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cathy jain

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While 18-year-old singer-songwriter Cathy Jain has tended to a blooming career from her bedroom in the cookie-cutter suburbs of Cheshire, the scale of her ambition has always been cosmic.


As a teenager whose coming-of-age story had been confined to four walls during the pandemic, her imagination has always given her music a rich palette of colour to experiment with, mixing unorthodox shades of fantasy and the first, tentative steps of experience to dazzling effect.


Cathy Jain chooses to articulate her style by not articulating it – rather, she delights in subverting expectations, free to play with the parameters of pop, multi-instrumental indie rock and shimmering electronics however she pleases. In her lyrics, as she navigates the rocky terrain of adolescence, there will be flashes of recognition, but ultimately, her music is the getaway car you’ve been waiting for to escape the everyday rhythms of your mind.


Her debut EP artificial released via YALA! Records in 2021, was a shout into the void, looking for signs of life and resonance: someone out there who felt the way she did. The sound, which was anchored much closer to the earth with gentle, meandering arrangements that invited you to daydream, would elevate Cathy to new heights when she was announced as a runner up in BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge Introducing competition. With judges Ellie Rowsell (Wolf Alice) and Arlo Parks counted among her admirers, their approval only underlined the fact that alongside juggling her A-levels and dealing with growing pains, Cathy Jain had defined a sound that was entirely her own – and it was a sound that demanded to be heard.


Lead single from artificial, ‘cool kid’ was crowned BBC Radio R1 Introducing’s ‘Track of The Week’, with follow-up single ‘green screen’ playlisted at 6Music. The music press also caught on to her promise: she has been tipped in The NME 100 and featuring in tastemaking publications including Clash, DIYDorkNotionThe Forty Five and The Line of Best Fit. This has been followed by regular festival gigs and tour support for the likes of Cassia and Yard Act. Appearances at Abbie McCarthy's Future Karma, DIY Magazine's Hello 2023 and DHP's Intro23, along with the release of her latest EP spacegirl, have seen Cathy Jain become one of the most talked about up-and-coming artists of 2023.


"artificial" grappled with questions of authenticity in an age where the lines between truth and manufactured reality are blurred. Rather than fearing this grey area, Cathy was unflinching when it came to tackling complex questions of what it means to be a young woman of her generation. “I think that people - especially those my age - stress a lot about their image and how their life and feelings match up to what other people expect of them,” she says. But despite reckoning with serious subjects, Cathy is here to reassure you, bringing light-hearted observation over hazy, sun-kissed beats. 


She ascended in altitude with the latest chapter of her story: the four-track EP, spacegirl. “It’s all about exploration and discovery,” she explains. “Lyrically, I wanted to explore that journey from childhood to adulthood, because I feel like that journey can be quite dark and heavy for some people. It can feel really scary, sometimes. It’s about finding out who you are and learning about the imperfections and complexities of other people, and of the world.” But in these four galaxies of her creation, there is always light - spacegirl is, without a doubt, her most playful mission yet.


Toying with language and sci-fi analogies, Cathy Jain is like an astronaut transmitting signals back to earth from the alien world of crushes, betrayal and friendships cast adrift in space.


‘gaslight’ is a straight-up shot of serotonin. “Every time we perform it live, it just makes people giggle,” smiles Cathy. “It’s more comedic – more sassy - than anything else.” It’s an exercise in melodrama, about the amusement that comes with realising you’ve got a not-so-secret admirer: “You must be so obsessed / You must be so impressed / Cuz every time you always meet my eye in the halls / You make it so damn obvious I’m honestly shocked”.  


UFO’, on the other hand, is about the end of the world as we know it: the sky is falling, the town is burning down in flames, and extra-terrestrial beings are taking over. “You know when you’re with someone and you think they’re someone they’re not? And then, in the end, they betray you, and you realise they’re not going to be there for you?” Cathy explains. “It’s made into this big, apocalyptic alien invasion story. It’s quite dramatic, really,” she laughs. “It’s supposed to be quite animated!”


PLAYFIGHT’, a fizzy, rosy-cheeked experiment in indie grooves and galactic synths, is “Alice in Wonderland, if it was electronic”, says Cathy. Fantasies and topsy-turvy tales are woven into the fabric of the EP; it’s something she says she envisions as a major motif in her future projects, as well. The track is about the exhilaration of connection with someone, and the terrifying prospect of asking for more, centred around a vignette of a water gun fight on a hot summer’s day. ‘the death of cat’ follows in the same vein: a friendship that has been lost in translation as you come to discover that everyone is struggling with their own imperfections as they’re growing up.


The process of bringing spacegirl to life was worlds apart from how artificial was made. Cathy’s first project was done remotely in the confines of her bedroom, which has become the backdrop of her entire musical career so far since she recorded covers and uploaded them to YouTube. She belongs to a generation of circumstantial bedroom pop artists who had no other option in a global pandemic. But with spacegirl, during the summer break from sixth form, Cathy had the opportunity to record and write tracks with a slew of producers in London. Her closest collaborator, however, was Jack Hardman, better known as Good Dog, who Cathy approached to work with her over Instagram DMs after stumbling upon his work on Spotify. “Now we’ve been working together for a year, and we’re like, best friends,” says Cathy.


When Cathy Jain was born to the sound of Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”, an artist that she counts among her favourites, it was almost written in the stars that she would gravitate towards music. It was a passion realised when she started guzheng lessons, a traditional Chinese instrument similar to a harp, at six-years-old. Playing to a professional level, it features prominently in her music (listen out for it on ‘gaslight’) and keeps her anchored artistically to her heritage. Growing up in China before living in Australia and later, Manchester, where she was originally born, Cathy Jain’s music is the sum of the different people, music and cultures that define her world. Asia, in particular, has left an indelible mark on her sound, having been exposed to influences such as Chinese opera, K-pop and Bollywood that broadened her scope beyond Western-centric limitations.


It was through mastering the guzheng that Cathy started making her first steps as a songwriter, graduating from the school of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry who expanded her pop horizons and triggered her ambitions as a performer. Writing her first proper song at nine-years-old (“It was terrible, obviously!”) she began writing songs in her diary instead of normal entries as a homework skill. As she matured and fell in love with the rose-tinted song writing of Lana Del Rey, who weaves beautiful stories from ordinary, universal experience, Cathy Jain began to find ways of doing the same through her own unique lens.


Having finished her exams last summer, Cathy has now immersed herself entirely in her music. “Success to nine-year-old me would be selling out stadium tours and being a superstar success. But I think now, it’s more about my music and my lyrics being acknowledged by people who can appreciate and relate to it - that would make me so happy. Success,” she believes, “is something that the artist feels themselves.”



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