A recently discovered fact: good songs still exist. And good singer/songwriters didn’t vanish into a denim and tapestry haze in the mid 70’s. They’re still alive and well and gigging at a venue near you. Only thing is, you probably won’t hear about them. You will just stumble upon them. They aren’t shouting down your ears on the radio or staring at you earnestly on the front cover of Rolling Stone (yes I know… apart from Taylor Swift. And Adele. And… well… the ones who have at least three songs in their repertoire that aren’t three chords and a breakup). They’re the quiet ones who are just ‘doing their thing’. Katie Wighton is one of these unique and rare musical beings. She has a combination of technical skill and heartfelt songwriting usually associated with Joni Mitchell or Carole King. Katie’s music draws a little from the classic songwriters of the past, with a dash of the weird, a hint of jazz inflection and impressive vocal artistry. And basically, you should all know a little more about her.
What made you first fall in love with music?
I grew up in a very musical household so I’m sure it stemmed from that. I mean I’d love to tell a specific story of me as a button-nosed 8-year old sitting in a fluffy chair shaped like a dog and singing along to Chains by Tina Arena thinking “I want to do THAT forever!” but I don’t have one… I think music was always such a huge part of the way I expressed myself – it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve realised how incredibly unhappy I’d be without it! I will also admit that as an only child I got used to being the centre of attention and being a singer is a great way of fostering that very unhealthy obsession…
Who are some influences on your writing and vocal style?
I am totally in love with this Norwegian singer called Susanne Sundfor and her voice is incredible. She writes beautiful, interesting melodies and uses harmony that is just predictable enough to feel safe but exciting enough to keep me on the edge of my seat until the last note. I’m sure my love for her has influenced my sound a lot. I love Billy Joel’s ‘classic’ song writing too – his lyrics are so poetic and clever. I think my favourite one is from The Entertainer. “It was a beautiful song, but it ran too long, if you’re gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit, so they cut it down to 3:05.” There are so many artists I could mention – Rufus Wainwright, Ella Fitzgerald, Ben Folds, Bjork, Bob Dylan, The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie – but those two are the big ones I think – for now anyway!
What was the name of the first song you ever wrote?
Could It Be? And it is horrible. Well, I just wrote it when I was young… I was 15 and totally clueless. I did write another one about Australian animals when I was about 8 I think. Can’t remember what that classic was called though. I’m surprised it didn’t make the top 40 actually…
Your instrument of choice?
I think my favourite instrument would be the human voice. I played flute at school and in an Army cadet band (what a ridiculous sentence); I learnt piano for ages and taught myself guitar (badly) in Year 10. Through all of that though I always felt the most at home when I was singing. So I think that even if I was to wake up tomorrow and have the ability to play whatever instrument I wanted, I’d still pick voice. It’s so individual and expressive. And portable!
Any instruments you wish you could play?
I wish I was better at guitar. Three of my girl-friends and I just started an all-girl country outfit called All Our Exes Live in Texas and it would be WAY less stressful if I could shred on the guitar!
Most embarrassing/strange onstage moment?
When I was about 18 I was singing with a big band at a carols night in Brisbane. It was a kids night and Santa came and everything – very PG. Anyway, on this sweltering Brisbane Summer night I sang Let it Snow and got my words muddled. Instead of singing ‘We’ve got some corn for popping.’ I sang ‘We’ve got some porn for copping.’ I don’t think the 8 year olds in the audience noticed but I did see some horrified parents….
What are your thoughts on the Sydney music scene? And your favourite Sydney venues to play?
I love it here. I lived in Brisbane until about 18 months ago and it’s just so different up there! I think that scene suits some musicians really well. There’s some amazing music coming out my lovely home town. But I don’t think I ever felt quite right there musically. Sydney just feels so right to me – I’ve met some incredible musicians and the folk scene is really raging. In terms of venues I just don’t think I can comment. I’ve played at 505, The Vanguard, The Red Rattler, The Newsagency, The Factory Theatre, The Dock – as a member of a band or for my original stuff and they’re all so different. Mostly I think if you’re playing great music with great people to a great audience you’re on to a good thing!
Tough one… favourite Beatle?
Crapsticks! If forced I would have to go with Lennon. He wrote such incredible songs. I love his solo tunes like Oh My Love and Just Like Starting Over was the soundtrack to the days I spent at my Dad’s place. My Dad is a ridiculously big fan of Lennon. I actually bought him a book all about John Lennon for Christmas. Not interesting but true!
Where can we see you play next?
I am about to launch my new EP – big yay! – in April. I am so excited I cannot tell you. We’re touring in March/April and the Sydney date is April 5th. The venue is a bit of a secret at this stage – you can find more out about it on my facebook/website closer to the date.
Any parting words of advice for other songwriters wanting to crack “the scene”?
Oh boy I have nothing! I don’t feel like I’m in any position to give advice – it’s such a fickle business! Right time, right place, all of those things. I guess if I could go back in time and give my past self advice I would say: don’t try to be something you aren’t. As Oscar Wilde said “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”