Kat Flint's debut album is just one of the things on her to-do list, she tells ANDREW EATON
"I'M THE KIND OF PERSON WHO compulsively has to make stuff," says 26-year-old Kat Flint. Yes, she is. Aged 14, growing up in Aberdeen, she'd decided she was a poet, a songwriter and a novelist, and had written 250 pages of a labyrinthine science-fiction epic. "It was about science vs religion and questions of predetermination and the future of the human race," she says, looking slightly embarrassed. "It was quite ambitious."
Oh, and she was a playwright too. "I wrote a play at school and another one at (Edinburgh] university. I've always been a bit of a control freak, so if I'm going to do any kind of project I'm going to be involved in everything. So I directed it, built the set, and did the posters." Was it any good? "It only had a couple of performances but the people who saw it quite liked it."
These days she writes songs but, she says, "even if I make it as a singer-songwriter in the short term, I don't think that's what I'll be forever. I still want to write a book. I want to write TV dramas. I want to illustrate a kids' book. There's a long list of things that need to be done."
If this makes Kat Flint sound annoyingly precocious, I've done her a disservice. She's driven, certainly, but she's also charmingly humble and self-deprecating, frequently dissolving into giggles when she thinks she's said something preposterous. Her constant creativity is due to restlessness as much as ambition. "Having a novel on the go is an escape from the music," she reasons, "which is in turn an escape from the day job."
I have my doubts about the sci-fi novel, but Flint is making a good fist of being a singer-songwriter. Her debut album, Dirty Birds, is poignant, poetic and often beautiful. Influences she cites range from Simon & Garfunkel, Bert Jansch and James Taylor, the soundtrack of her Aberdeen youth thanks to her guitar-playing dad, to female contemporaries such as Laura Veirs and Cara Dillon, with whom she has toured. The title is a clever catch-all for various lyrical preoccupations – from the prostitutes in Soho whom she walks past on her way to work (for a film production company) to American planes bombing the Middle East.
Flint has taken a characteristically DIY approach to her songwriting so far. Dirty Birds was funded by over 3,000 in donations from fans, won over during Flint's early days on the Edinburgh acoustic scene, or while on tour.
"A lot of the big donations came from people I've never met, who had heard demos on MySpace or had seen me live," she recalls. "It was really unexpected."
One fan asked for an advance copy of the artwork – designed, surprise surprise, by Flint herself – so that he could send it to his long-distance girlfriend in Canada, with whom he had first bonded over an early Flint demo. Flint was happy to oblige; he's now living in Canada, she reports.
Some of these fans feature in the ingenious video for Flint's single Go Faster Stripes, in which around 35 people lipsync to the song in a London pub, as playing cards, dominos and hats magically whiz around. "I put out a mailing list to say, if you want to be in my video turn up at this pub, on this day, and bring a silly hat. A friend of ours was the landlord and gave us the back room for the day. It was chucking it down with rain but about 35 people came, from Devon, and Brighton, and Norfolk ..."
This direct relationship with her fans seems to suit Flint well. "What I really want is a little following that really gets it, and is loyal. The bigger the following you end up with, the more pressure you're under and the more compromises you have to make to keep everyone happy, which is not ideal."
It has its downsides, though. "It's a weird world, MySpace. There's this really blurred boundary between your private life and your musical life – some people talk to you so much that you do feel some responsibility towards what's happening in their lives."
She is careful where to draw the line. "There was a man who wanted to donate 1,000 in return for me having lunch with him. I sent a very formal e-mail saying, 'It'd be a pleasure to meet you, I'll bring my manager,' and I never heard back from him. It was a bit weird."
The weirdness can be fun too; recently, she was delighted when an Australian fan sent her a cover he'd recorded of one of her songs. "He'd completely changed the words," she grins. "It was a slightly creepy Joy Division-esque version."
Given all this, it doesn't feel quite right to put Flint on an "up and coming" page. She seems fairly content with the status she already has – a small following, a small record deal, a small flat shared with her musician boyfriend in London, from where she travels to tour dates up north by sleeper train so she can get back to work the next day. You also sense that, in her view, she will be forever up and coming.
The album may be done, but the epic novel is a long way from publication. When we meet, she's focused on recruiting a band. "I need about three people who can play 17 instruments each and then I'll be fine," she says breezily, as if this was the easiest mission in the world.
&149 Dirty Birds is released on 15 September. Kat Flint plays the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 19 September; King Tut's, Glasgow, on 6 October; and Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, on 7 October.
What other people are saying …
"Taking all the best parts of Regina Spektor, Joni Mitchell and Nerina Pallot and twisting them into something very special, Kat Flint is a Scottish singer/songwriter with a mesmerising presence."
– UK Music Search
"While other singer/songwriters follow well-worn paths to mundane places, Flint is open to the world, spinning musical wonder like a modern saint. To listen is to fall in love."
– Music OMH
"Her voice switches effortlessly from ethereal to sultry... harmonies to make you sigh, infuriating yet beguiling rhythms and some cracking good tunes."