Photo credit: Ilze Kitshoff
Known most recently for her parts in US TV shows Castle and Touch and for her role in BBC drama Waterloo Road, Brit/Canadian talent Karen David now invites us to enjoy her reworked sound as a music artist. It's been an incredibly busy year for the star; filming the new British indie film Amar, Akbar and Tony, working tirelessly on her new EP, Dust to Stars and even getting married in between! The EP launched on 23 August and was promoted with fervent enthusiasm from the star's extensive twitter following, including tweets from One Direction's Liam Payne, and was celebrated with a special launch gig at St Pancras Old Church.
She wears an all encompassing smile and a sunny yellow dress to match, beaming at her eager audience and together with the warmly lit candles, illuminates the old, intimate Victorian church. Tiny in frame and height, but this pocket-sized star exudes a song of talent and determination that roars. Karen David has shaken off the stale essence of shackling record deals and in striving to flourish as an independent artist, has developed her own brand of glittery pop. The new 5 track EP is a very personal production that follows the artist's journey of self-reflection and an ode to hope and happiness.
Here, Karen David shares some insight into her new sound, the message behind the catchy tracks, her creative process, her love for London and more.
How important is this new EP to you?
My Dust to Stars EP, is very much a reflection of where I am at in my life, and marks a new chapter in it, and where I wanted my music to go and grow from. I took some time out to really get my new sound where I wanted it to be: happy, feel good music with a pop indie girl feel, which was true to me. I'm really excited about going back into the studio again off the back of this release and begin writing for a full length album. This EP is definitely a taste of what's to come on the album.
Talk me through the message/story(ies) behind Dust to Stars.
An artist's journey is certainly filled with ups and downs, twists and turns and unexpected surprises, and sometimes, it's good to stop and take notice of where you are, and learn from the past in order to move forward. I wanted to tap back into my childhood, when I first realised that I had to sing and act. I remember that moment, that feeling still so palpable, as if it happened yesterday. It's that very feeling that has kept me focused and driven to pursue my childhood dreams of wanting to act and also sing and write my own songs. I wanted to take that essence of such childhood innocence, and passion for music and celebrate it in these songs. If songs could exude a perfume like scent of that feeling I felt, when I saw Olivia Newton John in Xanadu, and thus being so inspired to sing and act like her, it would be these songs on my EP. Eau de Xanadu!
Dust to Stars sums up my whole journey so far which is why it had to be the title track to my new EP. I started from the ground up. I started from nothing and aimed and dared to dream past the stars above. I essentially went from nothing to something. It was a rite of passage, a coming of age kind of song for me, which was really exciting and inspiring of what other songs were to come following writing this particular track. I finally felt like I had co-written a song (with the brilliant Adam Argyle and Martin Brammer), that actually fit me really well... and it felt amazing.
Daydreamer followed shortly after which I co-wrote with the ridiculously talented, Boots Ottestad (Macy Gray/Robbie Williams/Andy Grammer). I remember being in school and constantly getting into trouble for daydreaming about being on stage and singing in front of thousands of people, all the time, especially during maths class (It helped the time go by in between solving algebraic equations!). My report cards would always say, 'Karen is often distracted and found to be daydreaming in class when she should be paying more attention to the lesson being taught.' So the idea came to me about writing a song about daydreaming - we all do it, and it's good to daydream! I wanted to write a happy, feel good song, that would make listeners smile and feel good about themselves.
Heartstrings is a song, which I fell in love with as soon as Boots had played it to me. It reminded me of my husband, and having been newly married, it took me back to when I first met my husband and all that followed after. It was a perfect fit to the other songs on the EP - heartfelt, sweet, dreamy and real.
Kaleidoscope is a song I wrote whilst I was filming 'Touch' on Fox. I was thinking back and remembered my Christmas family celebrations with my family when I was a child. My parents would always give me a new kaleidoscope every Christmas, and I was so enamoured with all the beautiful colours, and patterns, and how by the slightest twist or adjustment, the pattern could completely change and become something entirely new for me to discover. This is how I've always felt about music; constantly in awe of how a chord changes to a note, or a certain lyric could change the whole shape of a song, and how as humans, we are constantly evolving, and altering and changing.
Connected is another song I wrote during filming on Touch. The show itself was all about being connected in some shape or form to everyone around us. The whole 'six degrees of separation', and the world being such a small place, inspired me to write this track with Boots. It made me think, what if we all were connected by circumstance or coincidence... and we channeled our energies to the greater good, then that could potentially make the world one step closer to being a better, more loving and forgiving place. It was my food for thought kind of song on the EP.
Tell me about your creative process.
I never have any rules. I want creativity to flow freely. I'm in the moment and whatever happens in that moment is usually where the magic happens. I go into the studio with what mood of a song I want to write so if I'm in an inspiring mood, then I'll want to write something reflective, a little thought provoking without being too heavy. I write songs like a painter paints. There are many textures, variations and layers. You have an initial idea at a very embryonic stage in your head (which could be a lyric or a melody) and then it becomes what it is in the moment. That's the exciting part of the creative process - you might end up with something entirely different from where you first started off.
What does a typical day at the studio look like?
Cup of coffee in hand, some snacks to keep the energy going and the brain ticking away! Then I get the laptop out and dig out a lyric or melody idea and then either my co-writer/producer will grab the guitar and/or piano and we just create and throw ideas and sing melodies and let the song grow from there. Once we're happy with a melody, we look at the lyrics, and then we record. When you are writing with someone who you have a great writing chemistry with, or connection, and are on the same page, then everything easily falls into place. Sometimes writing sessions can best be described as blind-dates. You don't know how it will go, and you're in a room together, trying to create something special, and sometimes it's a great date and sometimes, it's not!
Are you looking to collaborate with anyone in particular in the near future?
Absolutely. I would love to continue collaborating with Boots Ottestad, my husband, Carl Ryden, and Rob Wells, and there are a few of my favourite songwriter-producers too who I write with regularly. I want to keep the momentum going with what we've created, altogether.
Your dream collaborations?
I would love to write with all kinds or writers - Francis Eg White, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Bruno Mars, B.O.B... Hmmm... I could go on...
What is the significance of playing your launch gig in London rather than in Canada or L.A?
I have a very loyal fan base in England from my past TV shows, Waterloo Road and Pixelface, but I am also gaining more fans from all over the world, and with my appearances in American shows, like Castle, and Touch and films, Scorpion King 2 and Couples Retreat, I have been gaining more fans from across the pond as well so I am also starting to plan for American gigs as well. Wherever the fans are at the end of the day, is where I go!
How do you manage to organise your life with so much moving around - flying, living in different cities?I have no life! - I think it's about loving what you do. I love what I do, and I'm focused about what I want and where I want to go, and it never ever feels like work, even when things might not go my way sometimes, - we all have good and bad days, but if you are happy with yourself and what you are doing, nothing else matters. I love living in London and I enjoy spending time in L.A as well. I go wherever the work takes me to. Sometimes it's Cape Town, another time it may be Malaysia, but I love the adventures and my problems and challenges are all really fancy ones to have, which I am grateful for.
The movie Amar, Akbar and Tony deals with issues of identity. As someone who enjoys a variety of cultures through heritage and citizenship, how did your role in the movie resonate with you, if at all?
Meera (played by David) is both similar and very different to who I am. She is a creative soul who has a big heart and means well but sometimes makes choices that I wouldn't necessarily make. Saying that, I can relate to Meera's journey, as she leaves her home and travels far away to a new country, having to understand and try and fit into a new culture. It's often when you leave the comforts of home, to explore the unknown that you learn so much about yourself.
How do you remain so grounded?
It's called having Asian and South Asian parents. Need I say more?! My parents have brought my sister and I up to always treat people the way we would want to be treated, and to always help others when in need. It's about giving back, and I'm so glad they taught us that right from when we were little.
What about London do you love most?
Every day, there is something new you can learn and discover about London. I love the culture, the history - there's every walk of life in this city, and you are spoilt for choice on things to do. I always feel so stimulated and invigorated with life, when I'm back in London and the vibe is so incredibly cool. Can you tell I heart my London?!
24 hours in London - how would you spend it?
Breakfast at a local bakery cafe in Richmond, and then a stroll or run through St. James' Park. Thereafter, head down to the Southbank and the Tate Modern for artistic inspiration. Afternoon tea at Claridges with dear friends, following a spot of shopping around Oxford Circus, and Notting Hill for some special items. Evening drinks at Sketch, and dinner in Soho with more friends and then a stroll through Covent Garden. I've tried to jam pack just a few of the many things that I love to do in London!
What are you listening to?
White Nights by Oh Land, Sail Into The Sun by Gentleman Hall, Daylight by Maroon 5, Harvest Moon by Pacific Standard Time - Poolside. I could go on...
What's next for you?
I have a fun cameo in the new Jack Ryan movie coming out around Christmas time, rehearsals for a new play, by this year's Pulitzer prize winner, Ayad Akhtar, at the Tony award winning, La Jolla Playhouse, and back in the studio to start writing and recording for a full length album for release next year. Yay! I can't wait!