Kate Tempest: Pushing and Pulling
Kate Tempest is a literary powerhouse. Her career ambitiously makes up of spoken word performing, rapping, playwriting, and writing award-winning poetry and novels. This summer, Tempest released her third studio album, The Book of Traps and Lessons and announced she’d be going on tour in fall in the US, UK, and Europe.
The Book of Traps and Lessons is more than just listening to an album—it’s a whole experiencing that grabs a hold of the listener and pulls them close. Tempest’s voice is front and center that creates a space where there is only her words and the person hearing them.
The album is a first-person narrative that pushes and pulls the area of focus in and out of personal, individual experiences and the bigger picture of the world’s issues such as racism and materialism Though one can expect to be taken through an emotional current, there are still moments of tenderness, hope, and optimism.
Her ability to balance the beautiful and the ugly in life and effortlessly put it all into words invites the listener to connect not only connect with her words and experiences, but also to connect more deeply with themselves.
We had the honor of being able to ask Tempest a few questions. She shared her experience creating The Book of Traps and Lessons, memories of live performance, and why using her voice is so vital for creating.
Caitlin Cohen: During the process of piecing The Book of Traps and Lessons together, how and why did you make decisions of how each story was told?
Kate Tempest: To be honest, with this album, the form dictated a lot of the decisions. We were attempting to discover a new form, a new way of presenting the poetry and of making music. We didn’t know how we wanted it to sound, we had to discover it – through writing and writing and writing, and keeping what was working and losing what was wasn’t as effective. In terms of making decisions about how the lyrics are put together, I wish I could unpick the process for you, but to be entirely honest, even though I work every minute of my day trying to improve my capabilities and my skills as a writer, the actual creative process; why it happens the way it does, why it works sometimes and not others, why one word leads to another – it remains a mystery. That’s why it’s so beautiful, frustrating, rewarding and endless.
CC: How would you describe The Book of Traps and Lessons to someone who has never heard it before?
KT: It’s like listening to a film, and the words are the plot and the music is everything else, the backdrop, the camera angles, the lighting. It’s definitely an adventurous album. We wrote it and learned how to play it and then recorded it as one live take. The music responds to the lyric, so the lyric is leading the way, and the music is creating swells and changing as the lyric changes. We’ve never recorded like that before. And I think it was an incredible way of recording. We did 2 or 3 takes a day, and by the 3rd day we had it.
CC: During your tour so far, what sorts of audience responses and reactions have stood out to you the most during a live performance?
KT: Often people cry. That’s kind of a strange thing to see from up on stage— looking into the audience and seeing people crying, hugging each other, and wiping their eyes. It’s powerful. It opens something up that I don’t know how to describe. I usually walk off stage feeling kind of shaken. Sometimes it’s not like this, sometimes it’s joyous and I come off stage buzzing.
CC: Why do you choose to share and use your voice through music, poetry, and writing?
KT: It’s not really a choice. It’s just something that’s always been there in my life. My creativity has been my life force really. I serve it. It’s powerful. It’s something that moves in me and I have to do it.
Come experience Kate Tempest at the Wild Buffalo on Saturday, September 28th.