Kate Stewart Owns Her Truth on ‘You Had To Be There’

If you haven’t heard Kate Stewart’s name, you’ve probably heard her voice or lyrics. Kate Stewart has penned for Craig David and Tinashe, toured with Bondax and featured on the Matoma and Sean Paul song ‘Paradise.’ You may know her for her single ‘Ain’t Nobody’ which made it’s way onto the UK Singles Chart or her 2018 debut EP, ‘In The Beginning’, her first foray into making the music that she wanted, while still trying to figure out exactly what that looked like. But 5 years later, on her sophomore EP, Kate has unlocked the secret to translating her story into her music, creating an authentic sound that is truly her own.

On her new release ‘You Had To Be There’, Kate is more confident in herself than ever before, as we get a closer look at who Kate Stewart is, both as a person and as an artist. It’s apparent she knows her voice better than ever before, taking this space to show off every part of her three-octave range, with full-bodied belts and intricate runs throughout. In the past, Kate has named her influences as Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey and D’Angelo, and you can certainly pick up on those vocal powerhouse inspirations on this EP as she sheds her previous traditional pop image and gives us different flavours of modern and classic R&B fused with neo-soul, and sprinkled with pop elements.

In this interview, we Kate shares the incredible feeling of gaining the courage to write music about her own feelings rather than her friend’s situations. we also discuss Kate finding her tribe within the music industry, using music as a therapeutic tool, and “singing [her] fucking face off!”.

Let me first just say that this album is incredible. This is so different from a lot of the music that you’re known for, what’s changed for you?

Thank you so much! Yeah it is pretty different. If I’m being honest the first chunk of music I ever released was when I was signed to a major label, and it was very much influenced by them and not me. Then my 1st project ‘In The Beginning’ was me finally doing my own thing but still trying to find myself and my sound, but this new music is me grown up and really understanding the kind of artist I am and who I want to be in every aspect. I’m also working with a select group of people who really get me and what I’m trying to go for with my sound. It helps so much when you have a team that you feel comfortable with, that’s when I make my best music. 

You’ve said you found it hard to be vulnerable and open in your music, you’ve also said before that your friends are usually the inspiration for your songs. Did you write music about yourself and just not release it or was there a block when it came to writing about yourself?

Yes! I often take my friend’s ridiculous stories and write about them, rather than my own. I’ve never really written about myself much before this point. When I first started out in music I was doing the rounds and working with different producers and different  writers every day, I didn’t feel comfortable enough with them to open up about myself. Now that I’m working with people who I feel comfortable with and who have become amazing friends, music has become like therapy. I might be going through something and then we talk about it; specifically when I wrote ‘When It’s Just Me’ I cried about it, and I was able to write a beautiful, meaningful song from it, and that feels amazing. 

Your new EP is called ‘You Had To Be There’, why did this feel like the right term to re-introduce yourself to the world?

I think music is always how you interpret it, sure there is a concept to every song but the story can relate to everyone differently. I love when someone tells a story that they might have found hilarious, but the person they’re telling doesn’t laugh and they end it with ‘but you had to be there’. That’s why I named my EP that, because I know my story, but everyone will interpret it in a different way – you might get it, you might not. 

This EP has some really great one-liners such as “Everyone hears through the bullshit even when you’re silent” and “You promised me flowers but just gave me thorns.” How do you come up with them? 

Thanks! I think I just wanted the lyrics to cut deep. Both of those songs have quite aggressive lyrics, these specific ones just seem to fit. Myself and my co-writers just go back and forth until we find the best ones. 

There are so many strains of R&B and vibes on this EP. Who or what inspired the musical choices you made on ‘You Had To Be There’?

This EP was a very long time in the making. I made so many songs, all with different vibes. I chopped and changed the songs so many times, literally right up until last week, until I found the ones that felt most cohesive together, the ones that felt like a real body of music. I think I just really wanted to show off my voice with this project, cut out the bells and whistles and just sing. 

You said you wanted to be an actress before you went into music, what made you decide to go into music?

I came straight out of music college and literally within a week I was on tour with DJ duo Bondax. After that I signed my first record deal with Warner, and I just left acting at the door because I felt like music had taken over, it was taking up all my time and I was loving it. However, recently I’ve really started to miss acting, so I’ve actually started it back up again, I forgot how much I loved it. 

Following on from that, do you think we’ll be getting Kate Stewart in a film or TV show at some point in the future?

100%!! I’m working on it! 

If you had to pick a song to play to someone so they understood what this EP is about, which song would you pick?

Everybody Loves Me. It’s the perfect combination of R&B and pop and I’m singing my fucking face off on it!! I think the concept is quite silly too, it shows off my personality and I hope people know I’m joking! 

Thanks so much for chatting with us, last question: Give us one lyric off of the EP that you feel represents you personally.

“I don’t understand why you on the fence, it don’t make sense, cause everyone loves me”

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Words: Cleopatra Bailey
Photography: Jimi Herrtage
Stylist: Rhiannon Lagden
Makeup: Daniela Alves
Hair: Alex Sarghe