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Folk Fest: Fall under Katherine Priddy's spell

Her haunting vocals and distinctive finger-picking guitar style have captivated audiences worldwide. Fall under Katherine Priddy’s spell at Cambridge Folk Festival this month

Katherine Priddy plays Cambridge Folk Festival (57243762)
Katherine Priddy plays Cambridge Folk Festival (57243762)

When did your love of music begin?

I owe a lot to my parents for their musical education - we listened to everything from Frank Zappa to Steeleye Span, Jake Thackray to Pink Floyd, so I guess I was surrounded by a love for music from a young age. I didn’t really consider performing myself until I went to a Waterson Carthy gig as a little girl and saw Eliza Carthy stomping about on stage with her violin, looking very cool. I told my mum that night that I wanted to make music on stage like her. I certainly never thought I’d make a career out of it though, so I feel incredibly blessed that that has happened!

Who were your favourite musical artists growing up?

I always loved lyric led music, and that’s something that has remained very important to me as I’ve grown up too. I have fond memories of sitting on my parent’s carpet listening to Joni Mitchell’s ‘Song to a Seagull’, as well John Martyn, Pentangle and Sandy Denny. Another big influence was Nick Drake. His album ‘Five Leaves Left’ was on repeat for many years on my CD player - I loved his lyrics and the intimacy of the recordings.

We read that you taught yourself guitar and ended up singing at the O2 Arena whilst still at school! How did that feel?

Truly terrifying. It was the result of entering a competition at school on the recommendation of my music teacher. I hadn’t performed outside of my village at that stage, and to my horror I kept passing through the rounds until I reached the final at the 02. Up until that point I’d always shook so much from nerves when I performed that I had to sit down on stage so my knees wouldn’t knock. However, I remember that, bizarrely, I didn’t shake that day and I haven’t shaken like that since - I think it scared the shakes right out of me!

Your debut EP Wolf has a phenomenal response! We love the video – what was the idea behind it?

Thank you! I was keen to do something that wasn’t too obviously ‘folky’ - you know, walking through fields or singing to the trees in a floral dress. Instead, we went with the complete opposite - smashing things with a baseball bat. The song ‘Wolf’ is about loving and hating someone at the same time, and all the confusing, clashing feelings that come with that sort of relationship, so the delicate wrapping up of the ornaments followed by their destruction is supposed to capture some of that conflicting emotion and frustration.

The Eternal Rocks Beneath, your debut album released last summer, features songs you wrote as a teen. What are some of the themes?

There’s definitely a theme of nostalgia that runs through all the songs, possibly due to the fact that some of the tracks were written so long ago and deal with topics of childhood, home and distant memories - those things that never leave you. The album is bookended by the song of a blackbird, which was always the first and last thing I’d hear as I woke up and went to sleep as a little girl. It will always make me think of being tucked up in my childhood home.

You’re an incredible storyteller through your music – what inspires your lyrics?

Anything and everything! I have countless scraps of sentences, words and some whole verses stored on my phone or scribbled in various notepads. My songs have also been inspired a lot by literature, poetry and mythology.

We’re excited about your Cambridge Folk Festival appearance; what can audiences expect from your show?

I’m really looking forward to it too - I feel like it’s been a long time coming and I’m sure everyone’s really keen to get back in that field and enjoy some live music again! I’ll be singing some old songs from the album for sure, but I might squeeze in a few new numbers too. I’ll also be joined by George Boomsma who provides some dreamy harmonies and atmospheric electric guitar. I’m particularly looking forward to This is The Kit and Seasick Steve, but to be honest one of the best bits about going to festivals is discovering new bands you hadn’t heard of before.”

Cambridge Folk Festival takes place at Cherry Hinton Hall, July 28 – 31. Find out more at cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk

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