Katie Noonan, singer/musician

I want to run an arts festival (hint, hint QMF!) ...

Katie Noonan has been delighting Australian audiences with her incredibly beautiful voice for many decades now. A gifted musician who has crafted an amazing diverse career, Katie has also been recognised with four ARIA Awards and seven-times platinum sales for her collection of music. In the nineties, Katie gained widespread attention with her band George – a live George gig was nothing more than completely exhilarating. In 2013 The Herald Sun ran a poll asking Australia’s most famous vocalists to nominate the Greatest Australian Singers of all time. Katie was voted in the top 20 sharing this honour with the likes of Michael Hutchence, Bon Scott, Neil Finn, The Bee Gees and Gurrumul. The Weekend Edition took five with with one of Brisbane’s most-loved and rare voices to chat all things music.

What projects are you currently working on?
I am about to head to Sydney to work with The Sydney Dance Company and the Australian Chamber Orchestra on our project Les Illuminations – a gorgeous piece by one of my favourite contemporary composers Benjamin Britten. I am also trying to finish my pledge commitments (pledge was how I crowd funded by latest album) before I head off on a national tour with my band for my new record Transmutant! I am also learning the wedding song for my dear mate Jack Carty’s upcoming nuptials!

What do you love about music and what is its mysterious power?
Music is the easiest way to make a stranger feel like a friend. It has the power to strip back everything to what is really important – being in the moment and losing yourself in something bigger than yourself.

The music industry has been effected by digital disruption. What do you love about the new age of music and what do you miss about the old way?
We are absolutely in the age of independence and I think that is a really exciting thing. Crowdfunding is enabling all sorts of awesome stuff to be made in a process that is empowering to fans and artists alike. The connectivity is truly wonderful. Also, I love the immediacy of it. The downside is there is a lot of digital traffic, so it is really hard for up-and-coming indie bands to make their mark. For example check out one of my favourite bands Playwrite. Why they aren’t renowned is beyond me! Nothing will take away from the magic of a live gig and that is more obvious now than ever – as it is very hard to make a living from an actual physical/digital product anymore, so live is where it is at. There is an entire generation of people that have never paid for recorded music and that scares the crap out of me! That is such an alien concept to me! Making records still costs a lot, so that end of the equation hasn’t changed unfortunately! Albums used to be $30 and I kinda wish they still were as money denotes value in some way. But then again, of course you have to follow the market/audience trends. Overall though, the digital revolution has been super exciting – it’s just a pity the record companies were greedy and stuck their head in the sand for way too long.

Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
Absolutely everywhere. Of course music is the first place. I’m loving Alison Krauss and Robert Plant’s album at the moment. His voice sounds incredible and I kinda used to hate it to be honest (ha ha)! But all great expression inspires me – contemporary Aussie art (like my fave John Olsen who graciously allowed me to use his Five Bells as my Transmutant album cover), exciting film-making, great literature, poetry, fashion, photography etc. More than anything though my hubby Zac and our boys Dexter and Jonah are my ultimate muse. And my mates! I have a delicious bunch of friends who constantly inspire me.

What are some of your challenges you face as an musician in Brisbane? And, how do you overcome these?
I love living near Brissie, but living here means I need to travel a lot as there is not enough gig work here to sustain a living. But having said that, there is nothing quite like returning home to the beautiful Brisbane skies and feeling home, and I get to see so much of this big beautiful country/world of ours. I think the geographical isolation of Brisbane when I was starting out was actually a total blessing in disguise. It gave me time to find my feet as a musician and form my sound in my own time. Then when we were ready, we committed to touring interstate six times a year – lots of hours up and down that highway!

What occupation would you love to do, if you were not an amazing talented musician with a beautiful beautiful voice?
Ohhh, well firstly thank you very much. Well I wanted to be a nun initially. Then an investigative journalist. Then a human rights lawyer. So maybe something along those lines? God probably not though. I will say it now loud and proud. I want to run an arts festival (hint hint QMF!). And if not that, I would probably want to work in music therapy and engage the magic of music and it’s power to transform to those who really need it. People with disabilities, compassionate aged care etc.

In your opinion what makes a community?
Diversity and the ability to listen and share. I live in an awesome community full of lots of rad individuals who are constantly trying to better their world.

We consider you a changemaker for our city – as you have helped define and shape Brisbane’s music industry. Do you think you have created change in Brisbane?
Wowzers – well thank you! We all play a part though. The audience and artists alike. I read an interview with Imogen Heap the other day where she said music without an audience is kinda like a joke without a punchline. I would be a broke sad sack if I was playing to no one every night, so I consider us all equally important to the equation. Music lovers make the scene as much as those making the music.  The 90s in Brisbane was a super exciting time to be making music and we all supported each other a lot. Without Joc and C at The Zoo none of us would be where we are today that is for sure. It was wonderful to be inspired by bad ass women like those two from a young age.

Who would you recommend as a changemaker in Brisbane?
YOU! Whoever is reading this article. We only have one trip around this crazy place so make it count as much as possible I reckon. Why wait?

What is your hope for the future of Brisbane?
That we continue to love the arts as much as we love sport. That we become more ecologically responsible. That we continue to embrace our awesome diversity and not allow fear to enter into our hearts when it comes to our national identity and our sense of compassion.

What’s a question you would love to be asked in an interview and what is your answer?
Q: Do you like being nude in the sun? A: Yes I do … luckily we live on a few acres!

Favourite meal? Nothing like a good curry – my bestie Nina makes a mean dahl!
Favourite author? Michael Leunig.
Favourite musician? HOLY CRAP – too hard!  Can I have a top five pls? Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Bjork, Jeff Buckley, Annie Lennox.
Favourite architect? Harry Seidler.
Favourite location? North Stradbroke Island.
Your idea of misery? Manus Island.
Your idea of happiness? Being completely in the moment surrounded by those you love.


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