ALBUM REVIEWS: Contender to be next Scottish first lady of song
You and Old School Sessions by Kerri Watt, 25 Hour Convenience Store/KW Records, Out Now
The sisterhood of dynamic Scottish singers is a very select group that includes Annie Lennox (The Eurythmics), Sharleen Spiteri (Texas) and K.T. Tunstall.
Now Milngavie singer-songwriter, guitarist and pianist Kerri Watt has staked her claim to join this exclusive Caledonian network whose membership also lists Lulu, Eddi Reader (Fairground Attraction) and Shirley Manson (Garbage).
Kerri said: “Sometimes, I get compared to Kate Bush and I’ve had lots of comparisons to K.T. Tunstall and Amy McDonald.
“It’s been a really interesting journey in my musical career so far, with a lot of ups and downs, but being on an upward trajectory.
“When I wrote one of my first songs, ‘Who’s Lovin’ Me Now?’, I didn’t know anything about the music industry, having grown up in Milngavie which is a lovely little town between the city of Glasgow and the countryside of the West Highland Way.
“So I needed to get out there with my music and find the fans by playing live which is my favourite part of being a musician.”
Two EPs showcase Kerri’s versatile and rich vocals, “You” which contains four songs all written by the singer who is said to draw her influences from Sheryl Crow, Kate Bush, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, amongst many others.
But what really brings all four songs on the EP, You, Got My Heart, Paris and Maybe, is the impressive instrumentation which blends perfectly with Kerri’s expressive, yet disciplined, vocals.
Kerri said: “A lot of my music is influenced by the time I spent living in California, USA, and since I moved back to the UK, I’ve spent a lot of time going backwards and forwards between there and here.
A lot of my songs are very heartfelt and so I get messages from a lot of people who say that the songs have them through a hard time
“I try to encapsulate that whole West Coast, feel-good California vibe into my songs and it’s a lot to do with my experiences out there.”
At the time, Kerri was setting herself up for a career in musical theatre before a meeting with Marti Pellow, lead singer with Wet Wet Wet, changed the direction of her career forever.
She said: “When I was a teenager, people used to say all the time that I looked like Britney Spears.
“But in the beginning, it was hard to convince people that I wanted to make a career out of my music.
“People don’t go to gigs like they used to and it’s hard to get an audience to come and see you.
“That’s why I’m just really excited to get out there and meet the people who have been listening to my music and interact with them.”
Kerri has just finished a 14-date British tour that included a stop-off in her home city of Glasgow, as well as shows in Derby, Lincoln and Birmingham where she was supported by singer-guitarists Ellie Dowen and David J. Moore.
The show, at Birmingham’s ORT Cafe, saw Kerri accompanied by backing singer-instrumentalist Eloise Davies.
However, it started off with a set by Ellie who played both original songs and covers, followed by a similar set from David J. Moore who later teamed up with Kerri for a duet of “You’ve Got a Friend”, originally recorded by Carole King and covered by James Taylor.
Kerri said: “I draw influence from the people I meet, places I go and books I read.
“A lot of my songs are very heartfelt and so I get messages from a lot of people who say that the songs have them through a hard time.
“Sometimes, these shows are more rewarding that singing in front of thousands of people and one of the best parts of playing around the UK is meeting different people.”
Kerri goes down a different path with her second EP, “Old School Session”, a six-song EP that includes a more solitary version of her most famous song to date, Long Way Home.
The EP also includes covers of John Lennon’s Jealous Guy and Rich Girl, originally recorded 40 years ago by Daryl Hall and John Oates.
Another of Kerri’s own songs, Pirate Man, features alongside country number Little Sally and a folk song that became the first piece of music she was ever taught how to play by her grandmother, The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.
Kerri said: “One of the first people to play my music on mainstream radio was Ken Bruce (of BBC Radio 2), giving me a platform to be able to perform in towns and at some of the larger music festivals.
“But over the last year and a half, I’ve spent a lot of time in London where I’ve been working on my sound which is always changing because I get inspired by other artists.
“I’ve had so much support in touring and booking venues where it’s felt like I’m getting nearer to my dream, compared to before when people had never heard of me.
“The heart of being a singer is communicating with other people which is what I’d really be satisfied with.
“On the other hand, I’m just excited to get myself out there and meet the people, whilst I’d love to take my music out of the UK, play in front of sold out stadiums and tour round the world at the same time.”
Review and interview by Winston Brown