Eva Katzler

Read the interview from Time Out London….

In a decade when musical success has been largely the domain of bands, few singer-songwriters have slipped through the net. But as Time Out learns from Eva Katzler, a healthy solo artists’ scene is flourishing in the capital. You just need to know where to look…

Time once was when singer-songwriters were cool. In the ’60s, curly-mopped king of louche Bob Dylan and jet-voiced poet Leonard Cohen redefined the very parameters of popular music; in the ’70s, the world swooned to the blue, economical tones of Joni Mitchell and Carole King. This millennium (what there’s been of it) has been all about the band, and if one was to achieve chart success alone, one either went jazz (Norah Jones), MOR (Katie Melua) or made squirmy love to the camera, and became James Blunt.

So, it may come as a surprise to learn that London is currently the home of a thriving singer-songwriter scene, according to Eva Katzler. Katzler releases her debut single ‘Angel’ this week (a sweet, Stina Nordenstam-toned confection) and has been tipped for success by queenmakers such as Parky and Cullum. The fact that she was able to develop her talent over time is thanks to a cluster of small clubs around London, run by Tony Moore and Christian Barnes; their singer-songwriter nights have hosted early shows from Paolo Nuttini, Lucie Silvas and Nerina Pallot

These nights are different to an open-mic,’ says Katzler. ‘It’s more like a proper show; each act plays a couple of original songs, and Moore requests at the beginning that everyone pays attention and doesn’t talk during the songs. So you have an audience that’s all ears, and they belong to you.’

Katzler had ‘a great initiation’ to the scene, at one of Moore’s old venues, the Kashmir Klub. Just out of university, she was walking along Embankment with a friend, wondering what to do next. She wanted to start gigging in London, but needed a guitarist: ‘And literally as I said those words, I heard this guy busking, and I thought: That’s my guy!’ Katzler told the Mexican guitarist, Hugo (‘Oogo’) about a couple of songs she’d put online; he listened, liked them, and asked her to join him at the Kashmir a week later.

One big contrast to the indie scene is that these singer-songwriters make no bones about wanting success. There’s no ‘We just wanna make music and if anyone likes it it’s a bonus’ muso attitude here; Katzler is open about the fact that clubs like this are a place to make contacts, to network, and get ahead in the music industry. It sounds a bit scary in cold print but, put with Katzler’s girlish enthusiasm, it seems perfectly natural. In a kind of Mary Poppins way. ‘Often musicians invite people down from record labels; they’ve made calls, written letters. And also, people like Tony would always feed back to industry and say, ‘We’ve think this person’s great…’ But besides the suits, networking at these clubs means meeting other musicians. ‘When you’re not on stage, you’re at the bar, chatting to other musicians, meeting new people – and someone’ll say to you, “Oh, I really liked your set”, and you’ll say, “We should do something together.” ‘

It is, says Katzler, a very fluid environment, and above all, a social thing. ‘It’s a community in a city where community is dying out,’ she says. ‘It’s advocating great music and creativity, and it’s open to all ages, all talents, all levels; anybody’s welcome and they feel like they’re part of something.’

We asked Eva to take Time Out along to hear some of her contemporaries at the long-running Bedford Bandstand night. There are five different acts, some playing as full bands, others with just an acoustic guitar, there are girls, there are boys; there is, as promised, variety, of a sort. There’s just one problem. Each and every act feels the need to sing in an American accent.

‘You’ve gotta let it go sometyyyymes,’ groans the singer of the opening band, legs splayed, chest thrusting, while two mates back him up with passionate strumming. Next up is a lady in cowboy boots who’s had ‘a difficult few months’. Yikes. Sure enough, the songs tell of pain, despair, golden roses (she gave him one, he threw it away) etc – but she does have a really good voice. Next is a boy who looks like Devendra Banhart and plays extraordinary blues guitar, but sings like he thinks he’s channelling Muddy Waters (‘I got a devil on mah baaaack!’ he booms).

According to Tony, some ‘tones’ (his word) are better suited to a mid-Atlantic accent. Look at Elton John, he says, Elton sings in an American voice. This is true. But there’s a big gap between Elton John, and David Brent’s ‘Free Love Freeway’.

We’re more inclined to think that the Yank Rock Vocal just circumnavigates the scariness of singing in your own voice; Joanna Newsom once said that when she started singing, she knew her voice sounded weird, and singing felt to her like walking around in high heels. It doesn’t sound like the swaggering rock guy who opened the show is quite ready for heels.

And yet let’s guard against rock snobbism here. It’s all very well for Time Out to extol the eclectic, Afro avant punk of, say, the new Yeasayer album – but it’s not necessarily to everyone’s taste. The group of Australian ladies sat at one of the Bedford’s candlelit tables say they loved tonight’s show, all of it. ‘It was so intimate!’ says Chantal, ‘Really natural, it just felt organic,’ enthuses her pal.

Eva, who may be one of the nicest people I’ve met, explains this apparent mystery. For a lot of people, music is Capital Radio, is ‘The X Factor’, she says – and at the Bedford, you can see that showmanship right up close. Plus, there’s no mistaking that the acts here are really into what they’re doing. Eva says that when she first started playing, her stuff was far more feel-my-pain, but that the encouragement and criticism from her peers helped her develop over time.

So there you have it. Cod rock mannerisms or no, these nights offer budding musicians a huge opportunity; you get to play your songs to an attentive crowd in one of the least intimidating environments in London, the whole thing is free and who knows? Your experimental folk metal project could be the next big thing on Parky.

Eva Katzler’s single ‘Angel’ is released on Dekkor this week

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