Australian singer extraordinaire Katie Noonan recently kicked off her first Pledge Music campaign to fund the recording of her next solo record and says she was overjoyed to reach the target in just two days. The ARIA award winner, who came to prominence as frontwoman of Brisbane pop-rock band George, is now on tour with her group Katie Noonan’s Vanguard following the release of their EP Peace Is My Drug. I chatted to the 37-year-old singer-songwriter and mother of two about her next album, her hesitation about doing a pledge campaign and her childhood dreams of becoming a nun.
What are you up to at the moment?
It’s all about my new project, which is called Katie Noonan’s Vanguard. [I’m] kind of returning to that organic-band sound than that I guess started with George when I was a baby, literally, 20 years ago … I’ve been doing a lot of more intimate solos and then I did a gig last year and went, “I really want to get back to that band thing.” So that was the catalyst. I’ve been madly working on the record. I did the Pledge campaign, which was wild.
So what made you decide to do a Pledge campaign?
To be honest I’ve been pretty hesitant to do it until now. I think now really legitimate artists who I respect and admire are using things like Pledge … It just feels like it’s a really legitimate thing now. At first I was pretty uncomfortable.
What made you feel uncomfortable?
Because I’m not very comfortable asking for things. Because I feel I ask enough, asking my audience to come to my gigs and buy my albums … It’s just the reality is, things like [Pledge] enable artists to continue making their art …The reaction has been so overwhelmingly positive. It’s genuinely viable model for artists to connect with their audience. So I’ve done a full 360. I originally was quite sort of a bit icky asking for stuff and now I think it’s also really empowering.
What are some of the things you offer in your pledge?
It starts at 15 bucks to pre-order the album and there’s lots of options. What I’m thrilled about is that one of the options was a private concert in your home and they’re almost all gone. But three of them are for gay commitment ceremonies, which I’m so happy about that I’ll get to be part of that day. I wanted to make [the pledge] really interactive. Because I thought: what would I want? I’d want to be on the record with someone I admire. So there are those options, which sold out straight away.
The people who purchased to be on your album, do you know if they can sing?
I don’t know. I didn’t find out yet. But there is fine print. They know they have to be able to sing and to be able to read music.
What has been the biggest difference from doing your album through Pledge or doing it through a recording label?
Creatively it’s not really any different because I’ve always functioned as an independent artist from a creative point of view. If anything, it’s just more positive and more connected. It feels really lovely knowing that people are really on the journey with you. It’s a very new feeling because when you make a record there’s so much questioning and self-doubt. “Is it good? Will it matter? Will it connect with people?” So then with Pledge there was this beautiful sense of validation to sit alongside the doubt, which is really special.
When you put an album together, do you write with your audience in mind or do you write for yourself?
I write for myself. I think you can only really write for yourself, because otherwise it starts to become about other people’s agenda and not your own … I think, as I’m getting older, I’m just less afraid of saying how it is and not hiding behind lyrics so much any more.
What can people expect from the tour?
Big, beautiful, kind of lush band sound is what I’m aiming for. But of course there’ll be lovely intimate quiet gentle moments as well because I love that light and shade. But hopefully a sense of escapism, escaping from the world for an hour or two and just to be in the moment and enjoy music.
What is the best part of your job?
Hearing songs in your head and imagining them and dreaming them and then them becoming reality is a very special thing. You listen back to a record and go: wow – that’s what I heard in my head and it has worked. So the best thing is connecting with people and strangers feeling like friends straight away. That’s what music does.
What is the worst?
The worst is just living out of a suitcase and being away from my kids. I’m pretty sick of hotel rooms. It is lonely. I just miss my family. That’s the main thing. I miss my kids and my husband. But we’re grown-ups – I actually think space is really healthy for adult relationships. But kids, they don’t want mummy to be away. So it’s tough. But then if I was a stay-home mum, which I have huge respect for, I know I’d go crazy because I wouldn’t have that creative [side]. I need to try to do both, like all working mums, aside from the financial reality of needing to be a working mum as well. So yes, that’s the hardest thing.
Is there anyone who you want to work with that you haven’t yet?
Joni Mitchell, she is my absolute hero. Stevie Wonder. I’d go back in time and play with Jeff Buckley. Ella Fitzgerald, I’d love to be able to see her sing. I love Björk.
If you had never gone down the career path that you did, what would you be doing?
I was going to be a nun originally. Then I wanted to be Jem from Jem and the Holograms – they were an all girl rock band. And then I wanted to be an investigative journalist. I think there’s a little bit of all those bits in what I do now because I’m a musician – I’m in a band. Investigative journalist – I write but in a different way. And there is a sense of spirituality with what I do. So I guess there’s the nun bit … [But] I’m so glad I didn’t become a nun!
Katie Noonan’s Vanguard perform on March 18 (Lizotte’s, Dee Why); 19 (Newtown Social Club); 20 (Heritage Hotel, Bulli); 21 Brass Monkey, Cronulla; 22 (Lizotte’s Restaurant, Newcastle).
WE WENT TO Newtown Hotel, Newtown.
WE ATE SPINACH & FETTA PIE with garden salad; TOMATO & BUFFALO MOZZARELLA, basil pizza.
WE DRANK watermelon and mint granita’s.
KATIE WORE a Leona Edmiston dress.