There are few finer things for a music fan than stumbling upon a new to you artist and then introducing them to as many people as possible. It doesn’t matter when you get into an act, there’s no such thing as early or late, the important thing is finding an artist whose music you love. With this writer able to tell you the day he first heard Katherine Priddy’s music, and the subsequent searching online for tour dates the next day, it’s fair to say there’s excitement here about what the artist is doing next.
With a new album due for release in February (which we’ll return to with Katherine at a later date), SNACK caught up with the singer-songwriter to discuss Celtic Connections, festivals, new music loves and good craic.
You’ve just released your comeback single ‘First House On The Left’ and we’re building up to your Celtic Connections performance. Are you glad to be back?
I have indeed! And yes I am – I’m pleased to be back on both fronts! The last time I performed at Celtic Connections in person turned out to be my last live show for a while, just before Covid back in 2020. So it’s a real joy to be heading back there in January, and I’m delighted to have some new songs to share.
You play in Glasgow as part of the Celtic Connections festival, with The Magpie Arc at Oran Mor, 30th January. This is a standalone from your album tour which comes later in the year, but you are ‘first footing’ us. Is it positive to get something substantial on the board for January?
Absolutely. January feels like such a bleak month in many ways – it’s often a bit of a no-man’s land for musicians, as there aren’t as many tours and shows as audiences (understandably) save money and keep their heads down after all the festivities. Plus it’s just a bit bleak generally isn’t it?
So it’s really great to have something to look forward to in January, and particularly something as well-attended and as celebratory as Celtic Connections. I know it’s a highlight in so many music lover’s calendars, so I’m really chuffed to be invited up there again. It’s the perfect way to kick off 2024, and hopefully it’ll set the tone for a busy year of gigs to follow.
Will it be a solo performance, or will you be accompanied by anyone?
I think for this one I’ll probably be flying solo. I know that Oran Mor is a lovely big space, and I’m hopeful that the acoustics will be kind to a solo vocalist – plus it’ll stand in nice contrast to The Magpie Arc’s beautiful band sound. As much as I love performing with others, I also get a lot of pleasure out of these solo trips sometimes. They feel very empowering, and I always end up meeting new friends at the bar afterwards.
Plus it’s fun to try out new material and play with the timing and space of the songs a little when you’re on your own.
How big is the challenge when going from one record to another in creating a setlist?
I’m only just discovering the difficulties of this! Up until now it’s been fairly easy to choose what songs to play, but now that I’ve got a whole new record of material that I want to share with my audiences it means making some tough choices… I guess it’ll take a bit of experimenting to work out which songs work best and what sort of order to play them in.
There’s only so much you can work out on your own at home – I definitely feel as though I need the pressure and atmosphere of an audience and a show to really get a feel for how the songs work live. I’ll still play some of the ones from the first album too though! And I’m really excited to share the new songs.
What’s more worrying, the thought of playing new songs or the thought of needing new stage chat?
Ha! Thankfully I’ve never found the chat element of shows to be scary. I’ve been cursed with a blabbermouth my whole life, so I’m quite happy chatting to an audience and it’ll be nice to have some new stories to tell. It’s always really lovely being able to explain a bit of the context of a song on stage, though I’m also cautious of explaining it too much – I think it’s important to let the audience make their own interpretations too.
So yes, it’s definitely the playing that’ll be the nerve-wracking part. Like I said, it can take a while for new songs to bed in and I find they can change in small but important ways when I stay playing them live, but it’s all an important part of the process.
What stage are you at with respect to live rehearsals for this show?
Well seeing as it’s probably just going to be a solo show, I’m at the only stage I’ll ever be at: sitting on my sofa running through my songs! That’s another nice benefit of being able to tour solo. It definitely makes the logistics of organising rehearsals MUCH easier. I only have to wait for myself to finish making a cup of tea before I can start.
There’s almost an overwhelming amount of great acts to see at Celtic Connections: without forcing you to be egotistical, why should people come along and see you at Oran Mor?
That’s a tricky question. I suppose I could say that I haven’t performed in Scotland a great deal over the past few years, so I would think there are plenty of folks who’ve never seen me live, and I do think my songs work really well in a live setting, in a way that differs from the recordings, where I can focus on telling the stories and really painting pictures with the lyrics without production distractions – however nice they may be. I’d also say I’m good craic – so you can get swept up in the emotion of a song, and then we can have a little laugh in between.
Oh, and there’s always the pull of being the first people to hear some new songs live… You’re right though, there’s a lot of amazing music to choose from, so I’m just very honoured to be a part of it all.
Festivals like Celtic Connections are a great chance for fans to find new artists they love. Have you found any favourite acts at festivals?
Yes definitely! As much as I love watching the headliners, I think my favourite part of festivals is wandering around to the smaller stages and venues and discovering something new that I can get excited about. A couple of recent discoveries are an amazing Welsh songwriter Cynefin, who I saw at Cambridge Folk Festival, Maddie Morris, who’s got a really incredible voice, and Lukas Nelson – I know he’s a big deal, but I only discovered him at Black Deer this Summer and was totally blown away by his set.
Festivals are great for finding some new names for your record collection! It’s like a little musical buffet. Fill your boots.
As Celtic Connections is a city festival, are you more of an indoor or outdoor festival person? Does the event taking place in January change that answer?
I’m not sure I really have a preference… I suppose I could say that I love outdoor ones in the Summer, but I definitely prefer indoor ones in the Winter! I love the laid back atmosphere of an outdoor Summer festival, where people are free to wander and relax, but I do think for my kind of music there’s a real benefit to having more of a sit-down concert type show. It gives it the quiet atmosphere needed for the lyrics to really come through.
And with all the different venues you still get that stage-hopping vibe of an outdoor festival, just with less chance of getting wet!
How have you felt about the response to ‘First House On The Left’? Did the nerves get any easier with the second album release?
No, I would say the nerves have been much worse for the second album. I understand why they call it the ‘difficult’ second album now. I think I feel as though I’ve set myself a precedent now, and there’s an expectation from my audience that I’m really keen to meet, and I didn’t have that with the first album. No one knew what to expect and I didn’t really have any great expectations for it. I was just happy to make it and hoped people would enjoy it.
I suppose I still feel like that now, but I definitely feel the weight of expectation much more, and I am really, really keen to make sure I do everything I can to give these songs the best chance of being heard. I’m really proud of what I’ve made, so I’m excited to get them out there…but there’s definitely always a little whispering voice of anxiety in the back of my mind!
Luckily the response so far has been really wonderful, so that’s definitely helped. I feel very lucky to have such a kind and supportive audience who are rooting for me. Some of them have been supporting me since I first started out on open mics, so it feels really special to share it all with them.
You’ve recorded and performed the theme song for a new film called No Way Home, can you tell us a bit more about that?
I have! It’s been really exciting to be involved in something totally new. I was approached a year or two ago by the director and producer of the film – they had a song written but unrecorded. It was really fun to be given the lyrics and the melody and then have the freedom to build it up cinematically however I saw fit and put my own stamp on it.
The film itself is absolutely beautiful: all about a little boy on a forgotten council estate who discovers a man hiding in the woods. There’s a big theme of innocence, coming of age and a humanity that sees past race and background, so I wanted to try and capture some of that in the recording, somehow.
It premiered at a film festival in Tallinn which was great fun, and I’m excited to see what happens next. Hopefully it’ll all become available in the UK in due course!
The Celtic Connections festival has become a positive way to start the year musically up here: what are you hoping to achieve in 2024?
Well the new album, The Pendulum Swing, comes out on February 16th, so that’s a really big milestone and one that I hope will lead to lots more exciting things for the rest of the year. I’ve got a headline tour lined up for May where I’m going to be playing the songs live and I’m really excited for those shows…got a couple of surprises lined up!
I do have some other festivals and dates in the bag but I can’t share them yet, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for more announcements. So, yes, new music, new shows, some new territories and hopefully some new listeners to come along for the ride. That’s the aim!
Katherine Priddy plays Òran Mór on 30th January 2024, as part of the Celtic Connections Festival. Tickets here.
The Pendulum Swing is released on 16th February on Cooking Vinyl. Pre-order here.
Photo Credit: all images Damien Hyde