“In the hospital room where I was being born, the Nick Drake song ‘Pink Moon’ was playing.” Cathy Jain smiles as she tells me her story on the Band on the Wall balcony, after her stunning performance at Beyond the Music Festival. “Technically, from the second that I’ve existed, I’ve been listening to folk singer-songwriters. So that’s explaining my music now I suppose.”
Cathy Jain has been on the radar for a few years now. Three EPs of dreamy, starry-eyed indie pop on Yala! Records (sitting alongside label-mates Willie J Healey and Egyptian Blue) saw success, and many tips to be the next big thing. Yet, a parting with both management and label, as well as beginning a law degree in London, sees Jain come to terms with endings. However, there is also the potential for so many new beginnings. And, above all, Jain appears to be strategic, being clear that university is a stepping stone into the London music scene for her.
“I’ve always wanted to do music, it’s the only thing I love and feel passionate about. Studying on the side is for stability.” In a stacked weekend of playing Manchester and Middlesbrough, Jain admits that her travel time is marred by 300 pages of reading legal texts – a less-than-conventional university experience.
Cathy Jain’s new mixtape, Gentle, Hot and Godless, evokes the fingerpicking patterns of the aforementioned Nick Drake, with Jain’s delicate vocals almost masking the heartbreak and yearning of her lyricism (“The land is barren and bare / a comforting pain I feel / From the vibrance of flowerbeds / to frost on spiderwebs”). The singer-songwriter’s ability to simultaneously make the listener’s heart break whilst uplifting them is demonstrated on the mixtape, a raw update on Jain’s career and progression.
Jain took inspiration from her gap year. “I was focusing that time on travelling, seeing family, reading, and doing boring things. Within those boring things I found so much inspiration and it kinda just came in that period of time […] after reflecting on everything, this is the direction I can see myself going in. Taken seriously, having a path. I think it’s quite a recent development.”
“I feel like my mixtape is like a stepping stone, the first step into something bigger. I’m really tired of EPs. I’d love to put out a larger body of work, and I think with the move to London, a lot more of that is happening.” Cathy Jain admits she has four albums worth of material, prompting parallels with the infamous Prince archives. She then mentions that she has a poster of Prince on her wall in her new room in halls.
Jain’s obsession with music doesn’t stop there; she shows me the lock screen of her phone, a striking image of Ethel Cain, and notes her amazing performance in August at Manchester’s New Century Hall. With home being nearby in Nantwich, Cathy Jain is familiar with Manchester and references YES, Night and Day Café, and 33 Oldham Street as some of her favourite venues. She also mentions Canal Street, and a particular chicken shop – the name of which escapes her.
Despite only a handful of people barely filling the venue, as is common when artists perform as part of a day festival, Jain takes this in her stride and creates an intimate performance, beckoning us to come closer to the stage. What may have disheartened other artists, Jain used to her advantage.
Cathy Jain is such a special talent, and she is one to keep your eye on and support. Independent artists are finding it harder and harder to sustain a career and get the support to merit their talent: this was the crux of the message behind Beyond the Music.
The interview concludes with me asking if Jain has ever been to Fallowfield. “I haven’t. I should though.” My long ‘um’ prompts a laugh. Maybe you won’t catch her on Wilmslow Road any time soon.
Gentle, Hot and Godless is out now.