Katherine Priddy has been an artist on our radar since we caught her set at the much-missed A Carefully Planned Festival in Manchester in October 2016. Her 2018 EP Wolf was one of our favourites of the year and she finishes 2020 with a new single Still Winter Still Waiting. We caught up with her for a chat about the track, working with other musicians, her place on the English Folk Expo mentoring programme and hopes for 2021.
Hi Katherine, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you've done since starting to make and release music?
Hi Dave! I’m a Birmingham based singer-songwriter. I’ve been gigging and writing for a while, but I moved back to Brum after uni in 2018 to focus on my music. That’s when I released my debut EP, Wolf, which ended up getting a much better response than I’d hoped for!
Off the back of that release, I began playing headline shows around the UK, toured Ireland with Richard Thompson, supported artists like The Chieftains, Martin Carthy, Vashti Bunyan and Scott Matthews and performed at some amazing festivals including Cambridge Folk Festival and Shambala.
Since then I’ve released another single on vinyl, Letters From a Travelling Man and I’ve just released a new Christmas single, ‘Still Winter, Still Waiting’. I’ve been keeping myself busy!
What inspired you to become a musician - and who are your musical heroes?
My parents always had music on as a kid, everything from folk and classical through to heavy metal and punk, so I’ve always loved music. I never actually thought I’d be a musician myself though, until I went to see Waterson:Carthy when I was about 10 and was awestruck by seeing Eliza Carthy stomping about on stage with her violin. I told my mum that night that I wanted to be a musician too!
Inspiration wise, I love the music of Nick Drake, Andy Irvine, John Martyn and Joni Mitchell, as well as newer artists such as Lankum, Imagined Village and Alt J.
How has lockdown and venues being closed impacted your plans for this year - and how have you managed to continue to be creative?
It’s definitely changed everything. I’d been working towards 2020 for the last couple of years - this year was supposed to be the big push, including the release of an album. I had loads of festivals and gigs booked… but then nothing.
Alongside a LOT of gardening and Netflix, I’ve worked on building my online presence, doing live gigs and online festivals, including Philadelphia Folk Festival which was amazing. I also did some online collaborations with other artists. Jon Wilks, Lukas Drinkwater, Jon Nice and I covered Nick Drake’s ‘Northern Sky’ and it got played on BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, so that was cool!
It hasn’t been easy staying motivated and creative, but I’m excited for 2021.
Your new single Still Winter Still Waiting is seasonal, but not Christmas. Could you tell us a little about what it's about?
Yeah, it does mention Christmas in the chorus, but I didn’t want it to be too cheesily Christmassy...no sleigh bells or anything!
Instead the song is about not being with the person you love during the run up to Christmas, so there’s an element of sadness and longing, but there’s a real sense of warmth and positivity that you’ll see them again soon and nothing will have changed.
I know that a lot of people this year will be separated from people they love, so it felt pretty relevant to 2020. But it’s also warm and uplifting, which is what I wanted. We all need some hope this year!
It features some gorgeous string arrangements and your Wolf EP had a whole series of different musicians on it. Has performing and recording with other musicians always been something you've wanted to do - and do you write with other musicians in mind?
Having always written and performed solo, going into the studio for the first time to record Wolf gave me a great new opportunity to expand my sound and experiment with other instrumentation. It’s definitely something I’d always had in mind, particularly on the recording front, and I do find myself writing songs with other instruments in mind now.
I’ve also been trying to expand my live sound, so over the last year I’ve been accompanied by George Boomsma who adds dreamy harmonies and creates atmospheric sounds using his electric guitar. I’m hoping to keep growing that live performance with the introduction of a full band in the future… but we’ll see! It’s really fun to play about with new sounds.
When you write, do you take inspiration from things that are happening to you and others around or do you take on the mantle of a storyteller?
There’s always elements of truth and personal experience in my songs, some of them are entirely autobiographical, some of them just capture little autobiographical moments and expand on them.
A couple of my songs are inspired by books I’ve read, Wolf for example was loosely inspired by Wuthering Height’s Heathcliffe. Others are based around the stories of Greek Myths. The act of telling a story and transporting listeners with my lyrics is incredibly important to me, I think the words are as crucial as the melody.
You've recently won a place on the English Folk Expo Mentorship Programme. Could you tell us a little about that and what it's going to mean for you in 2021?
I did! I am so delighted to have been accepted onto this year’s programme. I’ve been matched up with an AMAZING mentor, Stevie Smith, who will help guide me through the next twelve months with her extensive experience in the industry. It also means I have the opportunity to attend networking events and perform at some showcases (once they’re allowed to happen again).
One of the best bits is meeting the English Folk Expo team and the other 3 musicians on the programme and gaining that sense of community. It can be easy to feel like you’re in it alone sometimes, so having others to talk to and lean on for advice and support is amazing.
And what other plans do you have in terms of releases and shows - virus-permitting?
Well… I don’t want to give too much away at this stage, because it’s all still in the planning stages, but I’m definitely hoping to release some new music in the first half of 2021. I’m sitting on something quite special at the moment, so it’ll be great to get that out there!
Lots of the festival bookings from this year have rolled over to 2021, including the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury, so fingers crossed those can go ahead! I’ve also got lots more gigs and musical endeavours to announce… let’s hope we can get back to some normality next year.
How would you describe your music to someone who's never heard of you before?
Oooo good question. I guess pure, soft vocals, lush harmonies and instrumentation, finger-picking guitar and meaningful lyrics that tell a story. I’ve never really been a verse-chorus-verse kinda girl, but there’s still catchy hooks and refrains. I suppose the easier answer would be, give it a listen and find out!