Katie Malco’s ardently heartfelt and tender intonations have a way of stirring up a deep aching emotivity, as on her latest single ‘Brooklyn’. With her debut album Failures due out next month, she shares five tracks that have influenced her sound.
The second track to be released from her upcoming record, ‘Brooklyn’ starts out with gentle meandering guitar melodies, hushed percussion and Malco’s wistful vocals soft and vivid. As the track builds, each sonic element gradually grows with resonant resplendence until the tender delicacy gives way to full-blown, bracing sound; driving guitar chords and sonorous drums resound as Malco’s vocals soar atop with striking, roaring might. There’s a powerful vulnerability at the core of Malco’s music, delivered with a resolute self-assurance as she bares her soul, that makes her such a remarkable songwriter.
“‘Brooklyn’ is about a friend of mine that moved to start a new life in New York,” Malco explains of the track. “We’ve been friends for years and I’ve always felt protective of her. I went to New York for the first time to see her, having hardly even left the UK before, so it felt like a massive significant trip for me. It was her birthday and we had a big night to celebrate. On the last night we had a heart to heart where I tried to persuade her to come home – at this point she was hardly making enough money to live. She said she wouldn’t stay forever, to appease me, but that she was going to give it her best go. It wasn’t until later that I realised I wasn’t asking her to come home because I was worried she wasn’t going to survive – she always does – I was asking her to come home because I needed her.”
Get to know Katie Malco In Five…
Neutral Milk Hotel – Two-Headed Boy
I first listened to the record ‘In The Aeroplane Over the Sea’ when I was at college, after a friend loaned me it. Straight away it was like nothing I’d ever heard before – the lyrics felt obscure and the production seemed really weird to me at the time, and these are the things that drew me in. I still think they’re a totally unique band, and this record is so weird and wonderful. I felt like there was a shade of punk to what is essentially a 90s indie-folk record. I couldn’t get the melody of Two-Headed Boy out of my head for months, and I was fascinated by the way it seemed to constantly move throughout the whole song. Jeff Mangum emotes more than he ‘sings’, which is something I think a rare few can really pull off.
Land of Talk – It’s Okay
I was in a van with my friend, and we were driving around playing some shows down in Cornwall when I first became obsessed with this song. I was really confused at the time – I had a lot of residue/leftover feelings for my friend that I was touring with, as we had been in an on/off toxic relationship for a few years but were just friends at this point, and I was trying to make sense of it all. Whenever I hear this song my mind goes back to driving in Falmouth in the rain, watching the sea roaring, the rain batting down against the hood of the van, sat next to someone I was very confused about and wishing that I wrote this beautiful song. Elizabeth Powell is possibly my absolute favourite vocalist of all time. Her voice actually sounds like home to me. I love the way the lyrics touch on death in a really obscure way, the wish of reincarnating as a car is something I always thought was really out there but kind of brilliant.
David Bazan – Curse Your Branches
I’m a bit of a Bazan nut, I loved Pedro the Lion and I love Bazan solo. I was so lucky to see him at a secret show in a motorcycle warehouse out of the city at SXSW last year, totally unplugged. It might be my favourite show of all time. His shows aren’t just a person playing a bunch of tunes – he tells stories, he has discussions with the crowd, he talks about his life and everything he’s learnt, and how he sees things now and in the future…it really is totally special and every time I’ve seen him live I come away feeling really…different? Like I’ve learnt something. The album ‘Curse Your Branches’ is about Bazan having a crisis of faith and also about his battle with drinking – I really related to the whole record, having been a Christian when I was a kid, then leaving it behind, then re-converting again when I was a teenager, then de-converting for the final time and subsequently turning to other things to fill the hole, against a backdrop of an unhappy home life. And I’ve lived without faith ever since. It’s something that’s very hard to explain to someone that’s never been religious – once you leave it behind you truly do question everything. I could have picked any number of his tunes for this, but I’ve been constantly playing this song to myself in lockdown. I love to sing it, and I feel hugely connected to the song when I do.
Bruce Springsteen – Dancing in the Dark
I’ve loved Bruce Springsteen for as long as I can remember, and again, I could have chosen any number of his songs, I have so many favourites and so much of his music has had a long-lasting effect on me. I went with Dancing in the Dark because I think this tune in particular has had such a massive influence on some of my songwriting, mainly in terms of marrying music that is jubilant and uplifting with lyrics that tell a darker story. Few artists pull this off as expertly as Bruce does. Dancing in the Dark is such an amazing example of that – the words are about self-loathing and searching for something, and sung through the upbeat music there is a catharsis and a weird semblance of hope.
Joanna Newsom – Emily
Ys by Joanna Newsom might well be my favourite album of all time. Emily opens the album, and whenever I hear the first two chords I honestly melt. Obviously, my music is very different to Joanna Newsom’s, but I think it’s had a wider effect on how I understand music and what music can be. Her vocal is perfectly imperfect, and I love how divisive it is because it makes it so much more special to the people who love it. I think through being a fan of JN I learnt to accept the flaws in my voice and embrace them and work with them, not against them. She totally strips away boundaries – she is a true, authentic, visionary artist.
‘Failures’ is due out June 5th via 6131 Records. Pre-order here.
Photo credit: Sam Manville