Kerri Watt charts a new soundscape with her debut album Neptune’s Daughter, born from her Americana roots and an unlikely collaboration with heavy metal producer Machine that gives us something totally new.
In a mix of grunge, rock, country, and pop, Neptune’s Daughter is an inspiring look into a new wave of rock and roll. Between the brooding and soulful “Cut Me Loose,” the passionately gritty “Spoonful of Sugar,” and the cruising, wanderlust-inspiring “Chasing Aeroplanes,” we get a bit of everything, and a taste of all the things we’re craving.
As Kerri puts it, “people need that ideology of dreaming, of going to exciting places.” While we can’t have the same adventures now that we usually would, Neptune’s Daughter is a vibrant saga of the joys and tests of a life on the road that we can live vicariously through.
In fact, everything about Kerri is joyfully eclectic. As a former dance and theater student, the Glaswegian artist is a performer at heart, and fell in love with the creative freedom of music making in her early twenties. Kerri doesn’t limit herself to genre constraints, but rather embraces their blurred edges, spinning together a web of all the sounds that she loves.
Amidst the adventurousness of Kerri’s music, it is deeply grounded. Though she’s not easy to categorize, you get the sense that Kerri knows who she is as an artist. There is no hesitation in her performance. Having left home at the young age of sixteen to discover the world, adventure is at her core, but what she prides herself on most is the connection she maintains with her family and her home. Kerri’s strong roots allow her to reach at the stars without floating away. Neptune’s Daughter brims with passion and individuality.
For the ones with wanderlust, the lovelorn, the lost, and everyone in between, Kerri Watt’s Neptune’s Daughter is a must-listen.
I had the opportunity to chat with Kerri about the album. Surrounded by plants and amplifiers, Kerri waved hello via Zoom from in front of a deep blue wall flanked with guitars both acoustic and electric. She was wrapped in a large sweater, necessary due to the cold weather in the chilly Scottish countryside from where she was calling. You can read our interview below.
So your album was released on the 15th of January. How have the past few weeks been?
They have been really exciting. I was a bit apprehensive before the release because here in the UK there are no live shows, and in normal life when you release an album, you go straight on tour and promote it and tour the radios and everything, but there’s no opportunity to do that right now. But since it came out, the response has been so positive and people have been listening to it and buying it and just giving me the best feedback. So it’s been an amazing couple of weeks.
That’s great! And you had a bit of a long wait before the release,
It was about two, two and a half years from the recording. A lot of that was planned because I recorded it then we did all the mixing and mastering and then the plan was I wanted to spend a year teasing some of the singles that were going to be on the album, and then go with the album release in the spring of 2020. So yeah, it is now like nine months late or something. Back in April I was thinking, oh well we’ll just push it back a few months and then live shows will come back. And then obviously it got to October and I was like, hold on a minute. This album is never going to come out if we keep pushing it back. So I’m really glad that we went with the January release date.
Neptune’s Daughter was produced by Machine, which is a big topic of conversation because he’s a heavy metal / hard rock producer. How did that connection form?
Really quite organically, in the spring of 2018 South by Southwest was happening in Austin. Someone that I was working with was out at South By that year and just met Machine in a bar or something and they got talking, and they were telling him about my music and my sound and he was like, oh she sounds interesting, I’d like to meet Kerri. So our mutual friend set up a Google Hangout. I was kind of on the lookout for a producer at that point, so I was really interested in talking to him. But really, on a basic level, we just got on as friends and found we have loads in common despite coming from really different musical backgrounds. So we decided to go for it, and I went over to Austin, and initially the plan was that we were just going to try a couple of songs and if they went well I would stay, and they went well, so we stayed and did the full album.
Did you ever worry about your sound being changed while working with Machine because it was so different?
Not really, I was just so excited to collaborate with someone who is from a different world, and see what we could create that was totally new. And there was a real respect for eachother and this merging of styles. He made me feel really confident in working with him that he wasn’t going to, you know, get me screaming into the microphone or anything that felt unnatural to me, and I think that’s why he’s such an awesome producer.
You’ve kind of settled on the genre label Americana. How do you think finding that label helped you as an artist?
Well, it was massively helpful because for years people have been asking, so what are you? What’s your sound? Like, well, it’s a bit of rock bit of folk, bit of blues, bit of country, it’s a bit of everything. And, you know, people really want you to define yourself with one word, which I always just thought was so lame because the best music is inspired by all the best genres and different styles of music. Anyway, a few years ago, this term Americana was becoming a wee bit more popular over here in the UK. And so I just Wikipedia searched it, and it said Americana was an umbrella term for all those genres that I just mentioned that I loved. And I was like, wow, that’s me, there’s a word for it. And I think calling it that just gives me room to do a bit of everything.
Do you think after recording Neptune’s Daughter, you’ll want to incorporate a heavier sound in your future stuff?
I don’t know actually, I think it totally will be determined by the songs I write and the headspace I’m in when I’m writing them. I would love to work with Machine on a second album, and bring in the same session players so there’ll be a continuation or development of the sound of Neptune’s Daughter.
Did you always want to be a musician? I’m curious about your background.
I actually planned to be a dancer, I went to theater college and studied dance and acting over in the US for a while and then in London. So I knew I always wanted to entertain, and being a performer was my destiny. In terms of writing music and actually being a musician, that wasn’t something I always saw for myself. It wasn’t really until I got to my early 20s that I even started playing the guitar and writing songs, and made the shift from musical theater to mainstream music.
As soon as I was able to strum a few chords, I just naturally started writing songs and really quickly fell in love with the artistry, and how creative being a musician could be versus doing musicals, which I loved, but you’re always playing a role that was written by someone else.
So, yeah, when I realized how much creative freedom was involved in being an artist and being a musician, like, that’s what I want to do.
Yeah, it does not surprise me that you used to be a dancer. I was watching some of your music videos, and I was like, “oh, she’s got moves.” So tell me a little bit about the music videos you recorded, I know you had to make some of them yourself at home.
Well, in normal life, I’m able to work with a film crew, but in this new world we live in that’s not possible and I really didn’t want to go a whole year releasing music and not doing music videos just because I couldn’t work with people. So my fiance and I just got really creative with his little camera.
In your interview with Live Manchester, you mentioned that you wrote the album in a span of two months. Where was your head at during that songwriting process?
I had just moved from London back up to Scotland, so first of all, I was in this new kind of headspace coming from London which is a crazy busy, very fast paced city. And my music experience there for the past few years had been writing sessions every day, and sort of thrown into what the music industry is about which I found quite intense. And I wasn’t really into the partying side of it or anything like that, I just loved making music. So coming back up to Scotland where it’s so chill and, you know, it was like this big breath of fresh air where I suddenly felt inspired again because my head got so cloudy living in the city. At that point I had lots going on in my life, I was in a really great relationship and I’d been doing loads of traveling so I had songs about road trips to talk about, I had Scotland to talk about, and family stuff. And I knew that in that time, if I’m ever going to write a full body of work, it’s now. And so I just spent the next two months as much as I could, just writing, writing, writing like thirty five, thirty six songs I think I wrote that eventually got cut down to the final 12.
What would you say if you could categorize any general themes that run through the album?
Definitely adventure. You can hear that in “Chasing Aeroplanes,” “Band of Gold,” “Neptune’s Daughter,” “Waking Up in California.” And then there are sort of the tales of romance and all the different stages of it from “All the Worse for Me” where you see this sort of very lustful, sexy song and then there is “Hellfire” and “Cut Me Loose,” which are a bit more heartbreak kind of songs. And then like “Band of Gold” is just like a total love song to my fiance. And so I would say love and adventure and family comes into the love category, too, are the main kind of things.
What was your biggest challenge with writing Neptune’s Daughter?
Just trying to find common themes like we’re talking about it right now, because I had so many different things going on in my head. I was also writing a lot of story songs and only one of them made it onto the record, which was “Jessie.” And it was like a bit of a battle of, you know, I could write an entire album of story songs, but are they as interesting as heartfelt things that people can relate to? And I decided to lead with my heart in the end.
I feel like that’s a general theme, with finding general themes. Like everything, it’s hard to pull it in and categorize it. Who are you inspired by musically?
Going back to my childhood, I loved LeAnn Rimes and Celine Dion. And then I also loved anyone who was a true performer, like a singer and a dancer. So Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jaylo, Madonna, those were my real inspirations for becoming a performer earlier in life. And when it came to writing music, I really fell in love with Van Morrison’s songwriting, and Sheryl Crow. And in terms of the sound for the album, it was so varied. The Rolling Stones, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Train, I love Train.
What do you hope that listeners will receive from your album?
I really hope that it is like a bit of escapism. I wouldn’t normally like to see that because I think you should live for the moment and you should enjoy the life that you’re in. Right now more than ever people need that ideology of dreaming, of going to exciting places. There’s also the final track to the album, “I Want to Sing for You,” which is about losing a family member, and that’s obviously quite a poignant topic at the moment. I hope people can find some peace listening to those songs and being able to relate to them.
What are your hopes for the future of your music?
Well, besides hoping to record a second album and obviously getting on the road and getting back to live shows, which is my favorite part about it all, I am writing two musicals at the moment. So yeah, I’m really hoping that by the end of this year we’ll see something starting to happen with one of them, they’re huge projects. It’s like the perfect way to merge worlds because hopefully what I’m doing with my own music can kind of help this thing a little bit and vice versa.
That is so exciting! Oh gosh, I had a question and it totally just jumped out of my mind when you started talking about musicals, oh yeah, so you travel around a lot, or you did at least when we could travel. What are some of your favorite touring or travel stories?
I just have so many stories of driving myself around the UK in November in the pouring rain, you know, early on I would turn up to these gigs, no one would have come to the show, like really sad stories. Then I have some awesome, amazing memories. A couple of years ago I got to open for Keith Urban in London and duet with him on stage, which was just like a crazy pinch me moment. Lots of my best memories are being a supporting artist because I love the challenge of going out on the stage and trying to win over someone else’s crowd. That’s really, really fun to me. Obviously, I love playing to my own crowd as well, but when I’m a supporting artist, the crowds tend to be much bigger so it’s really exciting.
What are you most proud of?
In life or with the album? Oh, man. Probably my relationship with my family, I left home when I was really young at 16 and just spent a lot of time kind of doing my own thing and adventuring and exploring, but always managed to maintain a really strong connection with my siblings and my parents.
Do you have anything else you want to share about the album to people who haven’t listened to it yet, maybe about what to expect?
What to expect is a total blend of all the genres that I love, the album is dynamic and hopefully inspiring, very colorful, has some incredible session players on it that I just was so grateful to get to work with. I hope that people take a minute to listen to this album. And if people are listening over in the US, try to pick out the places where you can really hear my Scottish accent come through.