KATE RYAN: 15 YEARS IN MUSIC…AND COUNTING!
Kate’s current single “Runaway (smalltown boy) reached the top 20 airplay and sales in Belgium and is now released in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Poland and Germany. The next single will be released before the end of 2015 and in 2016 Kate Ryan will release her first full album since 2009. Having sold over 3.5 million records, the much awarded dance music icon once again makes her point: conquering charts and stages is the mission.
Looking back and forward, here’s what Kate sees as personal milestones….
The millennium artist
Kate started singing and writing songs back in 2000 – her career really kicked off in 2001, when she signed to the legendary Antler-Subway record label. During the ‘pre-download’ era, she released “Scream for more”, charting top 10 in Belgium (where it became the country’s best selling dance single) and Spain. “Mind you, this was a single that struggled/fought its way up in the old school style: there were no TV-talent competitions like “The Voice” or “X-factor”. Getting a single in the chart was the result of hard work, thorough and adequate promotion,” comments Kate.
Propelled by the smash hit single “Désenchantée” (a high power remake of Mylène Farmer’s 1981 song), Kate Ryan’s debut album “Different” hit the bull’s eye. “Désenchantée” also meant Kate’s international breakthrough, selling over 600.000 copies Europewide, with top 10 positions in 35 countries. Looking back to these turbulent and exciting times, Kate realises that she was a bit taken by storm. “I was overwhelmed by the sudden success – that giant step from performing your songs in a small club or café to pan-European chart status…The only thing I wanted at the time was to take the stage and sing. Torn in the slipstream of hits like “Désenchantée” and “Libertine”, I was blind for good advice. I wasn’t really in to image building or ‘the art of’ performing on stage,” admits Kate. “I sometimes felt like being put in a place where I didn’t belong – and then, before I realised, came the hits.”
From Eurovision to Euro-dance
In 2006, Kate Ryan’s “Je t’adore” was selected as Belgian entry for the Eurovision Song contest. Backed by a broad promotion campaign, co-financed by the Flemish Secretary of Culture, the national broadcaster VRT and Emi Music Belgium, Kate’s record company, Kate Ryan toured 12 European countries, paving the way for the Euro competition in Athens, Greece.
According to Kate, the Eurovision Song contest meant her true start as an artist and performer. With two top selling international albums under the belt (“Different” and the 2004 follow-up “Stronger”) she steadily developed her professional network. “Athens was a turning point in my career – I really had the feeling that I had grown as an artist,” remembers Kate. “Apart from the fact that the Eurosong chapter will probably linked to my personality forever, I had really become a performer. I took lessons and training in stage presentation, interview and media training and –bottom line- learned to take my stand.”
Another crucial aspect of the 2006 song contest was Kate Ryan’s contribution to the credibility of dance music. “Until then, people thought of dance being associated with playback performances…models miming somebody else’s vocals for the sake of TV. Until I brought “Je t’adore” live on stage. The audience suddenly knew that Kate Ryan was about real vocals…That took me six years,” says Kate. “And then there’s the song-writing, production work in the studio.”
The French Connection
With a continuous string of hits like “Désenchantée”, “Ella, elle l’ a”, “Voyage, voyage” and “Babacar”, the least one could say is that Kate Ryan’s first decade as recording and performing artist was dominated by French repertoire chartbusters. Successful re-makes and covers of steady floor fillers from the past by chanteuses like France Gall, Jeanne Mas, Lio, Desireless and la Farmer paved the way for Kate’s international success. “That ‘french connection’ really put me on the hit-map,” says Kate Ryan. “The French remake of ‘Scream for More’ (“Mon Coeur résiste encore”) dealt with critics saying that Kate Ryan was no more than a cover-artist. There’s plenty of self-written material on each album we put out and, hey what’s wrong about a cover, brought with full heart and soul? Lots of artists bring cover versions of their favourite songs…It’s all about the way you bring the song, on CD and on stage.”
In 2008, Kate Ryan’s hard work paid off and met with global recognition – that year’s World Music Awards highlighted Kate’s efforts with the WMA Best Selling Benelux Artist award.
Looking back, Kate regrets having been somewhat slack when it comes to playing her favourite instruments – guitar and piano. “It all has to do with the genre – I suppose that, as a rock ‘n roll singer I would have been forced to pick up my guitar or take the piano on stage,” she says. “As a dance repertoire performer, the emphasis lies more on the stage act rather than on the instruments you play. The fans abroad know exactly what Kate Ryan stands for – right here, it took us until the sold out 2007 Lotto Arena show to make the audience realise that we actually perform the songs live on stage!”
Stockholm, cradle of hits
Having worked with songsmith-producers Phil Wilde and Andy Janssens on successful albums like “Different” and “Stronger”, Stockholm became Kate’s second home in 2006. “One of the songs on “Stronger” was written by (Swedish producers and songwriters) Niclas Kings and Niklas Bergwall. “Only if I” became a hit in Germany and we decided to give them a call for the upcoming Eurovision contest – a lucky reflection,” laughs Kate. “We then took off to Stockholm’s Cosmos Studios for the recording of “Je t’adore”. “Alive” was the next single, and became the title track of a new album.”
One year later, in 2007, the termination of her record deal with EMI urged Kate and her management to re-orientate the singer’s career. A new contract with ARS Productions gave access to the worldwide network of Universal Music: Kate Ryan was launched in the music industry’s premier league.
“The first thing we did was return to Sweden where we recorded the remake of Desireless’s 1986 smash hit “Voyage, Voyage”. Produced by Niclas Kings and Niklas Bergwall, the single rocketed in the charts all over Europe, paving the way for “Ella, elle l’a”, undoubtedly my biggest hit of the decade,” says Kate.
Both hits are featured on “Free”, the album that brought Kate Ryan international star status, with over 150.000 units shipped. “I’m really a fan of the ‘Stockholm’ sound,” enthuses Kate Ryan. “Take a look at the charts – so many hits are produced in Sweden. Producers there really have a special approach, they know how to coach you as a singer and to mould a song into a hit. Mind you, there’s plenty of talent in Belgium as well – but it’s the combination of the sound, their formula…studio magic.”
After a worldwide tour, promoting “Free”, Kate Ryan returned to the Kings-Bergwall tandem, aka the 2N’s, for the recording of “French Connection”, wrapping up the dance diva’s French language hits plus revamped versions of French hits from the past, like Kate’s next 2009 hit “Babacar”.
“Somehow, the Swedish pop production industry kept on crossing my lifeline,” continues Kate. “In 2011, we started working on “Electroshock”, my fifth studio album. Anders Hansson, who wrote hits for artists like Alcazar and Agnes, took me to Roxy Recordings in Stockholm, the home of the ‘Svenska’ pop sound. Also featured on “Electroshock” is young Tim Bergling, who co-wrote the duet “Run Away”…The Stockholm-born Dj and producer later broke worldwide as Avicii!”
Under the adage ‘never change a winning team’, Kate decided to return to Stockholm to produce her upcoming album, celebrating her 15 year career.
On track for more euro-dance
With dance music dominating both the charts and major events worldwide, Kate’s promotion and marketing team have elaborated a keen plan to bring Kate Ryan back where she belongs: in the charts and on stage. “15 years of music also stands for a true evolution in bringing your songs to the audience. It’s an ambiguous situation where, on one hand, social media play a crucial role in pushing your career ahead, and on the other hand, you must let go the idea of promoting your record with radio-tours and unplugged showcases in major record stores,” confirms Kate. “And dance is bigger than ever, the DJ’s are the new stars – a true challenge for recording artists with fresh material.”
Kate, however, is convinced that her ability to conquer audiences, both with acclaiming new record material and a live concert tour, remains her forte. “We’re currently setting up a new live tour taking us to France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Polen, Hungary and Russia – and we’re returning to Canada as well. These 15 years in the nucleus of euro-dance music have become both my natural habitat, and a true challenge to excel in what I do.”