Interview: Katie Noonan – New Album Launch and Concert Tour

Katie Noonan returns to Adelaide this December to launch her new album celebrating the poetry of Michael Leunig

Five time ARIA, AWMA, AIR and APRA award winning musician Katie Noonan is returning to Adelaide this December with folk jazz trio Elixir. Their fourth studio album, A Small Shy Truth, was released on October 27 and is based on the poetry of Melbourne poet Michael Leunig.

The album features the compositions of the three band members – National Jazz Award, ARIA Award winning and Freedman Jazz Fellowship finalist saxophonist/composer Zac Hurren, Freedman Jazz Fellowship winning and National Jazz Award finalist guitarist Benjamin Hauptman and Katie Noonan.

Katie spoke to Glam recently about the album, and about her other album setting poetry to music, The Glad Tomorrow, created in 2019 as a collaboration with the Australian String Quartet and featuring the poetry of Oodgeroo Noonuccal. 

“Some of the text on that album wasn’t the easiest to listen to, So the fact that people did embrace it and really came on the journey with us was very special. I mean, I’ve been a fan of Oodgeroo Noonuccal since I was a little girl, and her overwhelming concept was ‘Don’t hate; educate’.”

In a similar way to The Glad Tomorrow, Katie and Elixir have just released a new album, A Small Shy Truth, based on the poetry of the incredible Michael Leunig.

“Elixir started in 1997, so it’s actually my longest running creative project. 26 years! I was still at the Conservatorium and I had just started my other band, George, the year before. I just was craving an intimate, gentle, acoustic sonic world. George was more of the full band: drums, electric guitars. I also really wanted to celebrate great Australian poetry. Then about 15 years ago I was performing with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in Melbourne, and Michael Leunig came to the concert. We went out for supper afterwards, and I remember just going ‘I love this guy’. He’s such a beautiful person, fiercely intelligent and very wise, but very kind and sort of childlike as well. Every muso I know has a Leunig cartoon on their wall. We immediately felt like kindred spirits and we’ve since become great mates. I reached out a few months later and asked if he’d be interested in working with me. Our first album, Gratitude and Grief, was five years ago, and then this is the follow up.”

Katie shared how the writing process of this album was very collaborative between the trio.

“This record’s very much created by the trio. Most of the songs actually started from piano sketches that Zach had written. Ben would flesh out the ideas and would bring his masterful guitar world to the piano. I’d come in with multiple Leunig books and listen and go through and try ideas. So it was very much a collaborative process with the three of us in the room. A couple of times we’d ask Michael to flesh out a poem or add some extra beats to a line, which he would do for us very graciously. It was very much a collaborative process.”

We asked Katie what it is about touring and performing live that she loves and is drawn to.

“I think all of us will never take it for granted any more. I know as a performer, I desperately missed that connection to the audience in 2020. There is something indescribable that happens when there is a group of people and we’re all gathered for the reason of celebrating sounds and stories. We’re all sort of transported to somewhere special and we escape the everyday grind and sort of just be in the moment together. For me, it’s very special making music with my husband, Zach, because we’ve been together 24 years and we’ve been in this band for 24 years, so we have a unique space that we go to. It’s very special for us to be able to connect again in that creative way whilst we’re not busy folding, washing, doing school runs and making lunches and all the things that parents do.”

Katie and Elixir will be performing songs from their new album this December. Due to demand, a second Adelaide performance has been added.

“I’ve had some of the best gigs of my life in Adelaide. It’s going to be a good two nights. We are going to be joined by Laurel, this gorgeous vocal trio that luckily my friend Adam Page put me onto — they are just divine.”

Elixir – Featuring Zac Hurren, Katie Noonan and Ben Hauptmann

A Small Shy Truth National Tour

Trinity Sessions, Church of the Trinity – Goodwood Rd.
Thursday 7 December – New Show Added

Friday 8 December – SOLD OUT

Photo credit: Zoe Worth

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