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Real name Catherine Anne Davies, Catherine A.D. has been on our radar for some time now.

An unusual talent, Catherine A.D.'s evocative voice wraps itself around songwriting that often verges on the personal. However this isn't some confessional, singer-songwriter affair - Catherine A.D.'s output has a Gothic atmosphere which isn't easily shaken off.

Dark and often quite affecting, Catherine A.D. poured her spirit into last year's impressive debut full length 'Communion'. Given a 'Ones To Watch' profile in the current issue of Clash Magazine, the team were so impressed by her approach to making music that we decided to publish the entire transcript.

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Clash: First things first, how are you today?
Catherine A.D: I’m good thanks.

Clash: So when did you start writing your own music?
Catherine A.D: Probably been doing it properly since 2006/2005. I was quite late coming to wasn’t in till uni. I was a dancer before that and I broke my back, so I had to rethink the whole career…life...etc. All these things are meant to happen.

Clash: Your self taught, how long did it take you to master the piano & the other instruments you play?
Catherine A.D: I played flute classically while I was at school so I think having the classical grounding in an instrument made it quite easy…that sounds really egotistical! Just go to the piano and go ‘la la la’ (laughs). I just think some people…you find it easier to pick up certain instruments, but not the drums! At which I am completely fucking awful. You would think from being a dancer I would be really coordinated, you think ‘ah drums…totally can do that.’ Not a chance, never gonna happen, just like driving. I think it must be the same kind of coordination. You will never see me driving. You will never see me play the drums.

Clash: How essential do you think artists such as Tori Amos & Nick Cave were to finding your own voice?
Catherine A.D: Nick Cave I think definitely, from the simplicity of his songs and hearing him playing the piano…all stripped down. It kind of doesn’t intimidate you or make you think ‘Oh my god, I could never do that’. Then on the opposite end of that Tori Amos, obviously incredibly gifted, classically trained piano-player. That gives you something to aim for; you’ve got those two polar opposites. Something that makes you feel ‘Hey, I can do this’ or something that makes you think ‘one day I can do that’.

Clash: Do you think your English degree helped you when it came to penning your own lyrics?
Catherine A.D: I would like to think that it does help, it terms of lyrics. But then Paul, my producer, only last week was like ‘that’s the problem with you studying English! You try and maker everything fit into this character meter and rhyme.’ It’s good to play outside of those boundaries. It’s a help and a hindrance at the same time, you’re aware that there are different sources to draw on…all the things you’ve read, you might be surrounded by all this inspiration but at the same time, and I think this goes for being self taught and why I’m glad that I am, if you’re too aware of the conventions you can hold yourself to those. Then nothing happens creatively.

It did pay for me to do music though, I got a scholarship through my degree. In less you have a trust fund nowadays it’s really hard to put the time and effort in which it takes to be in a band. That’s something no one is really taking about either. It’s an unsaid. If you look at the amount of people going to private school, it really annoys me because I see so many amazingly talented people give up because of lack of funds. You need such an investment nowadays. A label won’t take you on and develop you; you need to have a finished album. Who’s got those kind of funds? Or even time? I read an interview the other week and they were saying it’s also a kind of sense of class consciousness that someone who has rich parents to fall back on might be more inclined to take a risk because they think ‘oh if it doesn’t work out I can fall back on them’. Where if you come from a working class background like I do there is a sense of your parents wanting you to have stability. ‘What are you going to do if this doesn’t work out? You’ve not started on a career path or anything like that.

Clash: What was is like playing Piano at The Hilton? Good training?
Catherine A.D: Good training in some ways. You learn to deal with a lot of crap. People shouting over your playing, spilling drinks over the piano. It’s bit like being a dancer, you go to class everyday, trying to get good enough. Playing in a place like that is good grounding for when playing live. As you saw at Bestival I don’t stop for anything! Gale force winds, music flying off the stands, it just makes you more able to weather to pitfalls. I laugh in the face of Mother Nature!

Clash: How was it working with Liam Howe?
Catherine A.D: The live album I just did I did with Liam in a day…well an afternoon actually. He would like me to say it wasn’t a full day because if we had a full day we could of done so much more. He came up to me when we had just played the Union Chapel because we’d done some tracks together before and said ‘that would have been amazing if we had just recorded what you just did. It’s a shame we didn’t take it off the desk….we should do it’. He said he had a mate who’s got this space in a church, I didn’t realize he meant Church Studios! Then it took about six-months to get everyone in the same place at the same time - everyone works. We started at midday and finished at 11 o’clock at night and did six-songs. Straight through live…again that’s where playing live a lot really helps you. You can just commit to tape exactly what you do, no studio trickery or anything. It’s good to get rid of some of that vanity; this is how records used to be made.

Clash: Can you tell us more about ‘The Dark Flowers’ project?
Catherine A.D: I think I’m allowed to. It’s basically a project put together by a guy called Paul Statham who’s a songwriter/producer and he had this idea to make a dark country record, kind like ‘Paris/Texas’ soundtrack. Over the past couple of years he’s been enlisting people to get involved with that. He would send me inspirational plays and say do you wanna do something? He’s got Peter Murphy for Bauhaus involved, Dot Allison…one of the girls from Alicia’s Attic. A real motley crew! It’s been really nice to do something like that alongside the album.

Clash: Plans for next year? When is the debut out?
Catherine A.D: I’ve got a record coming out early next year which will be a collection of covers I’ve been doing over the past year. Sweeping together all of the stuff I’ve been doing. Then the debut album is almost finished, I think it will be finished for Spring but it’s hard to tell with these things. Sometimes you look back and think ‘actually I really wanna re-do that’. I would rather its absolutely the way I want it to be than rush it out. I’m not in any rush or race with anybody. Some people have that sense where they feel, ‘I have to get it out now, people need to know about me now’ but I’m just happy to bide my time and do my own thing.

Clash: As part of our One’s To Watch we ask for one unique fact…tricky.
Catherine A.D: When we played The Ivy Rhys Ifans was in disguise at the back bobbing along to the music. There you go, that’s interesting!

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Interview by Sam Walker-Smart
Photo by Roberto Foddai

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