With her awe-inspiring vocals featuring an operatic soprano range of more than three octaves, a jazz versatility and pop appeal, Katie Noonan’s voice has always been a siren song.
From her days fronting Aria-winning pop-rock outfit george, she has performed with a bevy of Australia’s Who-Who of music, whether beside her husband in jazz trio Elixir, to her operatic mother Maggie Noonan, jazz legend Paul Gabrovsky, Stonefield, Renee Geyer and the Sydney Dance Company.
Her latest EP Peace Is My Drug connects with Australian cartoonist and poet Michael Leunig, inspired by his poem Peace. The release of the EP sees her united with a band, performing as Katie’s Vanguard and culminating in an Australian tour with Stu Hunter on bass, keys and backing vocals; Declan Kelly on drums, percussion and backing vocals and Angus & Julia Stone’s Ben Edgar completing the line-up.
Katie has enjoyed a rich, independent career at a time when the boardrooms of record labels have controlled music. But the independent artist’s greatest challenge comes in balancing creativity with financial realities. “I feel like I have been an independent musician my whole life,” Katie maintains, “but I have worked with major labels along the way. I’ve released six albums since I left Sony and I feel that now is the time for another solo record.”
To maintain her independence, the EP has been financed by a pledge campaign – an increasingly popular avenue of crowd funding. But the singer remains the driving creative force. “I’m certainly producing the album from the point of view of making the decisions and shaping the sides and final mix. All of the final decisions are always mine – which is scary but empowering as well.”
Katie intends the EP as a bridge to greater things. “My main focuses for this year are launching the EP and making a solo album. Elixir are making an entire album with Leunig,” she discloses. “That’s a long-term collaboration that started last year and will be an amazing project. One of the songs I wrote, I felt was suited to this EP. I have done a version on this album that is completely different to the one for Elixir. That’s the extent of the collaboration for this EP, but for the long-term, that will be a whole album and project where I can create new works and commission Michael’s artworks as well. I’m obsessed with this record and in every spare moment, I’m writing.”
Katie has forged a singer-songwriting career purely on her skills and emerged to defy convention. She has blurred the lines between her music and her art. “The only intention that I really have as an artist is to try and create a unique sound,” Katie explains. “It’s all about the next idea, the next song and being in the moment as much as possible. In between those principles, I’ve double-layered my own music so there’s the input of classical and jazz and any sort of pop music – be it pop or grunge or trance or whatever,” Katie says. “I want to create music that comes from a place of honesty, with no hiding. It’s about the sound of your tone and making your sound as natural as possible – sounding like yourself. I want to sound like me.”
EP Peace Is My Drug is exclusively available for purchase on PledgeMusic with proceeds going to Beyond Blue.
Photographer: Shervin Lainez