Barbara Hodgson catches up with a home-grown talent who takes the Sage stage tonight.
WHEN Katie Doherty became one of the first students to graduate from Newcastle University with a degree in folk and traditional music, she could not have imagined what the coming months would bring.
But, just two years after finishing the country’s first performance-based folk and traditional music course, the 24-year-old singer and songwriter from Middlesbrough is already a familiar name.
She already has a debut album, Bridges, under her belt; has toured abroad as part of band Roll-A-Penny; performed alongside Kathryn Tickell and taken prestigious support slots at The Sage Gateshead.
She also found time to complete an MA in music performance and composition, and earlier this year acted as musical director on a Royal Shakespeare Company production of As You Like It.
Tonight she has her own concert at the Sage, sharing the limelight with several local musicians.
“This concert will be my first full night – I’m petrified and trying to think of other things,” she confesses.
Katie, who now lives in Newcastle, will present her own programme, featuring material from her album and a hand-picked selection of musicians.
She says: “Bridges came out a month ago: it’s a collection of original and traditional material.”
The title represents the links between Katie’s different musical worlds and is also the title of the song which first brought her to the public’s eye when it won her the Musicians Benevolent Fund National Award for Song Creation.
“When the album came out, a lot of people said it’s not your usual folk album,” says Katie. “There are a lot of influences in it.
“My background wasn’t in folk. I was into pop and jazz and I was classically trained as well, so I suppose all of that comes out.”
She wrote most of the 11 songs on her album; for two she penned new melodies for traditional lyrics and there are also two covers – one of a song by Nancy Kerr.
Her voice has been described as “beyond her years” and her unique music has its basis in the traditional.
She explains: “I’m drawn to traditional song as it’s been passed down through generations; it’s basically timeless because people have shaped it according to the society they live in.”
The way it has evolved means it is open to her own interpretation, she adds.
“It’s a good example of how to write a well-crafted song – and all my other influences come into it as well.
“Some see it as traditional song, some as popular; but I always draw from traditional song.”
Katie also plays piano and will get to use a Steinway tonight when she will be joined on stage by 13 other musicians. “There are so many great musicians around here, with the degree course, that I took advantage of that,” she says.
“All except two are graduates from the degree course.”
There will also be special guests, including musician Jonny Kearney from Hexham, who Katie predicts will be “a massive star”, and The Baghdaddies’ drummer, Martin Douglas.
It’s an important night for Katie who takes time and care over her songwriting – “there’s one I’ve been working on for a year and it’s nowhere near finished” – despite the fact she currently works full-time as a store supervisor at Jigsaw in the city centre.
“They’ve been very supportive of me – even when I was away with the theatre for two months.”
But, after Christmas, she plans to cut her work hours to part-time and eventually wants to make music her full-time career.
“I think I’ve probably done a six-to seven-day week since January,” she says. She wants to do more touring next year and will be involved in another theatre piece, this time a play by Valerie Laws called The Selkie, which will premiere at The Sage in February.
Beyond that, her eager fans will have to wait to discover what Katie does next.
Katie Doherty and Friends Christmas Punch! is in Hall Two at The Sage Gateshead at 8pm. Visit firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: (0191) 443-4661. For more on Katie visit wwwmyspace.com/katieband