voice on the verge #11: katy carr
With two critically lauded albums under her belt and occasional forays into writing for Wears The Trousers, to call Katy Carr a fresh discovery would be a big fib. So we won’t. But what we will say is that the depth of thought and attention to exquisite detail that has gone into the making of her upcoming concept album, set in war-torn Britain in the 1930s and ’40s, sets her even further apart from the crowd. Tapping into the inherent duality of her English-Polish heritage and the stories of her maternal grandmother, Katy embodies both the liberator and the liberated. Coquette is a fearlessly dramatic suite of songs with a very British feel that could only have come from such a unique individual. Get a taster for it tomorrow night when she appears at the Royal Opera House with her 12-piece band The Aviators as part of the annual Voices Across The World event. Here’s an entrée…
* * *
What’s your middle name(s)?
What’s your earliest memory?
Kissing my mother goodbye in the garden and her singing ‘Save Your Kisses for Me’, which was the winning song of the Eurovision Song Contest 1976, performed for the United Kingdom by Brotherhood Of Man.
What did you listen to when you were growing up?
I listened to Polish singers like Anna Jantar, Edyta Bartosiewicz, and 1960s music like The Beatles, Diana Ross & The Supremes and Elvis. I was also a huge fan of Chopin, Mozart and Abba.
Who was your childhood idol?
If you could star in any TV show, past or current, which would it be and what kind of character would you play?
I would love to be cast as Christina Parsons in the 1978 popular British television series called ‘Flambards.’ Set just before, during and after WW1 this story, a novel by KM Peyton tells how the teenaged heroine, orphaned heiress Christina Parsons, comes to live at Flambards, the impoverished Essex estate owned by her crippled and tyrannical uncle, William Russell, and his two sons, Mark and Will. She falls in love with one of her cousins and, later, with the family’s former stablelad.
What was the last good book you read and how did it affect you?
I read a book called ‘Piaf’ by David Bret about the life of Edith Piaf. What a life she had, and what a voice! A truly remarkable force of nature and one person I hugely admire both in spirit and creative perseverance. I was affected by reading this book because it reminded me how important it is for me to do my musical work in this world and persevere with singing and entertaining my audiences. Also, to carry on regardless even when you are taking a nosedive.
What is your most loved item of clothing and why is it so treasured?
I love my green 1930s/1940s tilt hat. I bought it in a vintage clothing store in central Prague over a year ago and it has accompanied me to many gigs and photoshoots. It is such a unique hat and I feel very special wearing it. I was not immediately drawn to it in the shop as it didn’t look exciting lying on the shelf, but as soon as I put it on it transformed itself and it fits like a glove!
What’s your top household tip?
A little toothpaste on the toe plate of your shoes gives that extra shine!
What did you want to be until you decided to become a musician…if you ever did ‘decide’ that is!
A fighter pilot for the Royal Air Force.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever worked and what was so bad about it?
Selling windows. The cold-calling was soul destroying.
What are your pet hates?
Red Marlboro cigarette smoke.
What’s your favourite quote?
“Never interupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done” – Amelia Earhart
Tell us about your favourite instrument…
I could not say as my other instruments would kill me; however, a new member of my clan is Winny from Wisconsin – my 1920s banjolele. He came to me via eBay and has made a great impression so far!
Do you have an instrument you’d still like to learn? What’s stopping you?
Violin. I have my great granddad’s violin but I just can’t seem to connect with it!
If you had to pick one song from your repertoire to represent your entire body of work, which one would you choose and why?
‘Turpin’…this song is about having a sexual fantasy with a real yet mythical character from history, Dick Turpin. It is known that Turpin was in fact a terrible rogue from the 18th Century; however, the image of him riding with a long black cloak and his black horse Bess have certainly evoked many exciting ideas about his life over the years. This story is rooted in England and I love British history and being inspired to write my own music.
Which female musicians have most inspired you?
I love hearing the female voice, per se; however, my favourite ladies are those that have already passed away or in their late 80s. Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich, La Lupe, Billie Holiday, Dame Vera Lynn, Gracie Fields. I have to add George Formby because he is a hero of mine too as well as Al Bowlly, Flanagan and Allen, Noel Coward.
Which artist would you most like to work with – your dream collaboration?
How would you describe your new album in 10 words or less?
A sensual series of songs encompassing dark emotion, wit and humour.
What kind of person would have sex to your music?
A highly charged, sensual and erotic person.
What’s the biggest problem facing the world today and do you have any ideas on how it could be addressed?
Ignorance. Ignorance towards understanding ourselves, ignorance towards understanding the people around us, ignorance towards understanding the world at large, ignorance towards our environment and global warming. Education is the only key to create a world that creates solutions and a way in which people of the world can unite and become strong through knowledge, discourse and tolerance.
Would you rather see a ghost or simply have a piece of toast and watch the evening news?
A ghost, preferably of George Formby so I could have a sing with him on my banjolele.
If you chanced upon Aladdin’s lamp what three things would you wish for?
Good health, happiness, and a Spitfire airplane.
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
I made a rhubarb crumble.
* * *
Tagged katy carr