Towards the end of the Australian summer (which is still going in some parts) singer-songwriter Christie Lamb released ‘Hot Hot Kiss’, the first single from her third album, which will be released later this year. I spoke to Christie about the song, her writing process, and her big tour news for 2019.
The new single, ‘Hot Hot Kiss’, is fantastic, upbeat, catchy. It’s still in my brain after listening to it. It sounds like you had fun recording it.
I did. I think with the new album that’s going to come out – this is just the first single off the third album I’ll be doing – I wanted to mix things up a little bit. So we’ve started working with a new producer. It’s all going to be recorded organically in the room with all the musicians at the same time, which is a different experience to how I’ve recorded my last couple of albums. And I think the further along with songwriting you go the bit more personal you can get as well. So this album’s going to be a bit more heartfelt and not so much about other people’s lives. It’s going to be a bit more about mine and some personal stories to share.
Does it feel confronting or a bit nerve-wracking to write more about yourself? Like you’re about to reveal things to a whole lot of people? I know that’s your job as a songwriter, to an extent, but still I think it takes a bit of courage to do it.
Oh, definitely. I had a little four-track EP out first and then I’ve had two albums, so now I’m at the third album it’s only just feeling like the right time for me to do that now. Because you’ve got to establish yourself – what kind of sound you like, you’re still getting to know your fans at that time as well. So now, third album in, I feel like we’re all a bit more settled, whether it’s me with my sound, whether it’s the fans, they know me a bit more and therefore they want to go onto a deeper level and get to know even more about me. So I feel like now’s the right time, but it’s still daunting.
I guess that relationship with the fans is a bit of a safety net. Do you feel when you’re writing songs and when you’re recording them that you’re actually singing to someone now, that you have that sense of the audience being there for you?
I guess so. But it’s about that moment in the studio with the other musicians and you always thinking about, Is this going to work? Do I like that riff? Do I like my vocal take? Does it all work together?And then you think about, Actually, how’s this going to be received by fans as well?So that is this big full circle that you’ve got to figure out, this big mathematical equation. But there’s a lot of factors that come into it when you’re in the studio, but the basis of it has to be emotion to start off with, when you’re in that moment recording.
And is it emotion when you’re deciding what to write about? When you are drawing on your own experiences, do you start with a feeling or do you start with a memory? Or are both valid as inspirations?
I write differently all the time. It depends what mood I wake up in. Then on the day, whether I want to write a ballad, whether I want to write an uptempo. Sometimes I just have titles hanging around in my head and that’s exactly how it gets started. I was writing in Nashville and it happened to be four Aussies but we’re all in Nashville writing together, and it was a really, really hot summer’s day in July over there and a lot of people said, ‘Oh, I’m over the heat, I don’t like the heat.’ And I thought, There are some positives about things being hot and it sounds fun and I want to write a fun song. It’s almost the end of my trip. I need something a bit more light-hearted now. All the emotional stuff’s come out of me already.And I thought, Hot – what would you like that’s hot?And I thought, Hot kiss.And then I thought, What about hot hot kiss?And I thought, Oh no, they’re going to laugh at me for suggesting that. And then my writers said, ‘No, no, hot hot kiss is even better than a hot kiss.’ So we just ran with it from there. Sometimes that’s from a title. Sometimes that’s from a personal story of your own. Sometimes it starts from a melody and whatever that melody sounds like, whether it sounds like a heartbreak or it sounds like a cheeky, flirtatious song, like all those different things kind of influence you in that moment.
So you’re collecting those little snippets of things. If there’s a bit of a melody that comes to you, are you recording that into your iPhone and, and writing down notes for lyrics, that sort of thing?
Yes. I would be very lost if I lost my phone, I’m sure. There’s definitely lots of notes, and pages with titles or a concept of a song. Then there’s voice memos on my phone where it would just sound terrible if anyone ever heard me mumbling to myself some kind of a melody that I could use. And then even after I’ve written a song and I’m in Nashville, all we’ve got to do is just hit record on an iPhone and then the song’s there for us to remember. I’m there for five weeks, generally, in Nashville and sometimes you write two songs a day and by the time you get home you can’t remember what the first one sounded like. I would be lost without my phone. And I’ve also got the red folder that everyone knows, that I come in with scraps of paper everywhere. It looks chaotic, but in my mind I’ve got all these different ideas. It’s kind of like a weird mind map into my soul I guess, that little red folder [laughs] It’s a bit manic, the process, but it’s whatever works for each person, I guess.
Absolutely. You’ve got to have your own method . And with the three Australians you were writing within Nashville, was that a combination that you chose? Did you all know each other and you wanted to write together, or was it something that a publishing company put together?
Every time I go to Nashville, I’ve always booked the writing sessions myself with people that I’ve either worked with before who I really got along with or they’ve been suggestions from other people that I should work with that they think we come up with something really great. So I reach out to them direct and have to book them all in, because I’m the one who’s got the songs that are already scheduled in and trying to figure out when I can write with them that works for them and for me. It’s a pretty hard thing to get all these professionals’ schedules to work. Jonathan [English] plays lead guitar in my band and he’s my MD [musical director] on all my albums, so we went over together and we always write together. So that’s kind of a security blanket we’ve both got. And we’d written with Phil Barton before, and we’ve always enjoyed fail. He’s very eccentric and we’ll just throw things out there, and if he likes an idea, you know he likes an idea – which is great. I always love that encouragement because I’m one of those people who can really internalise and doubt myself. Sinead [Burgess] I had always known of through the circuit, but we’ve never been able to make it actually work. It was getting towards the end of my trip and I didn’t have any sessions left, but she already knew Phil as well. So we said, ‘Yes, come and join us! We’re all okay with that and let’s make it a four-way write.’ And I think it was a really new energy because we hadn’t all written together before, and we came up with something really fun and energetic and light-hearted. Just something fun and fresh for the summer because it was a very, very hot day. So we were said, ‘Let’s take it nice and easy and write something nice and fresh that we can all sit back and enjoy.’ And it ended up being the first single
And you’ve really suited our summer, of course.
It was that kind of song about keeping things light. You’ve been attracted to a person but it’s always that awkward moment of who’s going to make the first move? And I think everyone has that kind of moment in their life where they like someone but they want them to make the first move. They don’t want to be the first one to put themselves out there. And that’s what this song was about. So I think that’s why it’s related to everybody. And we just thought it was cute kind of song about having a crush.
And you of course you have a cute video to go with it. Do you enjoy making videos?
I do. It’s definitely a different video clip again to match that different sound. We were going for a bit more of that commercial crossover pop country, so we kept it very fresh and colourful and summery. And it was nice to not be the one having to act out the role all the time. I’ve done that a few times, so I got to just be the one who gets to sing the song and to have a bit of a dance as well. It was great to do a little bit of choreography with the girls and have that kind of female empowerment kind of a video clip as well. I got to wear trainers all day, because my feet were killing me by the end of the day.
Now you mentioned the third album that’s going to come out this year. Is that already recorded?
We’ve got to go back into the studio to get the rest of the tracks finished off. We’ve got a bit of a basic bed for the songs, but we’ve got to add some more instruments in and finish off vocals. They were just rough takes so that everyone could record along. But it is in the making . It’s going to be a ten-track album, so it’s going to be nice and punchy with a lot of different flavours on there. There’s the heartfelt ballads, personal stories, the fun, cute falling-in-love songs. There’s a bit more uptempo party kind of Saturday night songs. So there’s a bit of everything on the album.
Well, I think, I think audiences like that. Yeah. It’s good to go through a range of moods on an album.
Yes, and a lot of people ask, ‘What’s your favourite song?’ And I think like most people: it depends on the mood of the day. If I’m getting ready to go out, I want to put on that upbeat kind of party track. If something sad is happening in my life I want something emotional. I think everyone needs different flavours in their life for different scenarios.
You were talking earlier about the recording process and sometimes thinking, Have I got that take right, or whatever it is. Because of your background, because you do have such an extensive musical training background and you play a lot of instruments, do you think you’re quite hard on yourself?
Yes, I’ve definitely always been a little quiet achiever, I guess I was called at school. I’d always have my head and my head down and just work head. I can get hard on myself because I do like to achieve a certain thing or I want a certain result and I sometimes struggle to let go of things, especially when you’re hearing a song so raw. Sometimes I doubt it: Okay, this doesn’t sound like where I thought it was going to go. But then I haven’t heard the rest of the percussion or loops and the extra electric guitars. There’s just one guitar in the room and then I have to just say, you know what, I trust the producer, I love what he’s done in the past. You’ve got to have a good relationship with the people that you’re working with otherwise it would be really, really hard to get through an album. But it’s been a great process and I’m really happy with how it’s coming up so far.
And given her that you have had that different experience of all the musicians in the room as opposed to doing the track by track, from an academic point of view – because you do have that background – are you finding that really interesting with difference technically between those processes?
I feel like the album sounds more organic and it also has a bit more dynamic as well. When you’re recording track by track and you’ve just got the basic guitar track and I send off my voice and guitar and players in Nashville will send an electric guitar track and then a drummer will send the drum track and it all gets put together – it’s great, they’re amazing players, but being in the room actually with them and they can follow my voice, when I’m building up, they build up, when I’m breaking down, they break down – you can just feel that there’s a bit more authenticity, I guess, on the track. And I think that’s the big difference on this album. It’s got more highs, it’s got more lows, and it just feels organic and the stories are more personal. So it’s definitely that kind of next step in the process.
I’m sure your fans looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to hearing that – but I won’t pin you to a release date yet. You have quite an extensive gig list coming up this year including some outdoor shows. Is it more challenging to play in those outdoor environments or do you love that energy of being outside with the crowd?
I definitely love the festival circuit where you’re outdoors and there’s more of that kind of party atmosphere rather than a seated auditorium with people staring back at you. It’s also been announced that I’m going to be a special guest on Lee Kernaghan’s. That will start from the end of May and go right through to December. So that’s a really extensive tour. So we’ve definitely got to get this album finished pretty soon before that all starts.
Does that mean the Wolfe Brothers will be your band while you’re playing with Lee?
Well, I think thinking we’re going to do a three-piece with Casey from the Wolfe Brothers, myself and Jonathan and then the other boys could walk on and do their set and then obviously we all then join in for Lee’s set. So it’s kind of a building progression throughout the show. So that’ll be good to collaborate a bit with them as well.
On that list of shows coming up, is there anywhere that you want to play but I’m not this year or that you want to play and have never played?
Oh, that’s a tough question. I think we’ve done all the states apart from the Northern Territory. So that would be interesting to get all the way up there and do a show, whether it’s a festival or a few venues up there. It’s hopefully in the works for this year, but if not, we really, really want to make that happen for next year.
Listen to ‘Hot Hot Kiss’: