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One to watch: Katy Kirby

The Guardian logo The Guardian 27/02/2021 Phil Mongredien

Growing up in an evangelical Christian family in small-town Texas, Katy Kirby didn’t have the cultural references experienced by other up-and-coming musicians. “I do envy people who grew up with the Beach Boys and listening to their parents’ cool record collection,” she told Vice recently. “I have no classic rock or pop foundation at all.” Crucially, what she did have was a father obsessed with harmonies, and plenty of exposure to religious music.

As she got older and her horizons widened, Kirby discovered more secular music – and began to question her faith. At which point she discovered that songwriting gave her a way to crystallise her thoughts. She describes it as “the weirdest and one of the darkest experiences that I’ve had – trying to rewire my brain to not have a loving God that’s ever-present in it”.

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A low-key EP brought her to the attention of Texas label Keeled Scales, which is now releasing Cool Dry Place, a full-length album of Kirby’s exquisitely realised indie miniatures. There are nods to Big Thief in the delivery, and Katy Perry (the deployment of big pop hooks), but for the most part Kirby sounds unique. Witness recent single Traffic!, which tackles male privilege via delicate instrumentation, a playfully skittering rhythm and Auto-Tuned vocals. The wryly self-deprecating video isn’t bad either. Once the pandemic allows, Kirby plans to tour the UK. Look out for her then.


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