Features Zone

From Caged Kitty To A Tiger Unleashed…



After five years in the making, Kitty Liv drops her sizzling debut solo album this summer. “Easy Tiger” will surely launch this gifted multi-instrumentalist, singer and formidable songwriter into a new era of success – following 24 years of globe-trotting with her family’s celebrated band, Kitty, Daisy and Lewis.

The album on Sunday Best Recordings offers up 10 strong self-penned cuts which act as a kind of therapeutic journal and personal mantra for Kitty, while enduring a toxic relationship and post its eventual break-up, and the damage done to her self-confidence.

Her salvation came via Beans On Toast! No, not the staple British snack, but her mate Jay McAllister aka Essex folk artist Beans On Toast, who asked Kitty to open for him as a solo artist on a major tour. Something she’d never done before having always performed with her family since she was seven.

And after a few glasses of wine at a dinner party, when her brother Lewis convinced her to play him the demos of songs she’d written for herself [with no intention to ever let anyone else hear them]. Big brother loved them and said: “Let’s make a solo record”. So they did, and “Easy Tiger” is the result.

Kitty Liv [her middle name – Norwegian- pronounced Leave] Durham has been part of the band with older sister Daisy and older brother Lewis, and mum on bass and dad on piano, since the year 2000, when she was seven. Mum was in the post punk band The Raincoats and dad is a respected recording engineer. The band released four albums and toured non-stop across the world. The family own a recording studio in London’s Kentish Town in a former Indian restaurant.

Clash legend Mick Jones produced their third album, “The Third” released in 2015. They dropped their self-titled debut in 2008, then “Smoking In Heaven” in 2011, and their fourth LP, “Superscope”, in 2017 and have released 16 singles. They recorded the first two albums at their parent’s Camden home and the other two at their own studio, Durham Sound.

They toured American stadiums for six weeks with Coldplay at their request, and were the subject of a BBC TV documentary. Amy Winehouse was a fan and the band played at some of her birthday parties. “Daisy knew Amy and hung out with her a bit. There was talk of us doing music together. We played at a couple of her birthday parties. I hung out with her mum.”

The youngest of the Durham kids, Kitty is 31-years-old now and very happy in her life at last; engaged to drummer Jack Flanagan who plays in her own band, former bassist with The Mystery Jets.

Kitty explains how the live solo work came about and the emotional background to the songs on the new album. “The journey began five years ago when my sister Daisy started having kids, we had a little bit of time off from gigging. We toured up to the point where she was eight months pregnant, then we had a little break for a bit, and I was doing lots of stuff in our studio; recording other bands.

“Me and Lewis started to produce other bands, and I had this bunch of songs I was writing, but not really writing them for anything. Things I was mucking about with, and I made these little demos on my laptop, and didn’t really intend to show them to anybody; they were just kind of for me.

“At the time I was in a bit of a crappy relationship and it was a way for me to unleash some stuff, and it was after a dinner party and we’d had a few bottles of wine and sat round the dinner table and I ended up showing them (sic) to Lewis.

“He goes, ‘oh these are great, we should make these songs and put them out as a solo album.’ So it was Lewis who encouraged me to do the solo thing, but they were songs like I said, I didn’t intend for anybody to hear, they were just for me.

“They didn’t seem right for KDL (sic) songs; they seemed a bit too personal. I got two friends of mine who are incredible musicians, who have a duo project called The Royal Organ Duo – drums and organ – and are good friends of ours, to come in.

“Rather than me playing everything on it and layering it up, I could have gone down that road, but I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t think it would be that fun. I wanted it to have the energy of people playing in the room together, traditionally how records are made and produced. People playing and you capture that energy and build on that.

“That was a process of about five years, in arranging and going back and re-recording songs, and then playing gigs and realising, ‘oh actually, I have learned how to play this song now, let’s go back in and redo it.”

So where’s the Beans On Toast anecdote, you may wonder? Well, Mr Beans On Toast first discovered Kitty when she was nine, playing harmonica in a pub! “A friend of mine, Beans On Toast, who me and Lewis an produced an album for a few years ago, was going back out on the road and he asked if I’d be up for being the support, and playing in his band as well.

“The thought of doing that was really nerve-racking because it’d be me on my own without a band; just me and a guitar. That’s something I’d never done before. I’d only ever played with the band and my family there, so it was quite nerve racking, but I thought this is something I should do.

“It’s completely different to anything else I’ve ever done. So yeah, I took the plunge, and we did about 30 shows in 2021 at the tail end of lockdown and when gigs were starting up again.

“On the first solo gig I was really nervous, bigtime, yeah. There’s nothing to fall back on, it’s just you and you have got to make sure you are holding people’s attention and you are telling the story of the song.

“That you are not just there hiding behind your instrument and rocking out. The spotlight’s on you and you’ve got to tell the story of what you are singing. After doing it the first night, I was like, ok, cool, I can do this. I think this is good and people seem to be enjoying it.

“I am really grateful to Jay aka Beans On Toast, because if he hadn’t asked me to do that, I might not have pushed myself to do that otherwise. It lead me to really learn the songs and going back and recording them after that. It was really helpful.”

Kitty, Jack Flanagan and Lewis Durham
Kitty, Jack Flanagan and Lewis Durham

Last year, Kitty was out on her own again, just her and a guitar, as opening act for film and TV star Damian Lewis on his UK tour, and she played in his band too. I saw her last year, again just Kitty and a guitar, at Camp Bestival Shropshire. Brilliant job.

The title of the album “Easy Tiger” came to Kitty on a stroll across Hampstead Heath in London. “ I didn’t want it to be self-titled Kitty. I wanted something that could kind of sum up the journey that I’ve been on. When I was writing these songs, I felt like coming of age a little bit, not that I felt I was being stifled in any way; in terms of the feelings and emotions I had at the time and the reason for writing these songs. So, I thought about breaking out of a cage and Easy Tiger is just me…”

The 10 self-penned originals, include an album version of her EP title track, “The River That Flows”. The core theme of the album? “The general thread is based on the relationship I was in at the time, I was quite unhappy and the songs are from the start of the relationship and the course of the relationship, and then at the end of it there are songs that are written as messages to myself.

“ ‘The River That Flows’ and ‘Keep Your Head Up High’ are probably those songs especially, as they are messages to myself; looking inwardly and not let stuff get you down too much. It is not your fault, roll with the punches and it is stuff that is out of your control. ‘Keep Your Head Up High’ was about coming out of that relationship and feeling worthless, and a lack of self-confidence going on with me.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out Kitty’s incendiary harmonica playing on “Keep Your Head Up High”. It is gob-smackingly good!

“There is stuff you have to look inwardly to, and I guess it’s about having self-love and self-respect when you are not sure if you are any good or what people are going to think of you. When I started singing it live, people came up to me and said that song really spoke to me, and were talking about the lyrics.” So the album is kind of 10 entries in a journal as self-help therapy, telling yourself to keep on going? “Yeah, pretty much.”

With Jack her fiance in the band having to hear all these songs about a former relationship on every gig, is that difficult for you/him? “Jack and I met on that Beans On Toast tour, he was playing on it as well. We were on the road together after this relationship and he heard me singing these songs night after night, and we sparked up this friendship. Because he’d heard the songs so much, he was already used to it by the time he started playing with me in my band.”

Kitty, her brother Lewis on bass on half the record, Adrian Meehan on drums and Rich Milner on organ and keyboards are the ensemble on the album. Kitty plays bass on the other half, some mini-Moog synthesiser, percussion and lead vocals. She is an audaciously talented harmonica player too. Kitty and Lewis produced the project.

Her main influences on the songs is all the stuff she grew up with “ingrained in there.” Blues; the harmonica: Sonny Boy Williamson and Howling Wolf. The Southern Soul from her mid-20s; like Candi Staton and early 60s stuff, right through to D’Angelo and Jill Scott; the 90s soulful r&b stuff. “I grew up playing rock and roll, and going back to the ‘Easy Tiger’ thing, I think there’s a fierceness within the music, but then it has got this soulful heart to it as well.”

So tell me about the origins of Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. “KDL started in 2000. I was seven when we did our first gig at the Golden Lion in London. We gigged mainly at weekends as we were at school, then proper touring from when I was 15. I left school at 16. Growing up doing that, a lot of these gigs for me are childhood memories; for me it is the equivalent of thinking back to going on a family holiday when you are seven.”

Talking of those childhood memories, Kitty vividly recalls the day she left school and what happened next. “That US tour with Coldplay was pretty bonkers, because I did my GCSEs and left school when I was 16 and then the next day, I flew out to LA to start the tour. The first proper tour we’d ever done, because prior to that we were at school.

“So now we were free and were just thrown in at the deep end, and at the time, that tour was the biggest tour in the world – six weeks across America doing these huge stadiums. We were just the opening act; this little family huddled on this huge stage. We were used to being huddled together as a little group so we could hear each other and play together.

“That was just like a family summer holiday and Coldplay were such sweethearts. We got there and they’d given us gifts; there was a hamper in the dressing room, and they gave us Shure microphones and some champagne…We got treated so well on that tour. You do other support slots, and the main band don’t even come and say hello, but these guys asked us to be there, so that makes a huge difference. You feel like you’re part of something and you feel really welcome. It was a big fun family holiday really.”

Jack Flanagan

Kitty on working with Clash legend Mick Jones. “He was inducted into the family for that record, and this was when we were building the studio we have got now. We were rehearsing in my mum’s house, and I think we still lived at home at that time, and he would come over pretty much every day for about three months while we were building the studio.

“He would play the songs with us, bringing his guitar every day and we’d learn the songs and develop them. It felt like he was our uncle who lived with us; and we went in the studio and spent the next few months working on the songs we had been making.

“He’d go to the shop and get us blueberries; and say, blueberries are really important, good for your brain. He’d go to Greggs a lot and round the charity shops and he’d turn up, and we’d all look through his bag and see what his latest finds were.

“He’d have books, and he talked about film quite a las he was really into films. We’d crossed paths for years and kept bumping into him, and one day my brother said we are making an album, do you want to get involved. We always produced ourselves as a family, and Sunday Best [the record label] said, how would you feel about getting someone else in to produce it with you, and we were really up for it.

“My mum was in a post-punk band The Raincoats, and she crossed paths with Mick. Even though a lot of people think we are American, and we have that very American sound, the songs we wrote at the time had that bit more British roots in there, in terms of music. He was someone who could understand that. It made sense.”

Kitty, Jack Flanagan and Lewis Durham

Did you three siblings ever get fed up being with family all the time. “We squabbled all the time when we were younger, it was constant squabbling and fights; normality. But never any ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ because we were always having such a great time when we were playing music together. That was what we did.”

Ever feel like you were missing out on a normal childhood? “No not at all. Very lucky to grow up the way I did and play music with my family. It was all brilliant. I think we have all threatened to leave the band about 10 times each, but we’d never act on it,” Kitty laughs. Ever have a row on stage? “Oh yeah yeah; we’ve done all of that,” giggles Kitty.” It was constant bickering, but it was never any serious issue.”

KDL are still gigging and did a tour in Germany and Japan last year. Now for a Music Republic Magazine exclusive: “We are writing another album at the moment to get an album ready this year and we’ll be touring that. It is about seven years since our last record.”

What’s on Kitty’s wish list if she could map out career? “Being able to do what I do now and carry on. I feel very lucky to be doing music as a job, because it just started off something we did as kids at home, and ended up by accident being on stage, and the band happened by accident. Now it’s a job, which is pretty much a dream come true.

“But it’s a brand new venture for me, putting out solo music that is really different to anything else I’ve done and I am excited to see what happens, and I hope people like it.
“For me it is all about getting up there and fucking giving it all the energy that you’ve got, and making the most of it.”

But now she is blissfully happy in her love life and the scars of that past unhappy relationship have healed over, Ms Kitty may well still have one issue to overcome: “Now I’m happy, it’s like shit, I can’t write any more songs!” Her infectious laughter ends our lengthy chat.


Kitty Liv’s debut solo album “Easy Tiger” is released via Sunday Best Recordings on 26th July 2024. She plays Groningen Rhythm & Blues Night in The Netherlands on 11th May and the UK’s Red Rooster Festival on 30th May.




Words: Steve Best

Photos: Alex Asprey – Taken at The Lexington in London for Kitty’s recent triumphant sold out show

  • Except the album cover shot




Follow us for all the latest news!

This function has been disabled for Music Republic Magazine.