Katy Steele - Brother

Katy Steele chose the song Brother as some of her best work.

Brother was written by Katy and released by Little Birdy in 2009.

Some Of My Best Work is a podcast hosted by Jane Rocca, music and culture journalist.

Guests nominate one specific work they feel is some of their best.

The text below is a partial transcript from Katy Steele’s episode of Some of My Best Work. 

It’s been edited for length and clarity.

I consider it to be one of my most vulnerable songs that I’ve ever written.

It was a surprise song as well.

It came about as we were workshopping songs for the record at that time, which was Confetti.

I remember, Barney was like, ‘Do you have any other songs?’ And I was like, ‘I’ve got this sketch this idea.’

I remember being super insecure about playing it, because it was just so simple. It was quite personal.

I remember their reaction straightaway, it was like, ‘Man, this is amazing’. 

It happened that day and I contribute the fact that song even happened it was because of the band, their reaction.

I wonder if it even would have seen the light of day if I hadn’t. Thanks to them for giving me the confidence to pursue it.

It’s just a moment in time that made it appear.

I’ve had a pretty interesting relationship with my dad my whole life.

He’s a blues singer. I guess he’s been not the best father in the world, to be completely honest, in and out emotionally.

My brother, Luke, at the time and at this moment now is still a real inspiration to me, musically and just in terms of creatively.

He’s just the guy that never doubts himself with anything really. He takes to things like a duck to water and music is the one thing that we’ve both fallen into.

It’s hard to write about things like that – to be so blunt about your feelings and it’s still hard playing that song sometimes.

I felt a bit of a cleansing after I had written and it was out there.

We gave that song away as a free track for the start of the record, it was never an official single.

Triple J played it like 10 times a day for like three months. It got slammed on the radio, which was really surprising.

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Listen to this story on Some of My Best Work, a free weekly podcast hosted by music journalist Jane Rocca.

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Matty Chequer, who’s the drummer in Little Birdy, he said, ‘Why don’t we ask Paul [Kelly]?’ I was like, ‘No way, we can’t do that, like he’s a legend.

I had been touring with him before I wrote all the songs and he’d asked me to open solo for him.

A lot of the Confetti songs I’d written in preparation for that tour, I wanted to play a whole bunch of songs just on acoustic and make them sound really good.

That was one of the songs he had inspired that record in that way.

I think our management or label reached out and before we know it he said yes. He came into the studio and had to buy a special harmonica in E-flat. 

We were recording this record at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne, because we were all living in Melbourne.

This was the first record we decided to produce by ourselves. We had an engineer, Steve Schram.

This song was about the vibe of getting the guitar, getting a really great take of me in the zone.

I like to do it about three times in a row. I think it was the third take that we used and it was a live take, so no overdubs.

When we did the guitars, it was cool. I think there was four of us sitting around and we all had different tunings. I think there’s about four different acoustics that come in on that chorus section.

It was actually one of the easiest songs to record because there’s not much to it.

Then Paul Kelly came in like a week later and he did the harp and sang on there. It was a quick process compared to some of the other songs on the record.

I’m so focused on my new music that I don’t really go back and listen.

I play it live occasionally because people seem to really like that song. I’m really proud of it but it’s like, you just always looking to the next thing.

I’m proud that it actually got me through some healing within my family life. I’m super pumped to move on to the next thing and your perspective changes once you get older.

It’s kind of a painting of little sections that I have from one song that might not work any longer and you’ve put it together with another section.

It’s just a process and that song was one of the really natural ones that fell out.

Like I said, I just played it to the other band members and I didn’t think it was any good at all. 

That made me realise that simplicity is really important.

If the lyrical content and the melody is strong. I’m not a trained musician, I’m self taught, so everything is simple. I think it makes me realise I do miss having a band to have people to bounce off.

I had to go full circle to realise that the one thing that I am good at, is writing emotive songs and simple songs, songs that are just from the heart.

That’s the epitome of what Brother is. It has connected with people because of its vulnerability.

That’s what I’m trying to tap into at the moment with the new stuff.

I just want to have fun again with music, just go down all those paths.

I feel pretty confident that my best work, it hasn’t even happened yet.

You have to believe that you have to want to just get better.

Listen to this story on Some of My Best Work, a free weekly podcast hosted by music journalist Jane Rocca.

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