I first met Katy Hurt back in July 2014 when I got chatting to her parents at a Kacey Musgraves show at west London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire. We were all enamoured with the meteoric rise of Country Music’s popularity in the UK but the Hurts had an ace up their sleeves, daughter Katy’s incredible Southern-styled voice coupled with her song-writing talents which her parents were immediately gushing about and championing.
Spending her early life in the U.S., it’s no surprise that Hurt was exposed to Country music and got the bug herself. But pursuing it following the family’s relocation to Southern England can’t have been easy, but pursue it she did. Following our encounter at that Kacey Musgraves show, Hurt released her Blue Snake E.P. and has gone on to graduate from ACM’s song-writing course, signing to Metropolis Publishing and flying the flag for Yamaha Guitars. She was also added to the line-up at this year’s C2C Festival, the UK’s Mecca for Country Music with the likes of Zac Brown Band, Reba McEntire and Brad Paisley headlining.
But leaving the dizzy heights of London’s O2 Arena, Hurt ventured out to my local venue and the newest addition to South West London’s Upper Tooting Road: The Sound Lounge.
Hurt and her three-piece band appeared on stage to cheers, the singer saying “I’ll introduce you to these rascals a little later” of her band before the four immediately broke into a brief a cappella rendition of Unfinished Business, the slow-paced song demonstrating the vocal harmonies that would be on show tonight, before the tempo was upped for Revved Up, the rock-country tune immediately getting the crowd nodding and foot-tapping along.
“As you can tell, we’re a little bit rocky too, so if you want to get up and dance, that’s okay too” she encouraged exuding a confidence far beyond her years, before breaking into new E.P. Pieces Of Me cut Because I Do, the down-tempo number slowing down proceedings, it’s captivating story-telling lyrics reminding us that we were most certainly at a Country music show.
“Are you all having a good time tonight?” Hurt asked of her audience before giving a shout out to opening act Orfila. “We’re going to play a new song for you now” she continued before guitarist Gab Zsapka kicked off upbeat, rocky tune What’s A Girl To Do, Simon Taylor’s funky slap-bass adding to what is easily cross-over material that would be as comfortable on Pop as well as Country radio.
More from Pieces Of Me was up next with blues-tinged Fire allowing the upper limits of Hurt’s voice to be demonstrated, the Southern-style Country twang blending in finely. “I got carried away with that and started crying” the songstress laughed, wiping tears from her eyes. “I got too emotional there!”
New E.P. cut Cheap offered up more tap-along Country fare, its Rockabilly stylings getting the crowd going. “This next song is probably our saddest” she said, introducing I Don’t Wanna Love You. “We had to have one song that makes you cry” she continued before Zsapka’s delicate acoustic guitar kicked off the downbeat tune, Hurt encouraging audience participation on vocals later in the song, the Tooting crowd more than willing.
Introducing her band she said of them “These guys put up with me and I love them for it” to ripples of laughter before the four-piece ploughed into tap-along tune Old School, Steve Matthews’ marching band drumming parts adding lift to the song. Introducing Pieces Of Me song Small Town by referring to romanticised small towns in American Country songs she said: “I thought ‘hang on a second, I live in a small town and my small town is nothing like that’ so this is what we wrote”, the quirky, fun tune getting the crowd clapping along.
Taylor and Matthews then departed the stage for a stripped-back rendition of Dust, Hurt introducing her new single as the product of a brief writing session she had in the U.S. last year, the sparse instrumentation allowing The Sound Lounge’s ‘Bluebird Café’ vibe to really shine through, it’s bare filament light bulbs and unmatched chairs, flickering table tea lights and sofas adding to the low-key vibe, Hurt’s voice reverberating.
Light was up next, the songstress introducing it as a song recorded at Nashville’s famous Ryman Auditorium, saying of the venue “it is the Holy Church of all Country music and the birthplace of Bluegrass”, the low-key vibe continuing with the singer stepping out to the edge of the stage without her microphone to sing part of the song unamplified.
Love You More’s lap-steel guitar sounds threw The Sound Lounge into the throws of Hurt’s Country sound once more, the 19-year-old excited to announce the song had been her first number one ahead of Pieces Of Me opener Ride Home, the slow-build tune reaching an impressive crescendo. Describing one of her issues with song-writing, the Windlesham-native said “I got so frustrated with my unfinished songs that I wrote a song called Unfinished Business about my unfinished songs” enticing chuckles from the crowd, it’s smooth vocal harmonies laid over sparse guitars haunting.
“This song requires audience participation, do you think you guys are up for that?” the rising star asked of the audience before kicking off My Place, the crowd enjoying their parts, singing along with gusto before a major key shift lifted the song’s conclusion. Audience screams for another song resulted in an airing of encore song Charlotte, “this is the Guns N’ Roses of Country” Hurt promised, introducing the tune about North Carolina’s largest city, Taylor’s bass line kicking off the rock tune before Matthews’ drums had the crowd nodding along.
It’s easy to see why Katy Hurt is beginning to receive the recognition she has been in a genre that’s really taking off in the UK. Her powerful voice coupled with a fun Country songwriting style producing a varied catalogue of songs which are the perfect antidote to the pop, R&B and rock dominating the charts and airwaves. And it didn’t go amiss that still without a full length album, she put on a storming 75-minute set of original material while skipping her Blue Snake E.P. completely.
Katy Hurt will play the main stage at Stockport’s Buckle & Boots festival this June.
Photos and live review of Katy Hurt @ The Sound Lounge by Kalpesh Patel on 18th April 2017.
Kalpesh has more music photography up on his flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate