Jacqui James

KATIE NOONAN HAS achieved more in the past twenty years than others; from going from rock to folk and everything in between, selling millions of records and collaborating, and she’s gone about her business quietly.

Recently receiving an Honorary Doctorate for service to the Arts which gave a nod to Katie’s ongoing support of young artists who might not have the opportunity to follow their dreams without assistance and encouragement, just showed how she always puts her heart and kind-hearted nature to use.

While researching Katie, I discovered one of her beautiful collaborations with Behrouz Boochani called I Miss Her. I urge you to stop whatever you’re doing and listen, letting the experience wash over you.

Katie’s currently touring her love letter to Joni Mitchell where she’s singing iconic tracks from the Blue album which was released in 1971. So I felt extremely honoured to borrow some of Katie’s time and have a lovely chat with her.

Hi Katie. Congratulations on receiving your recent Honorary Doctorate for your service to the Arts as a singer, songwriter and artistic director. I daresay you were mighty chuffed to get this recognition.

Thank you lovely one – it really is a profound honour.

Your voice is sublime. Listening to your and Behrouz Boochani’s music, in particular, the hymn I Miss Her is a beautiful experience. Your voices are heavenly matched with poetical lyrics. How did I Miss Her and the whole project come to fruition?

I met Marta Dusseldorf at a charity event a few years ago, and I felt an immediate connection. We swapped emails and kept in touch when we were near each other working. She came to my elixir trio gig in Hobart and I went to see her amazing acting when she was in Brisbane for Scenes from a Marriage. During Covid Marta and her actor/director husband Ben reached out and explained their vision for a re-imagining of Socrates’s Women Of Troy as told through the filter of asylum seekers. I was immediately drawn to the project and when Behrouz came on board, I was thrilled at the opportunity to set his achingly beautiful words to music. I must admit the project was not an easy one, as the subject matter is very sad and real, so writing and singing his words was heavy on my heart. But art should challenge us – as creators and consumers – and I am really proud of the outcome.

With twenty albums under your wing, along with continuous projects with other talented artists, do you ever tell yourself, “OK, time out!”?

I do get a little exhausted at times – the uncertainty of income and being away from my family are the hardest parts of my job. But I always have new ideas brewing in my mind and am extremely grateful that my core audience has come on my various musical meanderings with me and continues to support what I do and give my notes a home. I realise this is a privilege granted to few and I am super grateful for the opportunities.

You’re in the middle of your Joni Mitchell Blue national tour. Why did Joni’s album Blue have such a profound impact on you?

It is a masterpiece. From a lyrical point of view, a compositional point of view and a musicianship point of view. It is incredibly honest and brave and really inspires me as a writer and singer. I recall the first time I heard it, and I couldn’t believe how honest and unique it was, I had never heard anything like it. That is my ultimate goal as an artist – to create unique sounds that speak honestly to the heart.

In 2021 I realised it was the 50th anniversary and thought it would be great to honour that landmark anniversary. It was only meant to be one gig, to be honest, but it seems other people love Joni as much as I do and by the tour’s end, I will have done about 50 concerts!

I must say though, upon learning the tunes I didn’t realise how hard they are!! Her composing is very through-composed with lots of interesting twists and turns and her phrasing is extraordinary – almost a kind of stream-of-consciousness delivery on some songs like The last time I saw Richard – super challenging! I can definitely say each night I learn something new.

From rock to jazz and everything in between, you’re one of those rare artists who can sing anything, and it sounds awesome. What is the one song that’s your guilty pleasure to belt out?

I can’t go past Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now by Starship – what an awesome pop-banger! I remember it was the theme song for the 80s movie Mannequin which I absolutely LOVED! The lead vocals are amazing – so strong and in tune (and this was the 80’s – long before auto-tune!)

Thank you so very much for your time, Katie! It’s a real privilege to interview an artist with such longevity in the Australian music scene.

Thank you lovely one – I hope to meet you at a gig sometime soon. Please let me know if I can gift you tickets for you and a friend for an upcoming concert.

Thanks very much, Katie! You’re too kind. I would love that!

You can keep up-to-date with Katie’s going-ons by following her on Facebook and I urge you to catch Katie’s Blue tour at one of the venues below: