Katy Steele is set to embark on a solo tour of intimate venues around Australia taking in Mojos Bar on Wednesday, August 22 and Thursday, August 23. She will entertain crowds with a mix of recent tracks from her first solo record, 2016’s Human, as well as dusting off a few Little Birdy classics and also providing a sneak peek at her as yet unreleased recent works. MICHAEL HOLLICK caught up with Steele to find out more about the tour, her current recordings and what it’s been like for her becoming a mum.
Before getting into the details about your forthcoming tour, I believe life has been far from boring for you over the past year?
Yes, yes that’s right! I recently just became a mum. She’s only three months old. I don’t really know how to describe it, becoming a mum has been such a different experience to anything that I’ve experienced before. And I did get married over the new year, so I suppose a lot has been happening, and honestly, things have never felt this right so I feel quite blessed.
And despite the arrival of a newborn, you’re just about to embark on a new tour?
Yes, the tour came along and I think Iona (Katy’s newborn) kind of consolidated what it is that is important to me in my life, and while she obviously is a priority, she has also helped me realise just how important music and touring are to me too. I have been recording recently and I took Iona with me into the studio, and it was really odd; rather than be distracted, I found that I was able to really focus, I discovered a sort of calm that I hadn’t come across before which I can only put down to her presence. And for the recordings, I am really excited about the stuff that we have been doing, so I really want to tour and share these newer songs with people.
This is billed as a solo tour, is it just you and an acoustic on the tour? What material are you planning on playing?
Yes, it will be just me, but I will have a piano and an electric guitar as well as the acoustic. In terms of setlists, it’s going to be a bit of a mish-mash. I kind of want to give people a taste of everything so I am going to go back and do some of the Birdy stuff, like a few really old ones, then throw in some off the most recent record (2016’s Human), as well as some covers and some of the newer stuff I mentioned. I have to throw in my newest work. It is funny being a musician, you always want to play your newest song as you think that’s your greatest work (laughs).
Where are you going on the tour?
We’re starting in Brisbane, where we’ve sold out all four shows already. Then from Brisbane we go north to Nambour, which is near Maroochydore, followed by a few shows in Sydney and Melbourne, before heading back to Perth for Mojos.
You’ve chosen smaller, intimate venues for this tour. Is that a deliberate choice?
I really enjoy playing to a room when I know people actually want to be there, and you can make eye contact and feed off the crowd’s emotions and reactions. Even back with (Little) Birdy, I think the smaller rooms were always the best gigs. When you get to those bigger rooms, it’s hard to know what people are getting into and unfortunately some of the magic that comes from performing live is lost.
Do you have a support touring with you?
We just announced that we have Ben Witt on each of the dates, which I am really excited about. We might do a few songs together. He co-wrote No Slave (off the Human LP) and so I am looking forward to collaborating a bit with him, it should be really fun.
You’ve been involved in music from a very early age. How would you compare where you are now from where you’ve been?
Personally, I went through a few rough patches but everything is amazing at the moment; I have got some music on the go, the tour is selling really well, I am in a really good space at the moment and am really happy. But I guess overall, it (the musical business) is a bit depressing. Chances to make money are really slim at the moment, and with places like Target and Best Buy deciding that they won’t stock CDs anymore, that makes things just the little bit more difficult than they already were.
How do you think artists are able to overcome these new challenges?
I think you have to be a bit more creative, and maybe share more of yourself. I’m not sure, but I feel that one way of getting your music across these days comes down to socials. Unfortunately, for me, I’m a bit old school and I like to keep a bit to myself and don’t want to share every single meal I have. I have gone on Twitter, as I feel I should be tweeting more, and I go on there and there are people having these big arguments, like their life is on their phone, and that throws me. I just had a baby and I am really enjoying just being in the real world, so it’s just not for me at this point.
Where are you located these days?
I am living in Perth at the moment, but probably heading to Europe once the tour is finished for a couple of months. Last year we were living in New Zealand, so kind of all over the place, kind of nomadic. Perth will always be there for us, we always have a roof over our head thanks to friends and family so we’re lucky. And I don’t know when we’ll be back after that (laughs).
Do you think where you call ‘home’ affects your songwriting?
I think the location does have an affect on my songwriting. When I come back to Perth, I feel quite comfortable and there is a homely feeling. I do fear however that those nice feelings may make me complacent with my writing, so it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. That’s why I think it’s really good to explore as much as you can. Exploring brings different energies and elements into your songs, things that you may never have considered otherwise and that is why I am really excited to head overseas again.
Finally, is there a plan for a record in the near future?
There’s already seven tracks near complete and, well, that’s a record these days, isn’t it? (laughs). Nah, I wouldn’t do that! I have a few more songs that I would like to add but the core will be these tracks, which are the songs that I worked on and recorded whilst in New Zealand over the past year. We were over there for a year, but as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I had a break, and didn’t really feel like being creative. It was weird. So I am going in and rehashing what I did over there, but I would also like to do something more stripped back. That’s kind of the way that I want to head, really good songwriting and more intimate moments.