Pepper is a ‘tomorrow today, please’ kind of girl as befits the characters’ at the forefront of the current UK urban scene. One minute she’s outside college having a fag, (Manchester’s, Trafford College Music Base), the next she’s being ushered in to the studio opposite to audition for the Sky Talent Show Must Be The Music (2010), which included the unlikely judge Dizzee Rascal, as well as Jamie Cullen and Sharleen Spiteri.
The difference with this show, and the reason Katie Pepper paid attention and “crossed the road”, was that artists were singing their own material and promised all the profits from any subsequent downloads. She appeared as Pepper and Piano, with fellow music student and friend, Emma Alkazrajie, the Piano and the songwriter of ‘You Took My Heart’, which caused tears all round in the studio at the time.
Songs like ‘You Took My Heart’ and ‘One Of These Days’ showed a reflective mood; universal lyrics which were in fact, entirely personal and motivated. (In reality, the song narrates the story of Emma’s wayward teens, drugs, addiction and the death of friend, an altogether different type of unrequited love.) They were the perfect vehicle for Pepper’s subtle and powerful vocal dynamics and a tone and style which oozes Adele, Amy Winehouse and indeed her greatest influence: Lauren Hill. Pepper and Piano were able to make a big connection to the folks at home and they made the final, Emma’s Imagination, (girl with guitar!) being the winner, in the end.
Fast forward two years, Pepper has, growing as an independent artist, at a pace, that is. She was seen at The Brits hanging out with the UK hip hop/dance/pop posse and is talking to music critics and journalists’ – still no official PR in place – having just finished her first big tour as support for Rizzle Kicks, 19 dates in all taking her all over the country. Emma is happy off the stage, writing at home near to her new baby and Pepper is now signed to Dizzee Rascal’s own enterprise Dirtee Recordings and soon set to release the upbeat ‘Running Rings’ as a single.
“After the show we spent a couple of weeks in the studio and that’s when we came out with the 14 tracks. It was a brilliant experience,” explains Pepper.
In collaboration with producer Nick Cage, she has come up with a whole album ready for launch – but they’re in no hurry. There may be more singles, possibly ‘Higher’ or ‘Abandon Myself’.
Pepper is representin’: female musicality, friendship, collaboration, determination, inspiration so the girls are take our rightful position as her champion.
Tell us about the single, ‘Running Rings’?
It’s a big dance track and very lively. I’m so excited about it coming out. It’s definitely a summer tune. The majority of songs I’ve been working on recently are less ballad-like, a really different sound to what people heard on the programme. I would say it’s more edgy – I’d call it pop but it’s definitely not cheesy? Every song is still about an aspect of my life or a certain situation. I haven’t just made things up. They’re real.
It looks like you chose the label, Dizzee Rascal’s Dirtee Recordings, to guide you in the direction you wanted to go?
I’m loving it – I know it may sound corny but it really is like being part of a family, everyone gives a shit; everybody in their role and that comes across in what we do.
What was the most memorable moment on stage during the tour with the Rizzle Kicks boyz?
When we went to Norwich – I think it was our fourth show. It was the first time we got a big reaction from the crowd. They we moshing by the end of it! I hadn’t had much stage experience then, so getting that response from the crowd, being that they don’t know who I am and they want Rizzle Kicks gave me a great boost of confidence.
Manchester was the biggest gig of my life – a really big thing for me, an entirely different thing altogether. I just can’t explain it.
What was the most interesting experience offstage?
Probably hanging out with Rizzle Kicks when they were dressed up in animal costumes!
What music did you listen to when you were growing up?
Big soul singers like Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin. Lauryn Hill was a mad big influence for me and especially in terms of song writing and actually listening to the words. The Miseducatinon of Lauryn Hill was the break-through and my most beloved album.
Some festival dates with Dizzee, in which we will sing ‘Scream’, the song that we co-wrote. But in the immediate future, snow bombing in Austria!
(Didn’t we tell you that she was a snowboarder as well?)
When people used to ask me what I did in my spare time, I would say singing.