A hazy dusk falls on a crossroads somewhere between Gloucestershire and Bristol. A wooden signpost points in two directions: good ol’ fashioned country heartache to the left; effortless pop hooks to the right – and underneath, cross-legged on still-warm car bonnet, sits Katy J Pearson, strumming an acoustic guitar as she spins a tale of blossoming dancefloor romance.
‘Tonight’ is the product of scrapping everything and going back to basics – Katy’s first outing as a solo artist after a joint project with her brother ran its course. Writing for her own enjoyment and “no longer writing songs for men in suits, or trying to impress them”, the springy riffs and sweet, upbeat melody of ‘Tonight’ were gently coaxed into being in Katy’s home city of Bristol, in her own time and on her own terms; the antithesis of the fast-paced, surreal and London-centric blur of her previous musical career.
The first of a handful of songs written during solo sessions at community artist space Island Studios, ‘Tonight’ was later recorded with Ali Chant (PJ Harvey, M. Ward, Perfume Genius, Gruff Rhys) at his studio, Toy Box. Its premise is classic and universally relatable: the meeting of two people, be it in a club or anywhere else, and how they are made instantly more vulnerable by their romantic spark.
With its wheedling strings and warm production, ‘Tonight’ sounds more tinged by the South Western states of America than the South West of England. But any country inclination is happily accidental, says Pearson – it just kind of happened. “People said I was sounding quite country and I hadn’t even realised – my eyes were opened!”
For its physical release, the fizzing anticipation of new love captured on ‘Tonight’ is perfectly counterbalanced with a tender and soulful B-side ballad – a cover of M. Ward’s ‘Poison Cup’. Though similarly romantically-inclined with a softly-country-round-the-edges vibe, ‘Poison Cup’ sees Pearson strip instrumental accompaniment way back, allowing her striking voice to take the front seat, and further cementing the message: here is Katy J Pearson in her most undiluted form.