Featured Artist - Catherine AD

This week's PRS for Music Featured Artist is Catherine AD.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 10 Oct 2011
  • min read
In late spring of 2011, Liam Howe (Marina & the Diamonds, Emiliana Torrini, Sneaker Pimps) captured a new set of string-laden recordings by Catherine AD and her all female string section.

Recorded live in a single day at the legendary Church Studios in London’s Crouch End (once owned by the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart and birthplace of Sweet Dreams, now owned by David Gray), Communion is a collection of songs stripped of drums and modern technology.

A concept born in part out of economic restrictions - 'as my great grandparents must have mislaid my trust fund down the Welsh coalmines...', Catherine half-jokes, it is also testament to a love of the songwriters and studio methods of times past.

As well as a reference to the former sacred function of the studio space, Communion takes its name from the idea of 'sharing something between a group of musicians' and the numerous churches that Catherine and her strings had been playing in the run-up to the recording.

Mastered by Jon Astley (Tori Amos, Emmylou Harris) and engineered by Richard Wilkinson (Magic Numbers), these are songs that are haunted by a heavy heart and that voice, which has been described by Metro as 'like a lake of black honey' (Metro) and as 'gorgeous. sick. beautiful' by Courtney Love.

Catherine AD only began to teach herself the piano when she started university after buying 'the crappiest keyboard from Argos with my student overdraft'. From Welsh stock but growing up in Aylesbury, singing along to Hole and The Carpenters’ harmonies in the backseat of her parents’ car, music was always there but never at the forefront.

Although she describes herself as 'one of those people who devoured the NME religiously every week', she was more concerned about 'studying to death...so I would have the chance to escape by going to uni'.

It was bands like the Manic Street Preachers who provided her with a 'DIY education' as she compiled a makeshift reading list from the references in their lyrics and interviews and gorged on books in the local library, all the while stealing her sister’s guitar and taking the first tentative steps to write her own songs.

All the book-bothering culminated in her becoming the first in her family to go to university, moving to London to study English at UCL. There she began to teach herself to play and write, immersing herself in the albums of Rufus Wainwright, Laura Nyro, Carole King, Fiona Apple, Nick Cave and Tori Amos, before beginning to spin her own confessional tales of remorse and retribution, culminating in the release of a series of home-recorded limited edition EPs via Rough Trade shops.

As a self-taught pianist, guitarist, flautist, Catherine will 'try-and-play-anything-once' and also dabbles with mandolin, banjo, lap steel and accordion. She taught herself to record her own material after being awarded a scholarship to continue studying for a PhD, meanwhile holding down a job playing piano at the Hilton (after they agreed she could sing her own material).

After three DIY EPs which she’s been drip-dropping into the world whilst finishing university, her creative force has already found favour at The Sunday Times and with Lauren Laverne, Rob Da Bank and Steve Lamacq, as well as some of America's most influential bloggers.

She's been an artist in residence at the Southbank Centre, hand-made a few thousand of her hand-stamped ribbon-wrapped EPs, collaborated with Nitin Sawhney & Riz MC, re-interpreted songs by Friendly Fires, Hurts and Lady Gaga, recorded with Bernard Butler, Paul Draper (Mansun) and Jon Kelly (Kate Bush), and supported the likes of Martha Wainwright, David Gilmour, and Anna Calvi.

Communion will be released as a mini album on Outsiderhood on 17 October 2011 and precedes a full length album, to be released in 2012. A limited number of special editions of the mini album will come with their own mechanical music box, each containing a unique excerpt of music from the album.

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