-year-old. "I think it's important to always have another option. If you're comfortable being a glossy, veneered female, then that's fine," she explains. "But when I was growing up, I felt that I had to be like that, and that I could never just be ordinary and wear pyjamas to the shops. I think that as long as there's the other option and that's acceptable in society, then that's good. Neither is better or worse, it's just different."
Less 'gobby', but still opinionated, Nash hasn't grown any more diplomatic since her debut. Only last month, Nash lashed out at the Pussycat Dolls, claiming that they "encourage sexualisation and sexuality in young kids". While she acknowledges that her mouthiness has got her into trouble before, she doesn't regret it.
Pointedly, she admits that: "I think that it is always easier for people to shut their mouths and be bland. But I've always been outspoken, I've always had opinions. I've never ever shut up or controlled myself in that way. I think that the most important thing is to have an opinion. If you don't, then you're not really worth anything, you're not worth any time. I don't know what would be the point if you didn't have a voice. I know that it gets me in trouble sometimes, but you have to speak your mind."
For someone not yet 23 years of age, Nash is incredibly self-assured. She is, by her own admission, 'a grafter'. And, let it be said, a very savvy business woman.
"As well as all the artistic and creative things, it is a job," she points out. "Literally everything that goes out that comes through me, I want to make sure that I'm in charge of it and I've approved it. That means that I have to take on a lot more work, to make sure that everything's right."
When Nash begins to speak about the business aspect of her life, she changes. She sits up straight, and her hand gestures are calm, reasoned -- in contrast to the Nash who was pottering around the room when we began to chat.
"When you start doing music, it's a hobby, but everything you do affects you for a long time afterwards. I think that towards the end of touring, I tried to take more control over things, even though I've always been kind of a control freak. But I think that now, I'm more self-assured in terms of my work and how I run my business."
It's clear that, though jolly and smiley, Nash is a boss with a capital 'B'. "I have to manage people, and I have to sack people. I'm in control of every aspect of what I do", she says.
Sacking? This has all got a bit Alan Sugar. How does it feel to sack someone? "You just have to be professional about it, and face up to it. Don't lie or try to soften the blow. Just be like, 'things aren't working out, it'd be best if we re-arranged, and hope we can still be friends'. That's kind of how you have to do it. It's quite intense."
This new businesslike outlook hasn't come out of the blue, it has evolved over time. Nash is quick to agree.
"I was only 19 when Made of Bricks came out and my outlook has definitely changed since then. I think that if you have big experiences in your life, they'll change you."
Her new album -- My Best Friend Is You -- is testament to that statement. Influenced equally by the Shangri-La's and the Slits, it's Riot Grrl doo-wop, with some poetry thrown in. It's a confident record, and one that reflects on Nash's abrupt learning curve.
"A lot of things happened to me, quite quickly.I really had to learn. It definitely makes you grow, and also become more guarded and savvy about situations. It's definitely changed me in those ways and I've learnt a lot. It's hard to distinguish between being at work and not at work. The whole thing about this job is that you can't ever switch off. It's a 24/7 thing.
She believes that "it's smart to be involved and to know what's going on with something that you care about. And I care about my music and what I write. Unfortunately, 'music' and 'business' and 'creative' and 'industry', the words clash, and it's difficult to resolve those differences sometimes."
Sitting at the top of a long table, arms crossed, she suddenly looks far more like Alan Sugar than so-called rival Lily Allen as she delivers her final verdict. "You have to be on top of it, otherwise it won't be what you want it to be."
Kate Nash's new album 'My Best Friend is You' is out today