IT'S been 20 years since Katy Steele introduced herself to the world as a fresh-faced teenager sweetly singing, "I can't help this pain that I'm feeling."
Little Birdy's classic debut single Relapse, and the subsequent self-titled EP and albums Bigbiglove (2004), Hollywood (2006) and Confetti (2009) guaranteed Steele's distinctive voice became a fixture of Triple J radio and major festivals throughout the 2000s.
But ever since Little Birdy disbanded in 2010, Steele has mostly flown under the radar.
In 2016 Steele released her debut solo album Human, which followed a period of living in New York and the scrapping of two albums.
Following a national tour for Human she met and married Scottish musician, Graham McLuskie, and in 2018 the couple welcomed a daughter Iona.
In the proceeding years during the pandemic Steele and McLuskie slowly recorded a collection of songs in their home studio in Perth. The album Big Star is finally ready to ascend.
"I know I have my core fan base out there," Steele says. "I feel like a lot of the Little Birdy fans are probably still yearning for the old days.
"But a lot of them are finding my new music as well. At the same time, it's almost like starting again.
"I feel like my own solo stuff is in its own lane. It has similarities to Little Birdy, but it's different. Some people are gonna like it or not."
Big Star is heavily influenced by Canadian pop behemoth The Weeknd and presents a modern take on '80s synth-pop.
Tracks like the opener Come And See Me, LMK and Feel So Bad showcase that Steele's lost none of her pop nous.
"We were pretty into The Weeknd when they came in and blew everybody's faces off with that sound," she says. "You couldn't help but get influenced by that. I certainly did.
"It sounded old, but sounded so fresh as well.
"We were influenced a lot by the sonics of those '80s records but keeping it in the now as well."
Steele admits her inability to release music more regularly has been a frustration. Big Star is just her second album in the 13 years since Little Birdy disbanded.
However writing songs has never been the issue. Steele literally has albums of material that have never been heard by the public.
Rather the problem is her perfectionism.
"Signing off on them [songs], and it might be missing one element and knowing what that element is, is sometimes [the issue]," she says.
"Working with somebody else has definitely helped. It's hard by yourself, you've got to be a really strong-headed artist. One of my downsides definitely is I'm kind of indecisive, I guess.
"I feel there's two types of artists. There are some who won't take any feedback and there's some who love feedback and need it all the time, and I steer more towards being someone who wants to collaborate with people a fair bit."
Katy Steele releases Big Star on Friday, before her national tour visits Lizotte's, Newcastle (July 6); Mary's Underground, Sydney (July 7); Heritage Hotel, Wollongong (July 8); Ararat Town Hall, Ararat (August 2); Sooki Lounge, Belgrave (August 3) and Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine (August 5).
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