Katherine Priddy Interviewed

We talk with Katherine Priddy

Katherine Priddy

English Songstress Katherine Priddy

Talks to Us

Backstage at the Port Fairy Folk Festival 2024

By Jim Jacob

By Rob Dickens

It’s all about the number two.

Talented English singer/songwriter Katherine Priddy is on her second tour of Australia, her second appearance at Port Fairy Folk Festival and has just released her second album.

From Birmingham, her debut album was called The Eternal Rocks Beneath, released in June 2021 (read our review HERE). None other than Richard Thompson led the charge of favourable comments and a wave of positive reviews followed, hailing a fresh, gorgeous voice and skilled writer. Just last month, Priddy released her follow-up The Pendulum Swing. Her Australian tour finishes up at the Blue Mountain Folk Festival before an extensive set of dates in the UK.

Listening Through The Lens: You mentioned on stage yesterday that Birmingham has more canals than Venice. What else is the city known for?

Katherine Priddy: Yes, Birmingham has got a lot of canals. It’s also famous for music, particularly rock music – you might have heard of a certain Ozzy Osbourne who’s done fairly well for himself, also bands like ELO and quite a lot of other kinds of rock stuff. And it’s famous for curry. That’s where balti was invented, so if you want a good balti come to Birmingham. So that’s my Tourist Board speech over (laughs).

LTTL: You started to play guitar via an Irish songbook?

KP: Yes

LTTL: Was that just by chance?

KP: Yeah, that was just what my Dad had in the house, so it was his guitar and a little Irish tablature book whenever he left the guitar within arms reach. I don’t think it was a hint, but I did end up picking it up and teaching myself and then just looking online and just got going that way.

LTTL: You didn’t start with something simple then, given the tempo changes and complex finger work involved?

KP: (Laughs) No. I’ve always finger-picked as well, I’ve never strummed that much.

LTTL: At what age or stage did you think ‘I want to make music my career’? Was that like a lightning bolt moment or slowly creep up on you?

KP: I was convinced for a long time that I couldn’t sing at all. I was really shy about it. I didn’t want to sing. I never thought I’d be a musician and then at school I did music, I played the clarinet. I wasn’t interested in playing other instruments and didn’t sing at all, but there was a performance element to my music studies and there was a guitar and I thought ‘I’ll just have a go singing to myself in my bedroom’. Then my teacher said I had a really nice voice and should try and do it more often so I started, very reluctantly, little open mike nights and for a long time I got bad nerves. I’m not the most confident person but I really enjoy it now and, even if it wasn’t something I thought I was ever gonna do, I’m really glad I do it now because I absolutely love it. So it came around fairly organically over time.

LTTL: It must have been quite a transition for you to get to be confident on stage?

KP: I would say I’m outgoing in some ways. I’m quite confident chatting to people, I don’t mind public speaking and that sort of thing, but I used to have to sit down to perform because my legs would shake so. I still get nervous but I’m better at controlling it and I still really, really enjoy it. Live performance is definitely my favourite part of being a musician. I love being out on the road, I love performing and I think the nerves are all part of it and it actually makes me feel quite excited, you get the adrenaline rush at the end of a show.

LTTL: Do you write songs on the road or prefer home for creativity?

I certainly get a lot of ideas while I’m on the road. I always have a notepad with me where I write down little ideas as they come up because words or phrases pop up when you least expect. Yeah, definitely doing things is important for me in terms of writing because you have to be inspired by surroundings. If you’re just in the bedroom all the time, there’s little inspiration there, so I think getting out and living is the first step in writing.

LTTL: Your first album was released in 2021. Did you ever think you would get such acclaim and what aspect of that response most pleased you?

KP: Because it was the first album, I didn’t have any expectations as to what to expect so I just put it out because I loved it. It was kind of ‘here let’s see how it goes’ sort-of-thing and the fact that people enjoyed it was a bonus because I was just so proud to have something out and then yeah it did a lot better than I thought. There’s been some really lovely, lovely reviews.

LTTL: Richard Thompson loved the record and he was quoted widely – that must have been quite a buzz and good for attention and sales?

KP: I think having people like him such an incredible songwriter, who I listened to growing up, saying that they liked my music, was just pretty mind-blowing really. I think it always means something extra when it comes from a musician, as well.

LTTL: There is such a thing as the second-album blues and you mentioned on stage you initially put a lot of pressure on yourself before casting that aside?

KP: There as worry throughout but, to an extent, I found myself at the start overthinking how I approached writing the songs and recording them. But, once I started that process, I put those worries to the back of my mind and just focused on making the album how I wanted it to sound. I was very proud of the album but the wait between the album’s recording and its release can be nerve-wracking. That’s when the nerves start to happen again, because I want people to enjoy it and I’ve got some fans who love the first album and who’ve been so supportive and I didn’t want to feel like I was letting them down. You know you can’t think like that but, yeah, it turns out people do seem to like it, so it’s fine.

LTTL: In terms of the recording the second one, did you follow much the same path as your debut or did you try, say, a different producer or studio or different guests?

KP: I used the same producer, although it was in a slightly different studio, but still in a little underground basement in Birmingham because I loved working with him the first time.

LTTL: Who WAS the producer?

KP: Simon Weaver and he was just brilliant. He’s just a brilliant musician and we worked well together and for the second album, I felt like I didn’t want to do something completely different. I wanted to almost consolidate the first one, but kind of make the second more expansive so I invited some different musicians on board, we did a lot more atmospheric stuff and electronic stuff, more cinematic. But yeah the recording process was similar and a lot of it was done remotely – more so than the first record which was done with musicians in the studio. This one there was quite a lot of remote work with sending notes and receiving files back and then sending notes again and so forth. It worked!

LTTL: When you started to record that album, did you have all the songs settled or was there some adapting of the songs?

KP: I think there’s always a little bit of adaptation. Most of the songs were sorted – there was one which came about quite late. Going into the studio you get the opportunity to expand on the songs and bring in a new sound, so I think they always change, from adding drums etc. It’s always going to sound different than just me playing acoustically. Being able to lean into that and kind of colour in the lines was really exciting.

LTTL: You recorded a Nick Drake song for a tribute album called The Endless Coloured Ways. Which song did you choose and why?

KP: I chose “I Think They’re Leaving Me Behind”, one of his lesser-known songs. It never really went beyond a demo form. It’s on the Family Tree album and I think it’s a beautiful, beautiful song and I liked how rough and ready it was, almost like a blank canvas to build upon. The whole aim of the project was to encourage us to take a song and make it completely our own and not to worry about loyalty. He’s often a musician that’s paced behind glass and is untouchable and this project was kind of saying no, no these songs are to be shared and played to be enjoyed – cast new colours and new lights upon these songs. But I love that song. I think it’s beautiful and underrated.

LTTL: Which singers have inspired you?

KP: Well definitely Drake. I grew up listening to all his music. Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, also some of the Irish singers like Christy Moore. Growing up, there was so much music in the house – Frank Zappa, prog rock. I really liked any songs with strong lyrics, strong imagery and storytelling.

LTTL: You’ve played at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City. I was there in 2018. That’s a pretty weird experience, those unofficial showcases in converted hotel rooms and corridors, very crowded rooms and twenty-minute sets?

KP: It was strange, so crowded. I did enjoy it but it’s odd – it’s a strange way to try and put your music across.

LTTL: This is your second tour of Australia. How does it compare with the first, two years ago?

KP: It’s similar in that I’m here at Port Fairy again, which I love. I’m doing a show with Luka Bloom in Queenscliff on Monday and then my own show in Melbourne at the Artist Bar in Brunswick. This time around we’re heading to the Blue Mountains Music Festival afterwards which we were meant to be at the last time, but it was cancelled because of a landslide, I believe. I’m looking forward to that one.

Tell about the song “Selah” from the new album.

KP: That’s actually the first song I ever wrote. I didn’t put it on the first album. There was a question about what I wanted to do with it. I think the older the song, the more you’ve lost confidence in it. But it made it onto the new release. It’s a song about the moon, but the word Selah is in the Bible. I’m not religious but it means a pause for reflection or a space to think and that’s how I feel about the moon. As well as it is one big reflection in the sky but it’s also yeah something about the moon.

LTTL: Thanks very much for your time.

KP: Thank you!

Katherine Priddy – Photo: LTTL

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Author: Rob Dickens

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