Back in 2015 I did my first tour of Australia. I was going through a pretty horrendous time with an ex-girlfriend out there, and I found myself hanging out with a couple of producers who I later discovered also happened to be Pentecostal Christians. They sort of took me under their wing at a time when I knew no one in town and was completely heartbroken and lost.
One day I asked one of them (who had earlier admitted he took the Bible literally) what his opinion on my relationships with women was. He said, “Well, we think it’s wrong. But we still love you.” His mother, a pastor, later suggested my sexuality was most likely caused by childhood trauma. Ouch.
Naturally I was angry and indignant -- a burning “how dare they” was gnawing at me for weeks afterward. When I got back to the U.K., I reflected more on those conversations, and I went through a mix of emotions from anger and indignation, to fear, shame, and sadness. I eventually -- eventually -- settled on a feeling of peaceful conviction. I realized that my holding a seething resentment inside of me, and hating these people for their beliefs was a complete waste of energy and also would never be the solution to the problem. In fact, I recognized a feeling of sadness for them that they had been indoctrinated in such a way. How awful it was that they could not see the beauty in all love -- that they were so limited in their views of the world. It was then that I decided to write a song to say, “I will not, nor need I, change. My sexuality is beautiful, and I don’t need you to see that, in order to know it.”
So I wrote “Never Gonna Let Her Go.” The song is specifically saying, “You can judge me for my flaws and for my human failings, but my sexuality isn’t one of them. I will never pretend to be anything or anyone else, no matter what you say or do.” It also talks about God -- because that was an important issue to me too. I’m not religious, but I’ve experienced profound strength and support from turning to something deeper within during times of despair in my life, so I’m quite protective over that and rebel against this idea of a hateful, punishing “God.” I don’t believe that. If there is a God, then my God made me as I am and loves me for who I am.
I guess you’d say “Never Gonna Let Her Go” is a peaceful protest song. It’s a loving “fuck you” to the wannabe converters and the haters, if you will.
It was also a big deal for me because it came at a time when I first started using the “she” pronoun in my lyrics. This was the most obvious song I had written in that way. There was no getting away from it. There was no way for people to interpret it in a different way. I have to admit, when I first started playing it I was really nervous. I had always been so vague before. I was scared of being persecuted or judged in some way. But I couldn’t go on living on the outskirts anymore -- that only feeds shame and fear. It’s been a total liberation. Finally I can breathe. I find the more open I am about my sexuality, the more any residual societally-inflicted fear and shame falls away from me, and I feel the beauty of it all.
Putting the track together came a lot later. I actually wrote it in 2015, but for several reasons it had to be put on hold. It’s been a long road of ups and downs getting here, and I’m excited to finally be sharing this music. I produced the record, as it’s my favorite part of the process and probably because there’s a small (very friendly) control freak inside of me! Most of the process was done at either my home in London or my mix engineer’s studio in Weston. The drums (Craig Connet) and bass (Jon Short) were recorded at Weston College studios (shout-out to those kind souls for gifting us with the studio) just outside my hometown of Bristol. I like to record at home whenever possible, as it’s where I feel most relaxed and inspired. I never sit down and plan in advance, I like to build a track in the moment, and “Never Gonna Let Her Go” was no exception.
I always start with the guitar and vocals and build layer by layer from there. I generally have an “audio vision” of a track as soon as I write the song, so that helps a great deal when putting it together. I don’t think I’ll ever be a forward planner, as it can be the cause of a lot of stress sometimes! I’m lucky because I work with the most wonderful and relaxed mix engineer, Paul Quinn, who complements and facilitates the process so beautifully. We’ve worked together for years, and he nails my vocal sound every time, which for me is right at the top of my list of priorities for a track.
I hope you guys enjoy the song and send love to anyone going through anything I’ve mentioned. You’ve got this.
Listen to Katey Brooks's new single, "Never Gonna Let Her Go," below.