HomeEF CountryInterview: Kezia Gill talks new song 'Whiskey Over Ice' & reflects on...

Interview: Kezia Gill talks new song ‘Whiskey Over Ice’ & reflects on her amazing 2022

Kezia Gill, a singer/songwriter based in the Midlands, has performed professionally for over 15 years. Growing up in a musical family of Irish descent in Nottingham, she was surrounded by music from an early age. Kezia’s father, a professional musician for over 50 years, introduced her to the world of performing, writing, and most importantly, the immense back catalogue of music that helped shape her individual style. Bringing influences from a wide range of genres, her sound is completely original.

It is this originality that really came to the fore in 2022. At a time when people are struggling to put bums on seats in live venues across the UK, Gill’s November tour was an absolute triumph of sold out shows. Eager to build upon appearances at festivals like C2C and The Long Road and chomping at the bit to prove why the BCMA awarded her the coveted ‘Entertainer of the Year’ award, Gill is starting 2023 on fire with the release of what could be her best song yet!

‘Whiskey Over Ice’ is being released on February 3rd but starting to filter through radio airwaves right now. We’ve heard it and absolutely love it’s anthemic quality and -made-for-radio’ chorus. We we thrilled to talk to her all about it.

Thanks for your time, Kezia. 2023 is going to be such a big year for you. 2022 was sooooo exciting – are there any specific memories that stick in your head as being particularly special from last year?

Wow. It’s so hard to choose because I did so much last year! (laughing) A huge highlight was playing the C2C festival for the first time. I’d been going as a fan for years but when you actually play it you feel like you’ve actually landed, slightly! We closed down the Town Hall, they couldn’t fit anymore people in!

Being able to support The Shires on both their acoustic tour in 2021 and their main UK tour last year was amazing. It took us all over the country and we finished at the London Palladium, which is a stage I’ve dreamt of singing on my whole life.

Finally doing my own tour last November was also special. We sold out so many venues and I had the time of my life too! (laughing)

Did your explosion in popularity last year comes as something of a surprise?

100% (laughing) This isn’t something I say in interviews to appear humble but I am genuinely surprised at what happened last year. I back myself and believe in my ability but the response to the tour and the festival appearances really did blow me away. I like to think that all the hard work we’ve been putting in over the years is finally beginning to pay off? (laughing)

To watch you put bums on seats on that November tour when other artists can’t seem to find where the thousands of C2C festival goers disappear off to once that weekend is over was a sheer delight. It makes you something of a unicorn I think.

UK artists are considered underdogs in the Country music genre because it is, obviously, very much an American genre. Where I differ slightly, and I’ve been very open about this, is that I don’t see myself as exclusively a ‘Country music artist’.

I’m a singer/songwriter who adores Country music but I also love Rock, Blues, Pop and Soul too. I’ll always write from the point of ‘three chords and the truth’ but some of the music I’ll produce will cross over all those other genres. It might well make it difficult to pigeonhole me but I think it works in my favour because I get a lot of non-Country fans coming to my shows too. People are just there for the music, standing shoulder to shoulder together.

I have a small, die-hard group of fans that go to every gig I do and I want them to know that I appreciate their support, it doesn’t go unnoticed. We need more of that, us home-grown artists! People like myself, Jade Helliwell, Gary Quinn – we have a lot to say and a lot to offer but some people dismiss us because we are not American. Just come out to one of our shows and give us a chance!

You said you don’t always write Country music but your new single, ‘Whiskey Over Ice’ is an absolute Country radio banger! It also has a fascinating origin story.

It is a bonafide Country banger, for sure! (laughing) I got that song as part of some library work I was working on. I was basically writing some music for inclusion in film and TV shows. My producer sends me some track ideas and I put some lyrics to them and we don’t really think about them being anything more than that.

I got ‘Whiskey Over Ice’ through and it was quite different to what it is now but the bones were there. I started working on it and as soon as the hook came in I knew that I couldn’t give the song away! (laughing) We worked it up in the studio and chopped and changed a few things and it slowly became my song.

We asked Luke Thomas to come and do his Country guitar thing on it and added that pounding bass line to it and it really turned into something we are really proud of. ‘Whiskey Over Ice’ is one of two songs from my upcoming album that have emerged in this way but I just can’t tell you about the other one yet!

What’s the timescale on the album and are we talking 10, 12 tracks too? A full album would elevate you into the ranks of sitting alongside artists like The Shires and The Wandering Hearts.

I’d love to give you a firm ETA on the album but I can’t yet. Summer? Late Summer? We are going to have lots of new material to play over festival season, which will be awesome. We’ll drip feed some singles in over the next few months but I’d like a late summer release that would enable us to perform the songs across the Autumn. Big plans ahead for 2023!

I’ve made a number of EPs, the most recent being ‘The Mess I Made’, which had six tracks on it, but I’m always thinking ‘what’s next?’ It was my producer that convinced me that people are ready for a full body of work although my main response to that was, ‘Great, but how are we going to pay for that!’ (laughing)

We’ve built up some fantastic friendships with musicians like Luke Thomas and Sarah Jory, so we can call them in and have any instrument we want on the songs. Because I’m not selling this as purely just a Country music album there will be an eclectic mix of styles and sounds on the album. That’s the beauty of what I can do as a singer/songwriter.

Do you worry that people won’t know what to do with that?

For the longest time I was hitting my head against a brick wall worrying about what type of artist I was. I could never settle on an answer. I’m just me! You can call me Alternative, you can call me Country, you can call me Blues but I’m not any of those things, specifically.

I’ve probably made life a lot harder for myself by not just sticking to one genre but it wouldn’t have felt authentic to me, you know? David Bowie and Queen didn’t confine themselves to any one genre did they? They experimented with their sounds. Queen fans didn’t go to see Queen because it was a rock concert, they went to see Queen. I know that’s a high level to aspire to but we’ve all got to have our goals! (laughing)

I’m currently making the album I was always destined to make. Where it will sit on the library shelf I’m not sure, but I’m not over thinking it or worrying about that!

I was a huge fan of the reimagined version of ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ that you released with Tim Prottey-Jones last year. If you could cover or re-imagine another classic song for inclusion on the new album this year, which one would you go for?

Funnily enough there was a cover that very nearly did make the album. It was ‘Forever Young’ by Bob Dylan. We played it out on the tour last year. That song has so much significance to me – it was my dad’s favourite song and I just love singing it.

A lot of people mentioned that they felt I’d put my own flavour or stamp on it, which was pretty amazing to hear. I toyed with putting it on the album but I am super passionate about this being an album of original songs. I do think I’ll record ‘Forever Young’ at some point in the future – it’s intrinsically linked to me and my family.

With the passing of Jeff Beck the media have been shining a little light on guitarists, who are something of a dying breed these days. Do you have a favourite guitar hero?

Joe Bonamassa îs one of my all-time favourites. My husband and I are massive fans of his. The thing that I love about Joe is that he has just done everything and achieved everything all by himself. He has his own label and does his own thing. His idol was BB King and you can hear a lot of that influence in Joe’s work. There’s no better sound on a guitar than the Blues – it sounds like the guitar is actually crying. Gary Moore was another great Blues player that I really admire too.

You are going out on tour next month with Jade Helliwell, Jess Thristan and Demi Marriner under the ‘Girls Night In’ banner. Tell us a little about how that tour came together and what people can expect.

We’ve all been friends for years and it was at the Blackpool Country music festival in 2021 when we were just hanging out together that people bandied around the idea of us forming a ‘supergroup’. (laughing) We have an annual girl’s trip every January, without fail, where we go to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. We sing, we drink and there’s usually a hot tub too!

We thought, how great would it be to try and take that vibe out on tour? (laughing) So that’s what we are going to try and do. We originally announced four dates and they all sold out! We’ve added some more dates but I think there are only tickets for Newcastle and Glasgow left! It’s a girls night in, it’s a songwriter round and there will be stories, banter and wine.

I know you said that playing the C2C festival last year was a real highlight for you but you are topping it this year by playing in Glasgow on the Spotlight Stage in March! You’re inside the arena! Nervous?

I can’t even think about it! (laughing) Every time I’ve watched one of the Spotlight Stage artists in London I’ve always thought, ‘they must be bricking it!’, right? (laughing) I know that some people will leave to go get a drink or go to the toilet between acts when I’ll be playing but there will still be 10,000 people in there waiting to be entertained!

You’ve got three songs. 10 minutes. One of the hardest things for me will be choosing which songs I play. Already my husband and I are arguing over which songs we think it would be best for me to do! (laughing) Do you play a ballad? A banger? Something to make them cry? In my heart of hearts I think I’d love to get some form of interaction with the crowd. Even if it’s just ‘I’ll sing this and you copy me,’ Freddy Mercury style, you know? That’s my dream. Or just get people clapping along to something super upbeat? I’ll do everything in my power to try and make that happen!

You can see Kezia on tour in February on the ‘Girls Night In’ tour and also at C2C in March but the most important thing you can do is go pre-save her February 3rd release of ‘Whiskey Over Ice’ – it’s the banger that might get Glasgow C2C crowd rocking!

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