Kathryn Joseph on enjoying her belated musical success and upcoming Out To Lunch show in Belfast
Acclaimed Scottish singer/songwriter Kathryn Joseph will make her Belfast debut at the Out To Lunch Festival on January 20. The Inverness-born singer and pianist told David Roy about her very successful 2018 and her plans for the future
"I DREAD everything, and then I have a lovely time instead – that seems to be the way it works with me," says Scottish solo artist Kathryn Joseph when asked if she's looking forward to kicking off her new tour in Ireland next weekend.
It's a response entirely in keeping with the 43-year-old Glasgow-based singer/songwriter's utterly unassuming manner: however, by this stage, Inverness-born Joseph must be getting used to her negative expectations being confounded.
Having turned down a deal with Sanctuary Records in the 1990s as she felt unprepared for the responsibilities that came with it, the pianist and singer's musical career received a belated kick-start in 2015 when debut album Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I've Spilled won the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) prize, beating chart-making favourites Young Fathers.
Produced by her Glasgow neighbour Marcus MacKay and released on the Hits The Fan label he runs with his partner, Clare, the album was an intimate, haunting listen created as a way of coping with the death of her week-old prematurely born son, Joseph, whose name she combined with her own for its release.
Thus, Kathryn Sawers became Kathryn Joseph: and if the critically lauded Bones and its SAY win put her in the spotlight, last year's sonically ambitious and even more emotionally intense follow-up From When I Wake The Want Is (also produced by MacKay) further upped the ante.
Released in August via Rock Action, the label run by Scottish post rock gods Mogwai – which also issued the excellent Conflats LP by Out Lines, Joseph's 2017 collaboration with MacKay and labelmate James Graham of Twilight Sad – the record made plenty of 'best of the year' lists.
2018 also found Joseph playing some of her most high profile shows to date, including summer appearances supporting The Cure at their massive 40th anniversary show at Hyde Park, and playing prior to Mogwai at the Robert Smith-curated Meltdown festival.
"I'm not very good at thinking about if anything has been successful or has mattered to anyone," she admits when asked about her achievements of the past 12 months.
"But when I think back on some of the gigs I've got to do it has actually been amazing. To do Hyde Park with The Cure and Meltdown supporting Mogwai, I don't know if anything is ever going to top that – that's probably as good as it gets for me!
"But I've just been enjoying every single gig. That's my favourite bit of it, playing live. It doesn't matter to me how many people are there or how 'important' it's seen to be: any gig is a really lovely and special thing to get to do.
"The fact that people actually do want to come along – I still can't believe people are paying to come and see me. It's a strange and lovely, lovely thing."
Joseph's upcoming shows at Dublin's Workman's Club (January 19) and The Black Box in Belfast (January 20) will be the Scot's first headlining gigs in Ireland.
"It'll be the first time I've ever played in Belfast actually," she tells me. "I supported Neko Case in Dublin last year, which was lovely – I was in Belfast years and years ago, but not to play. So I am really excited.
"It'll be myself and Marcus [playing] and I think we're pretty much going to do all of the new record and then some older songs as well. That'll be the first time that we've done that, actually – before, we would play the whole record and maybe a couple of [older] singles as well, so it'll be nice to see how they work together."
Joseph adds: "For me it's a really comforting thing to do [the album] as a whole, but I don't know how that is for an audience though. I'm not sure if I would like that or if I'd prefer to not know what's coming next."
And, despite both albums being fuelled by fairly raw emotions – the latter release being built around a devastating, recently reconciled break-up with her long-term partner, Kenny (he and their daughter Eve have cameos on the album) – it seems that Joseph is fine with performing songs fuelled by such painful real life experience on a nightly basis.
"I've turned that into something that I'm in control of and feel strong about."
However, as Joseph admits, she is very aware of the emotional impact that her music can have on her fans.
"I do find that it's a weird thing to write songs that I know upset other people or make them sad," she says. "It's really odd – but that seems to be the only thing I'm able to do! I do know that [as a listener], I love to get that feeling myself when it's the other way around."
Looking to the future, with Rock Action head honchos Mogwai now among her growing legion of confirmed fans, surely a potential Mogwai/Kathryn Joseph musical team-up is not beyond the realm of possibility?
"It's funny, Barry [Burns, Mogwai guitarist] emailed me recently and said 'let's write something, but not release it' – I think he was drunk," reveals Joseph of the prospect of taking on the Glasgow experimentalists as her backing band.
"The thing is, when I support them, I'm waiting for that to be over because I just want to see them live. They make a noise like no-one else and it's absolutely mind-blowing every single time.
"So, I'm not sure I deserve them as a backing band – but I am very happy to kneel before them for the rest of my life."
:: Kathryn Joseph, Saturday January 19, Workman's Club, Dublin / Sunday January 20, The Black Box, Belfast, 2.45pm. Belfast tickets via CQAF.com
COMING UP AT OUT TO LUNCH THIS WEEKEND
Bab’s Broadway Brunch, The Black Box, 1pm, £8 (including lunch)
Join Lady Portia Di’Monteand special guest act Miss Onya Becks for an hour of high camp musical mayhem.
:: Saturday January 12
The Allergies featuring Andy Cooper, Oh Yeah, 9pm, £15
Dynamic duo DJ Moneyshot and Rackabeat are joined by MC Andy Cooper (ex-Ugly Duckling) for an evening of beats, samples and rhymes-fuelled funky fun.
:: Sunday January 13
Oxide Ghosts: The Brass Eye Tapes, The Black Box, 3pm. Tickets £10
Created from hundreds of hours of unseen material from Brass Eye director Michael Cumming’s personal archive, Oxide Ghosts offers insights into the process of making Chris Morris's legendary TV series.
Lucy Porter – Pass it On, The Black Box, 8pm, £10
A brand new stand-up show from the TV favourite Lucy Porter, who you may know from the likes of QI, Room 101, Live at the Apollo and Radio 4s News Quiz.
:: Tickets for all events via CQAF.com