By Brenna Ehrlich
The line outside Kate Nash‘s show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg is studded with colors that remind me of the upcoming Easter holiday — girls with light blue and pink dyed hair.
Girls going for the soft-edged punk-leaning aura that Nash emanates in person and onstage. The tinted teens chatter about their favorite songs on Nash’s newest album, Girl Talk, waiting to see their idol washed in stage lights, lofted on that three foot platform that separates normal girls from rockstars.
Little do they know that that seemingly unsurmountable barrier had been breached mere hours before when Nash consorted with a group of teenage aspiring musicians in a workshop hosted by the charity Music Unites, imparting unto them the wisdom she has gleaned during her years in the music business. And, you know, just generally rocking out.
Music Unites is a non-profit that brings music education to underprivileged students in inner city schools, allowing students to not only try their hand at songwriting, but also rub elbows with the likes of Nash and Swizz Beatz in special “Music-Versity” events. Nash has been an ambassador for Music Unites for three years now, and at Thursday’s event at The Music Hall of Williamsburg, gave students an exclusive backstage peek at her soundcheck, as well as tons of advice about songwriting in general and their own tunes in particular. I was told one of the students even got the chance to do a duet of Mary J. Blige’s “Down” with the sassy singer (apparently, Nash was floored).
Although I missed the singalong, I did score the opportunity to hang with Nash before her show (as well as a hug from the singer upon first meeting — which I handled with awkward aplomb). Check out my interview below, where Nash and I talk Music Unites, Pussy Riot and “Full House.” YES, the TV show. Find out what THAT has to do with anything below.
ACT: How did you get involved with Music Unites?
KATE: I guess [founder and executive director] Michelle [Edgar] from Music Unites just got in touch and I went and visited this school in the Bronx called Women’s Academy. It was so cool. Loads of the girls were here from there today. I met them again after three years. I went to visit the school and we donated guitars to some schools in LA and a school in Chicago and a school in New York.
I just really like what they do and I think it’s a really important charity. I love Michelle. She’s like a powerhouse. She has a full-time job and then runs a charity. I don’t know how she does it.
ACT: So you got a chance to hang with all the kids today. What was the most memorable moment?
KATE: They were all like, ‘Will you sign my Doc Martens, will you sign my hat?’ and there was this really sweet boy who looked super ghetto but also had this leather rose pin. He was very cute. They’re very sweet people. Everyone I’ve met from Music Unites, they’re all sweethearts. They’re all from completely different walks of life and have different sorts of interests — I just really relate to the kids I’ve met through the charity.
ACT: So I’m sure you had a lot of kids asking today how they could be like you. What do you wish someone had said to you back when you were first starting out?
KATE: Just — be brave and be yourself and don’t worry about what people think of you and don’t judge yourself harshly. I think when you’re young you’re really hard on yourself, and that will only hold you back.
ACT: When you were a kid, starting out in music, who were some of your songwriting heroes?
KATE: When I was really young, the Spice Girls, and then Britney Spears. I loved the Beatles because my parents always listened to them. Then I liked The Streets and Oasis. And then I liked punk music like the Buzzcocks and the riot girls like Bikini Kill. Hole, Nirvana, T-Rex. Quite a spectrum of different things.
ACT: Yeah, I saw a little Bikini Kill in your new record.
KATE: Oh, cool!
ACT: I’m a big fan of them!
KATE: Yeah, me, too. Giant fan.
ACT: Speaking of strong women, I know you’re a big supporter of Pussy Riot. Do you think we have any musicians like them in the States or the UK? People who aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in?
KATE: No, I don’t think there we do.
ACT: Do you think we need musicians like that?
KATE: People really need to open minded for stuff like that, but I think it would be really cool to have more activism. I think it would be cool to utilize it, though, through going on the Internet. Using the Internet to connect people and then taking that outdoors. That would be really cool.
ACT: I just recently saw an episode of “Full House” on a plane where the girls form a band called Girl Talk. Any relation to the album title?
KATE: I write a blog called Girl Talk and I was like, ‘That’s what my album title is going to be,’ and then all the songs came about and it made sense. Then I found out about the [board] game. I also saw an episode of something with Sarah Michelle Gellar when she was a teenager where she’s like, ‘Girl Talk, with Sarah Michelle Gellar!’ This weird ’90s thing. She was so young in it. It was so funny and I was like, ‘That’s amazing!’ It just felt like that was what the record was in a way — purging emotions and just like, ‘Blahhhh!’ I think that’s what ‘girl talk’ basically is.
ACT: Speaking of weird ’90s things — kids these days are so into that decade (which is so weird because kids are wearing things that I’ve thrown away). What’s your favorite ’90s trend that’s coming back?
KATE: Yeah, I love it! I love Creepers — I wear them all the time (gestures to her shoes). I love that grunge style, you know? Babydoll dresses. I love seeing people wear tie dye T-shirts as well. I love the ’90s. Chokers are the best.
ACT: Tattoo chokers?
ACT: What year were you born?
KATE: I was born in ’87 so I was pretty young in the ’90s
ACT: Ah, ’84. We had enough time for bad fashion decisions.
KATE: I know. What about the trousers with the skirts over them? Or was that in the ’00s? The ’00s have had some really bad ones.
ACT: Or boxers under overalls. That was weird.
KATE: What the hell? That was so weird. That will come back in 20 years, though. So good. I love it.
All photos taken by Jenna Glatzer for Music Unites
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