Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Kelly Lee Owens reveals the inspirations behind "Uncertain" and how she found her path to music

11 June 2015, 09:00 | Written by Paul Bridgewater

"'Uncertain' explores the negative thoughts that can burrow inside the mind & how destructive they can be," explains Kelly Lee Owens. "I'm talking/singing to myself, carrying a simple & important message: to recognise and highlight any inner doubts and then release them to see what happens."

The new track from the London-based songwriter and producer builds on the success of her debut 12-inch (which paired "Lucid" with "Arthur" - an ode to one of her heroes Arthur Rusell).

"Uncertain" finds Owens breaking new ground as an artist in an attempt to reconcile sonic experimentation with transcendent meaning. "The verses on 'Uncertain' highlight those inner doubts which are reflected musically by the ever looping, incessant bass line," she tells me. "The strong bass line in the bridge is the idea of letting go of these doubts. The chorus implies musically the 'feeling' you can achieve once doubts are let go of."

"I also incorporated bells that I sampled last year in Hvar (Croatia), which happened to be the perfect BPM and drowned them in heaps of delay and reverb. This effect represents for me the 'sound of madness' that self-doubt can bring. The final lyrics, "future you, future me' imply that a better state of mind can be achieved with some foresight."

It's a level of insight and self-analysis you don't here from many artists but is fitting when Owens details the time she's spent absorbing her surroundings and learning about the world she's now at the centre of.

I first met the North Wales-born Owens when she sold me a copy of Yuck's debut single from behind the counter in much-missed London record store (and music publisher) Pure Groove. Located in the no-man's land of Farringdon, a part of the capital not quite east or west enough to attain a Soho or Shoreditch-level popularity, Pure Groove was as notable for its hub-like hospitality (coffee and magazines and sofas) as much as its well chosen stock. It also played host to a seemingly endless number of lunchtime and evening instore appearances and provided the perfect environment for Owens to learn more about music and how to make it.

"I started in Pure Groove after living in Manchester for a few years," she tells me. "I felt at home in Manchester and I met a lot of bands there and helped them out. I just wanted to get involved. I was really intrigued by other people’s stories. I wanted to know how they got there, how they created these sounds. I was always fascinated. I’d always wanted to make music and I’d mainly been involved singing but I wanted to compose and do my own thing eventually."

She took the Megabus daily to intern at XL ("I remember that The XX finished their album on the same day I finished my work experience. I remember going out to get cupcakes for them to celebrate") but finally found her way to Pure Groove via founder Mick Shiner. "I was 20 when I came to London and spent a year a half at Pure Groove. I got to meet a different band every single day and gott to see how they did their thing. I got to know them in a very organic way. I'd sell a few records, serve a bit of coffee too...I always remember seeing you in the corner with a laptop!"

"I was thinking about music there but I wasn’t in a rush because I was more shy back then...I wasn’t confident. I wanted to be around all these inspiring individuals, in those inspiring places. It’s what’s missing now in London - there aren’t enough of those places."

"Back then at Pure Groove, Daniel Avery was downstairs working in the basement and Ghost Culture (James Greenwood) would come in and do sound. I met Andrew Weatherall and Jack Shankley from Transparent (later founder of the Weird World label) would come in...through Jack I met Cole from DIIV who was playing with Darwin Deez at the time. I made so many friends and learnt so much from them."

Owens' association with Avery and Greenwood continued and, after a stint as bassist for The History of Apple Pie, was the catalyst for her next creative leap. "Daniel asked me to pop into the studio one day and do some vocals for him for the title track to his album ("Drone Logic"). Erol Alkan [who runs Phantasy, Avery's label], heard it and said we should write together." One of the tracks they worked on "Knowing We'll Be Here" also featured on Avery's record and Owens ended up contributed vocals for three tracks. Another song they co-write is slated for Owens' own debut. "It was initially for Daniel but it didn’t fit and when you hear it, you’ll know why - it’s a bit more down-tempo."

Working with Greenwood (Ghost Culture) has also been important for her. "James was the one that encouraged me to write after Erol," she explains. Schooling her in Logic, Owens became fascinated by analogue instruments and sounds. "Once we started and I began writing, arranging and doing vocals, it gave me confidence. I found I didn’t need the help I was being offered from James, which is very liberating. Knowing him so well and feeling confident in his ability to help me get what I want. He has been my interpreter in many ways."

She's got one live show under her belt - a well-received support slot with Tamaryn earlier this week, which saw an ambitious setup mixing the analogue with the electronic. "I have a cellist on stage," she tells me, "I'm trying to make him into a mini-Arthur Rusell!"

Surprisingly Owens isn't playing an instrument onstage. "It's the first time I'm not hidden behind anything...I've arranged everything and I'm so excited," she enthuses.

"I know I've still got so much to learn but I'm so ready to do this!"

Uncertain is released in early August on limited (200 only) coloured 12-inch vinyl. Kelly Lee Owens plays her a headline show on 22 July at The Waiting Room in London

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