The songs that made them: Katie Noonan

Katie Noonan is a mother, songwriter, pianist, accomplished business woman and the winner of four ARIA Awards. She’s gone platinum seven times, was the frontwoman for indie-poppers George and has collaborated with such a large number of renowned artists that it’s not possible to list them. In 2013 she was also voted in the top 20 Greatest Australian Singers of all time in a poll. Our Editor, Samantha Morris caught her in a hotel room in Sydney to talk about the Songs That Made Me album and the significance of women in her life.

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Katie Noonan’s new project – an album celebrating the essence of women – debuted at number 8 on the pop charts this month, but she’s very quick to point out the real beauty in its chart success.

“The more albums we sell, the more we make for Pink Ribbon,” she said.

Songs That Made Me is a compilation of Katie and some of her favourite female artists interpreting songs that influenced their lives. And, as Katie points out, the album raises funds for the Cancer Council and its work with women living with breast and gynaecological cancers.

It’s not the first time Katie’s focussed on women and music. In 2013 Katie curated the Songs that made me tour. And she said that was all about celebrating and nurturing women in the music industry.

“That tour felt great,” she said. “It was all women on tour and on stage.”

“And earlier this year I did the I Touch Myself campaign, celebrating the late, great Chrissy Amphlett. That was with the Cancer Council to raise awareness of women’s health and self-checking in relation to breast cancer.”

“Then a few months ago, I thought I wanted to make the Songs that made me tour an annual event – there are so many women I’d like to play with – and I thought, how about we combine it with the wonderful work that the Cancer Council does.”

Katie says that the two worlds met and it all came together in the last two months. Blooms – an Australian owned health and vitamin company are responsible for ensuring that 100% of profits go to the Cancer Council.

“Everyone involved, all of the artists, gave their time for nothing,” Katie said. “They were happy to support women in their fight for cancer. And Blooms gave us the money to make the record, which is why 100% goes towards Pink Ribbon.”

It seems an obvious connection – women on stage sharing their stories and the songs that influenced their careers, working together to raise funds for women who are battling debilitating cancers.

Katie is quick to point out how important it is for women to have time together and nurture eachother.

“There’s that comeraderie of shared experience, motherhood, illness, career or work,” she said. “There’s something very special about women – and women hanging out together – I really nurture friendships with women and value them greatly.”

I can only begin to imagine how hard it was to coordinate such a large group of women to record an album – busy mothers, artists, world-travellers – but Katie said most of the ladies managed to record their tracks in Melbourne.

“More than half the record was made – maybe nine or ten of the 15 tracks – in Melbourne. Sam (Buckingham) made hers in New York, Mia (Dyson) made hers in LA, Anna (Coddington) in Auckland,” she said. “That was just based on schedules and travel.”

Not surprisingly, it’s an impressive lineup of talented musicians that Katie has managed to pull together as well. As well as those mentioned above, the album features Angie Hart, Sarah Beck, Maples Deborah Conway. Stonefield, Renee Geyer and more. Much more.

I’m curious as to whether Katie had to compromise on her wishlist but she’s very quick to say that everyone she wanted is on the album.

“I really wanted it to reflect the diversity of music that women make in the country and to reflect different generations. We have some early blossoming flowers – Melody (Pool) and Sahara (Beck) and then we have women more established in their career – myself and Sam. And then we have legends of the industry – Deborah (Conway), Angie (Hart) and Renee (Geyer). There’s at least 40 years between the youngest and the oldest.”

We talk about motherhood and the challenges of balancing family and touring and Katie points out that the only difference between hers and other families is the amount of travel she does. And not surprisingly, for someone of Katie’s incredible talent and presence, she’s had some formidable parenting role models.

“My first tour after becoming a mum was the Broad Tour,” she said. “Myself, Claire (Bowditch), Auntie Ruby Hunter and Sara Storer.”

Broad was a project of Deborah Conway which saw the four women performing their own and each other’s songs.

“The late, great Auntie Ruby Hunter was a beautiful woman. You talk about a nurturing mother; she’s the epitomy of that. Three of those women were mothers and Sara has since become a mum,” Katie said. “That was so nice being surrounded by women who’d done it. They’d toured, breastfeeding backstage. They just got it.”

“And I had a really interesting chat with Tory Amos. I went to see her play when Dexter was ten days old. I don’t think I even managed to stay until the end. She took me under her wing, took me backstage and said ‘look, I heard you just had a baby’ and she said ‘you can do this. You can continue being the musician you are and you can be a great mum. The industry is full of people who don’t think you can and will judge you for trying to do it. But you can.’”

And Katie’s certainly proving that. She’s writing and recording a new album which she said will be finished in March or April next year.

“That will be my next major performing / recording project,” she said. “We’ve already demoed four or five tuns and pretty much written the record. Colin Leadbetter, who engineered this album – we’re going to produce the album together.”

“I’ll also be returning to work with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Dance Company.”

But before all of that, the Songs that Made Me Tour rolls out across Australia. Kicking off on 30 October in Perth, Katie will join forces with Angie Hart, Melody Pool and Sam Buckingham for a ten-stop trip.

Katie and friends perform songs made famous by artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone, Prince, Terence Trent D’arby, James Brown, Feist, Lucinda Williams, Phil Collins, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Radiohead, The Chordettes and The Pretenders.

The tour wraps up right here on the Gold Coast.

“Soundlounge is the last show of the tour so we’ll be on fire,” she said. “We’ll save the best for last.”

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Songs that Made Me hits Byron Theatre on Friday 21 November and Soundlounge Currumbin on Sunday 23 November.



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