What were your intentions when you first started out making Guiding Light?
It’s been four years since I made my last album, and so much has changed in that time – I got married, I’ve had two children – I just felt like I was in a very happy, settled, thankful place, and I thought that was a nice sentiment to go into the studio with. I wanted to make an album that wasn’t just about all the notes I can hit, but that actually just really came from my heart. So it was about trying to create an atmosphere, rather than making it all about the big, high notes.
How did you go about choosing the songs that you cover on the album?
Quite a lot of this album has elements that remind me of my choirgirl days, so there are a few hymns, anthems and altar songs. But it was really just that I wanted to focus on the lyrical content of the album, so that whatever background you’re from, you could interpret the words in your own way. For example, Blinded By Your Grace is an unusual song for me to record, but the lyrics really seemed to fit the style of the album. It’s well known for being recorded by a grime artist, Stormzy, but when you read the lyrics, it’s very much like Amazing Grace – it’s that idea that something has got you back on track, or something has helped you see the light. So it was looking for songs that fit that sort of theme.
A standout on the album is Xander’s Song, which you wrote for your son. That must have been really special to record.
It was really hard! Because I didn’t write it with the intention of it being on the album. He had fallen asleep in my arms one evening, and we were just in this moment of peace, and as I sat there I wrote this lullaby-prayer for his life. I didn’t intend for anyone else to hear it, other than to give it to him one day. But I ended up playing it to my producer, and straight away he said: “we have to fit this into the album somehow.” So we did. And I’m sure one day Xander's going to be absolutely mortified and be so embarrassed by it, but it was nice for me to be able to give him a little gift like that.
You’re coming up to the North as part of your tour next year. What can fans expect?
Guiding Light is my most personal album, so it’s really opening my heart: still with some of the songs that people would expect, but I feel like they’re extra-emotional. So what I think is lovely about this tour is that it’s not an arena tour – it’s going to be in lovely theatres and nice-sized venues across the UK. I always feel strongly that we should have a full symphony orchestra, so I’m bringing the London Concert Orchestra and my conductor, Anthony Inglis, and I’ll be singing songs not just from the new album, but also from all my previous albums. I think what’s nice when it’s An Evening With… is that it’s not just about the music – we’re going to have a lot of fun in between. Whether that’s anecdotes as to why I chose a particular song, or asking the audience for requests or dedications (which inevitably end up being really funny), we have a really good laugh with it all. So it becomes more of a fun night, rather than just a concert.
What’s been one of the funniest requests you’ve had?
I once got a request that read: “Katherine, we’re here with our grandfather, who is celebrating his 90th birthday.” At that point, everybody clapped. Then it said: “please will you dedicate Time To Say Goodbye to him?” I was just like, I think that’s totally inappropriate! I don’t think they meant it like that, but it was so funny.
You’ve worked with some amazing musicians over the years. Who would you most like to work with that you haven’t already?
It’s so hard, because I have been really lucky – I’ve already worked with Placido Domingo, José Carreras, Andrea Bocelli and Bryn Terfel. Bryn’s actually on the album, so that was really nice to record with him. I do wish I could have sang with Pavarotti, just because it would have completed the Three Tenors, and he had such an incredible voice.
Who are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
At the moment, my playlist is literally just children’s audiobooks and Disney! That’s the world that I live in now. I do listen to a lot of podcasts, but even getting to listen to music is stretching it for me at the minute, so that’s what’s being played in our house right now.
What’s next for you after the tour?
Next year is already shaping up to be quite a busy year. I’m performing in Switzerland, Argentina, Japan, potentially Dubai and Australia. My husband and I have been making a music education TV programme for children, so that’s something going on behind the scenes that will probably be released next year as well. But I also need to be Mummy, that’s my priority – just making sure that, with all this travelling, I still get to be around my kids as much as possible.
Katherine will be performing at Sage Gateshead on 30th April, and at the York Barbican on 24th May.