In retrospect, it's a little odd that the first time I heard the singer songwriter that I would celebrate so much throughout the year was with a cover version. But in February, Katherine Priddy had taken Daniel Johnston's 'True Love Will Find You in the End' and made something tender and heartfelt and, unlike the handful of earnest old guys that had attempted to cover it, something new and different with it. My word, I wondered, what would her own songs sound like?
It's now December and Priddy has just finished a sell out nationwide tour. This summer, her debut album, The Eternal Rocks Beneath, displayed what a lyricist and performer she is, garnering critical acclaim and celebrity endorsements along the way. It now felt like the perfect time to ask the Outsideleft Artist of 2021 to reflect on the year just gone and her plans for the future.
Outsideleft: We're heading into that period when we tend to mull over the year that has just passed. It looks like it’s been a remarkable but very busy time for you. How are you reflecting on the year just gone as both an artist and as a person?
Katherine Priddy: It’s certainly been a pretty busy year and so much has happened, but I don’t think I’ve really had much time to sit and soak it all up. After so much nothingness last year, it all felt quite overwhelming when the album came out and it had such an amazing response and I’ve just been running along trying to keep up! Looking back I feel incredibly proud of how things have gone, particularly given the difficult circumstances at the moment, and also really grateful to everyone who has shown their support this year. It feels like things have taken a massive step from where I was this time last year which is incredibly exciting and now I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next…
OL: You've recently finished touring with the legendary Richard Thompson. How was that? ...You also supported him in 2018, this time around did you reflect on that past tour and how you've developed since then?
KP: I have indeed! It was amazing. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to play in ridiculously gorgeous venues like the Palladium in London and the Sage in Gateshead, which are venues I just wouldn’t get a chance to play in without people like Richard Thompson giving me that chance. It was my first tour since COVID, so it was a pretty intense way to blow off the cobwebs! And yes, I definitely felt less nervous this time around – I think I’ve grown quite a lot in confidence since the tour in 2018, and feel slightly more deserving of being there. Slightly.
OL: Some of your songs have been informed by the likes of Greek Mythology and Emily Brontë. What other art from outside the world of music has been an inspiration to you?
KP: Good question. Literature and poetry is definitely the main influence for me. I studied literature at uni and still read a lot of poetry, all of which gets stored up in my brain somewhere and some of which wiggles its way into my songs. Frank O’Hara is one of my favourites – I actually whisper a couple of lines from his poem ‘Animals’ at the start of Eurydice, if you listen very carefully…
OL: The album brings together songs that you've written and performed over a long period of time. How does it feel to now see these definitive versions sat alongside one another on a record?
KP: It actually feels amazing to be able to parcel up all these old songs into an album and draw a line under them. I wrote some of them back when I was 15 or 16 and I NEVER thought they’d see the light of day, never mind end up on the radio or being bought on CD. I think if you’d told me that would be the case I wouldn’t have believed you. So it feels like a massive achievement to have them there and also quite a relief to be able to move on from them to newer pastures and songs I’ve written more recently. I’m really excited to get stuck into album two and see how my songwriting has changed since then.
OL: You unveiled some new songs when you played the album launch show at St. Paul's Church earlier this year. How is the new material shaping up? When can we expect to hear something new from you?
KP: New material is shaping up nicely thank you! I think releasing the album and having had such a great response has given me the motivation I needed to get working on album two and take it seriously. The joy of a first album is that there’s no expectation, but it does feel like there’s a bit more pressure on the second one to be good…which I hope it will be! As for time, I couldn’t put a date on it yet. I’ve got so much lined up for 2022 already off the back of the first album, which is still maintaining some momentum, but once things quieten down a bit I’ll definitely be off to hibernate in the studio. Having said that, there’s a couple of things coming out next year, so keep your eyes out!
OL: You played the 'I Saw Nick Drake' shows in the North East back in October and released 'Fly' as a single (with Slow Jane). Is it daunting trying to bring something new to such a revered body of work? And how do you feel about those shows now that you've performed them?
KP: It’s definitely a little daunting when you know how loved the songs are, but I think the key thing with any covers is to make them your own and do something different with them. I’ll never be able to sing them like Nick Drake, because I’m not Nick Drake, so instead I prefer to do my own interpretation that can’t really be compared to the original. I think he would have liked to think artists would be taking his songs and playing them in the future – I know I would!
OL: Finally...You've recorded some fabulous cover versions, and you started 2021 by releasing a version of a beautiful Daniel Johnston song. Are there any songs from the past year that you'd like to cover?
KP: Thank you! It was nice to pop the Daniel Johnston cover out during lockdown. To be honest, I’ve been so busy with my own release and touring that I haven’t had an awful lot of time to sit down and listen to new releases but perhaps that’s something I’ll do this Christmas and let you know? I’m sure there’s been some gems that I’ve missed!
And that's where the conversation draws to a close. Outsideleft's artist of the year deserves a break, time to relax before a busy 2022...and, maybe, to ponder that next cover version.