“I gravitate towards music that comes from a place of honesty and integrity.”
That’s Brisbane singer, songwriter and five-time ARIA award winner Katie Noonan on the music that speaks to her heart.
It’s funny how music can transport you so easily to another time and place. To this day whenever I hear her voice, I can still picture the first time I heard Katie sing live. It was 1998 and her band george were launching their debut EP at the iconic Brisbane venue The Zoo in Fortitude Valley.
I remember standing in the audience transfixed along with around 500 other punters. That voice – technically perfect, but with tenderness, beauty and soul. We all knew this was a special band that was going places.
And go places they did – in 2002 george blew up the Aussie charts with their debut album Polyserena. Not only did the album debut at #1, it spent nine months in the Top 50 and was certified double platinum.
Over the past 20 years Katie has cemented herself as one of Australia’s leading vocalists. She’s also proven herself one of the most diverse across her 18-album career, with her records covering pop, classical, jazz and world music.
Katie is also Artistic Director of the Queensland Music Festival, which is running across the state throughout July. Although the festival has been running since 1999, Katie is the first Queenslander to hold this role after taking over from jazz virtuoso James Morrison in 2015.
I’m curious to find out whether such a diverse career has helped to facilitate leading such a large festival.
“I don’t really think in terms of genres, like oh that’s classical, that’s country, that’s pop; I’m drawn to music that I like listening to.”
“I guess that kind of instinct has led my own career and I love making songs that fit in different worlds.”
That diversity is reflected in the Queensland Music Festival program, with concerts ranging from country to hip-hop, classical to jazz and more.
Katie laughs saying there is one genre they’ve yet to explore – “we’ve got everything covered apart from deep heavy metal. I do find that type of music really interesting, we’ve done a lot of diverse stuff over the years, but heavy metal is one that we haven’t quite got to.”
A Festival for the Whole State
The Queensland Music Festival is really that – a festival for the whole state, but with an area the size of Queensland some logistical problems are faced.
“We’re the largest music festival in terms of land mass in the world. We’re running over 800 events in 47 locations – everywhere from Palm Island, Arakun, Chinchilla, Cunnamulla, Barcaldine, Mount Isa, Toowoomba, you name it! We have a large geographical footprint so a lot of the artists will be spending time in quite small planes!”
It was previous artistic director James Morrison, also a qualified pilot, who first started chartering planes for the festival.
“He realised that to get artists to regional towns it’s quicker and cheaper to charter your own plane. In terms of economy of time flying is the best option.”
Singing Out for Mental Health
One aspect of the festival that will make heavy use of chartered planes is the Glenn Shorrock ‘Help is on its Way Tour’. The tour features the former frontman of Little River Band alongside Brisbane songstress Emma Dean, and will play eight dates across regional Queensland, taking in towns from Townsville to Birdsville.
The tour culminates in what’s set to be a spectacular event in Brisbane on Saturday July 27th at the Convention Centre. Rockhampton duo Busby Marou will also join Glenn, alongside Golden Guitar winners The McClymonts and Travis Collins.
The night is significant in that there’s an opportunity for the audience to raise their voices together in support of men’s mental health. This mass choir will be led by the well known tenor and choral director Dr Jonathan Welch AM (Opera Australia, The Choir of Hard Knocks), and will sing Little River Band’s powerful anthem ‘Help is on its Way’.
Being a singer Katie can see the power of communal singing. “I believe that everyone who can talk can sing. When you’re in a group situation with a communion of people coming together to make sound, it always sounds amazing.”
“I’m constantly inspired by community choirs, church choirs and the idea of gathering together in a communion of sound.”
The ‘Help is on its Way Tour’ is not just an opportunity to sing together, it’s an opportunity to make a difference in the mental health space.
“The project is designed to enable everyone to sing, but also spread an important message about self care. The number one killer of our men and boys is suicide, and we do have a dire and significant mental health epidemic. If we can use music and know that seeking help is an act of bravery and strength, that’s my dream with this project.”
Help is on its Way has also been re-recorded as a charity single and features Glenn Shorrock, Wendy Matthews and many more. You can stream or purchase the single here.
Something for Everybody
The Queensland Music Festival is on now until July 28th right across the state. Tickets to events are affordably priced, and there’s a number of free events such as the ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ musical treasure hunt across Brisbane. This event has seen 20 brilliantly painted street pianos sent out to all parts of the city.
The piano pictured above is called ‘Rocking Horse’ and is located at Brookside Shopping Centre in Mitchelton. The piano was painted by Niqui Toldi, a Brisbane based illustrator and designer.