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Cathy Battistessa teams up with the excellent Scott Diaz for an epic vocal deep house journey to launch her second new label – B The Label.
Queen doyen and voice of Cafe Del Mar, Cathy has had a glittering career spanning two decades working with everyone from Lovebirds to Grant Nelson and more. Scott has had an interesting career too. Signed to Defected, Hed Kandi, Soulfuric and more, his wide spectrum of influences makes him a versatile and adaptable producer.
‘You & I’ is full of summery promise as the dark, cold nights approach. Delicate keys and a sparse percussive underbelly allow rubbery bass to caress the low end creating the perfect backdrop for Cathy’s heartfelt lyrics. Melancholy thoughts of love and relationships abound on this essential piece of musical mastery.
Due for release today (Friday 27th November), we sat down with the duo to chat about music, love and life.
Hi guys, so good to see you again. Right off the bat, how has COVID-19 affected your 2020?
SD: From a musical perspective, it’s been pretty productive for me. At least I feel it has. Obviously, I’m not doing any gigs, same as everybody else. I had a bunch of stuff that was cancelled, so that affected me. But luckily at the time I was living just around the corner from the studio and was able to come in every day as it was a four-minute walk away.
It’s been nice because there’s been no distraction for gigs, you’re not having to take maybe two to three days out of your week to figure out what you’re going to play, sort your music, do your travel and all the rest of it; all of that eats into your creative time. So it’s actually been quite refreshing.
CB: 2020 the year we will never forget!? Creatively I was rendered mute, kinda suspended in the shock of it all for the first month or so. I didn’t step foot in the studio, because I felt so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Then I started painting for my collection which is always therapy and helps me understand what is truly going on when in chaos. This grounding enabled flight and thankfully, new inspiration back in the studio. I threw myself into writing a couple of songs for charity campaigns, Women’s Aid and a ME / CFS charity, and waived all fees for donations from my live P.A’s from the studio. This went really well, but it was exhausting and still left me, like many, in the wilderness as far as work/income was concerned.
Obviously, for so many people, this has been tragic losing loved ones etc. I can’t even imagine what people are going through just now so we are all just fortunate to be alive, inspired and enjoying any moment of course. But the stark reality back in the music world is that for artists and DJs, and the events/touring industry it has been a financial disaster.
Saying that though, artists are innovators and we find ways to pull ideas from challenging situations and hopefully for most, income from new ventures. Scott is a great example doing loads more online, like his studio masterclasses, and it is crazy but I have had so many blessings during this time, inspirational collaborations like this one with Scott and a couple of the most interesting jobs of my career have come in this year. I’m currently writing for 2 film soundtracks and various artist/album collaborations that are due out in 2021/22. Counting my blessings!
With vaccines on the horizon, how do you both see 2021 panning out?
SD: I think we’ll return to some degree of normality, although that probably won’t be until May or June by the time the vaccine gets rolled out fully. But there’s obviously really positive news on that front in terms of efficacy and safety so I think that’s at least something to look forward to. This is a moment in time, it’ll pass. I’m trying to use it as a positive. It’s kept me creative, I’ve focused in on my gratitude. And I’m thankful for that.
Okay, let’s move on to the track. It’s gorgeous by the way, a real joy to listen to. Can you talk us through the production process? We understand you live at opposite ends of the UK, so with lockdowns, you couldn’t really meet up in a studio somewhere. How did you manage?
SD: I sent the instrumental to Cathy, and she started writing something to it, and we just went back and forth from there. I usually change the music and develop the idea further once I get a vocal back from a singer but for this record, the track was already quite advanced, and so it was more a case of just fitting the vocals into what was there and adding a few extra musical parts to complement what Cathy had done.
CB: Hey thanks for the feedback, really appreciated. The promo from DJs/radio has been fantastic, really pleased! As Scott said, he sent an instrumental and I wrote vocals and sent them back.
I had a basic top line in place but this song was a more experimental approach to any conventional topline writing. I built a load of hooks and variants of the hooks, created stacks of bv’s as per usual and little adlibs and verse sections that could work in various ways, and Scott clearly worked his magic.
Those sublime keys and the whole production worked with real sensitivity. YOU & I feels like the sun on my face .. a warm vibey hopeful journey home, back to the soul.
Cathy, how long does it generally take to write lyrics? Are you inspired by the instrumental exclusively, or have you jotted down ideas beforehand and marry them up with the right music?
It depends, this whole process can be inspired in a multitude of ways – I have a huge database of lyrics I can pull up, I write lyrics pretty much every day, I write them awake and in my dreams and I document everything, stuff I’m going through, processing etc. These emotions can make the best songs but mostly I like to write in response.
I am always inspired by the music anyway, I don’t collaborate on projects or with producers/music I am not inspired by. If it is a collaboration and I am writing a topline to an instrumental, I prefer not to listen to the instrumental first; get cosy in the booth and freestyle it. I tend to get the basis of the song in the first 3 takes. In those takes are often the story/concept, the main hook/chorus and the general arrangement.
But it is coming through so fast, I can barely get the lyrics in place or even decipherable to be honest, I then have to go back over and over to decipher what I am actually wanting to say and how it should ultimately be sung. This finalising can take time and all depends on the deadline of course and I am not alone as a writer in saying that without a deadline we can sometimes get stuck on a couple of phrases or lines for months or years! I love this process no matter how many times I bang my head on the wall … it is magical, it is limitless and anything can happen.
House music used to have loads of love songs, but in recent times producers seem to be a little scared to use singers or write strong radio-friendly tracks. Is that how you both see it?
SD: Yeah, I’d say that’s fair. Dance music has become much more dominated by club genres and more upfront tech house and things like that. I think there’s been more of a trend generally towards less vocals, and less ambitious vocal projects and songs generally, within house music. There’s a whole bunch of reasons for that – the economics of it, the talent required to write and record memorable vocals and songs. You don’t generally get the festival or club bookings for playing soulful house like you can for playing tech house or techno or whatever. It’s a shame, because songs are king, and those are the records that stand the test of time.
CB: I don’t know, I think using samples is just the way most producers start off and find their feet and samples can work really well if vibey enough and if they fit hand to glove with the production. Not sure samples will ever surpass real voices, real instruments, people, heart and soul responding in the moment to the music, that’s always going to be another level and have the ultimate impact on the listener, especially when we singers find those freestlyle moments in response to an instrumental part , that can be magic.
Obviously, writing about love kinda depends on your personal situation. If you’re in love, the music you produce is going to be different to times when you’ve broken up with someone. Does your emotional state at the time of writing determine the results or can you use ‘muscle memory’?
CB: Definitely! I consciously try to write with a multi-dimensional perspective, so the songs/ lyrics can be interpreted in many ways and the ‘love’ I always refer to first and foremost is a universal humanitarian Love – less of the ‘I’ and more about the ‘us’ .
In ‘YOU & I’ I mention: “Not like any other people” and “I know I’ve been wasting time, they come and they go just like any other people”. This is a reference to lessons I am learning that we are all fallible, we humans can be fickle and unpredictable, we drift from soul to soul; from situation to situation.
SD: I think it’s really a combination and a culmination of all of your experiences over the years. I think where you are geographically (east coast, west coast, the beach, a forest, a city, and so on) also has a profound effect on the music you write, as does your current emotional state. You’re kind of drawing on all of these feelings and moments to create something that you hope can translate and touch people.
Are you both hopeful or hopeless romantics? Would you like to tell us about a particularly noteworthy romantic event perhaps?
CB: I have Italian blood! …enough said! …but, definitely Hopeful. Always hope first for me, a default setting I can’t and don’t want to change. We may have the most incredible connection one minute and maybe it’s just gone in the next but this shouldn’t stop us loving and forgiving. I learnt a long time ago to love unconditionally and so thankful to practice this and know is the way forward, as far as I see it this is the only way humanity can find peace in the future.
SD: I’d say I’ve done quite a few romantic things over the years. I’ve moved to different towns and countries to pursue love, and I proposed to my wife on the Amalfi Coast. I’ve written poetry for my wife too.
So with ‘You & I’ set for release, are there plans to work together again? You’re clearly a good team.
CB: Well funny you should say that, we already have the next track / collaboration in process, right Scott?
SD: yeah, that’s right. I just need to mix it. It’s a new vocal version of ’The Ocean Was Always You’ that won’t be released until 2021, but we’re very excited about it. It was actually the first track I approached Cathy with, as I felt she’d be able to write something really beautiful to that instrumental, which is very much on that ‘Cafe Del Mar’ deep house, beachy vibe. ‘You & I’ was actually a second track that came afterwards.
CB: I’m super excited about that one for next year and ‘B THE LABEL’. We plan to release bespoke vinyl packages next year with beautiful art work, inlay booklets with the lyrics and back story behind the project, stunning photography etc .. ‘YOU & I’ is on the hit list of course!