Two of Australia’s most loved female artists – songstress Katie Noonan and classical guitarist Karin Schaupp – have just finished recording their first full-length album, Songs of the Southern Skies.
The album explores music close to home and very close to their hearts, featuring some of Australia’s and New Zealand’s best classical, folk, jazz and pop songs – from the Finn Brothers, Cold Chisel, Nick Cave, Icehouse, Bic Runga, Gurrumul, The Easybeats, Vince Jones and Gotye, through to traditional folk songs and the works of Peter Sculthorpe, Elena Kats-Chernin, Matthew Hindson, Richard Charlton and the like. Mandy Nolan spoke to Karin on the eve of their Lismore show.
How did the two of you come to be collaborating on your new album Songs of the Southern Skies? We met at a music festival eight years ago and had a great instant rapport, both musically and personally. Then after a few years of running into each other we decided to make an EP and tour last year, which then led naturally into a bigger project and tour this year.
How did you go about making song choices; what was it in the songs that you chose that you feel reflects story of place?
It was very hard to choose songs as there are so many amazing composers and songwriters to choose from and we wanted to celebrate a diversity of musical styles.
In the end we settled on works we felt we could reconceive and add something to. Despite the diversity of style they do all somehow sound Aussie/Kiwi.
Why do you think some songs nail it and some just completely miss the mark? Is there a common thread in songs that work? Great music always possesses a sincerity of intent, I think. When that aligns with great talent in creativity then very often you have a wonderful result. But there is also an X factor, the thing you can’t really explain or predict, that makes a piece of music special.
Personally I think Into My Arms is one of the most exquisite songs ever written, yet it’s so simple and almost clunky, almost built on Cave’s? brokenness – is it challenging to take a song like that and give it a whole new feel? How did you approach that song? I love that song too! It was on our shortlist right from the start. We worked with amazing Australian composers to help us reconceive these iconic songs and with this one credit is due to Richard Charlton, who wrote such a divine guitar part for me.
It opens both the CD and the live concert and I think it immediately sets the scene for the lyrical, intimate musicmaking that is at the core of this project for us.
Can you tell me some of the songs that you were toying with but that never made the cut? Oooh, revealing secrets! Sia was on the list; we had several Cold Chisel songs and it was very hard to choose just one. I also had a teenage obsession with some Farnham songs but couldn’t quite convince Katie!
Did the two of you have a similar vision for what you were working towards, or did the differences help shade the project? It sounds quite boring, but we basically always agree on musical matters and our visions were definitely pretty well aligned. We both love every single song on the album and I am so glad I convinced Katie that we’d do one of her songs too!
Why do you think collaborations between existing artists are important? How has this collaboration pushed you both as artists? It’s so inspiring to work with a colleague at the top of their game. I’ve learnt a lot by working so closely with a singer, particularly about breathing. If we breathe together everything falls into place.
What should we expect for your Show at the Star Court in Lismore? A varied, intimate celebration of great Aussie and Kiwi music, from classical music written for this album, to traditional songs, iconic pop classics and jazz. We both put our heart and soul into the music and the greatest joy for us is knowing that people are moved by the music.
Katie and Karin play the Star Court Theatre on Saturday.