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Kate Walsh & Jono McCleery- 3 November 2010

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If you missed her at the Albert Hall with Mark Knopfler or touring with Turin Brakes, then don't miss this one !

“Other songwriters sometimes say ‘how can you write such personal songs? They’re astounded by my honesty. I mean, I really really wish I could write a song for its own sake…you know, think of an interesting subject and write a song about it. But I can’t do that. I just can’t. I write because I have to…I need to get something off my chest. It’s painful, but necessary…”

Calling Kate Walsh a singer songwriter is like saying Van Gogh was a cartoonist. Kate is, er, different. A 26-year-old from a sailing town in Essex who’s been likened to Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush and Jane Austen, she’s ferociously independent…in every sense. She adores Debussy, studies cello, listens constantly to Classic FM (and little else), bemoans the demise of vinyl and CDs (she finally got an iPod when iTunes gave her one after her last album ‘Tim’s House’ knocked Take That off the top of the download chart but rarely uses it), is entertainingly scathing about the conventional music industry (“it’s fickle, selfish, impersonal and backstabbing”) – and has established her own cottage industry to do it her way. And when she sits down to write a song you’d better lock up your hearts for you instantly become Kate’s close personal confidante as she bares her soul with shocking candour.

Most of her songs are about…well, men. Specifically men who’ve messed with her emotions. “Yes, my heart is on my sleeve all the time,” she sighs. “Writing songs about them is a sad process, but at the same time it’s ‘oh wow, look what I got out of that experience’ and I feel better. And then I get on stage and re-live it all again ...”

Listening to the very real pain and fragility of her music you imagine the author must be a quivering wreck permanently teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Far from it – chattering away ten to the dozen like she’s known you all her life, Kate Walsh is warm, funny and likeably self-deprecating, fully recognising the self-indulgent nature of the confessional songwriter’s art. “Nooooo, I don’t think I’ve had a terrible life at all,” she giggles. “I just mope and wallow more than anyone else. Maybe a part of me deliberately creates havoc so I’ve got something to write about – we like a bit of mayhem us songwriters. But now I’m changing all that and other things are becoming more important to me than some man who’s done the dirty on me. I’m not giving stupid men the time of day any more.”

You almost believe her. She’s currently single, lives in Brighton, though ‘stupid men,’ do still run amok on her beautiful third album ‘Light and Dark’ (“yes, I do have a light and dark side – we all do, don’t we?”) The title track is particularly poignant, a guilt-ridden reverie on a love triangle that opens enticingly…’I left you for another man and he doesn’t deserve me…’

“It’s the saddest song I’ve ever written. It’s about two men and they both heard it independently and knew it was about them,” she grimaces. “There was a lot of trouble…it was awful going through it, but it’s a great song! I think it’s one of my best songs ever.” One of the first times she sang it in public – at London’s Union Chapel – it upset her so much she barely made it to the end. It happens. “When you’re singing it makes all the sentiments so real again. I sing mainly with my eyes shut and I feel every word. I try to make an instrument of my voice, like playing a wonderful, emotive piano piece, lilting on certain words and phrases…”

No wonder a trail of fans approach her after gigs to recount their own life stories, telling her she’s singing their personal soundtracks. “I think I give people a platform to identify with their own feelings. As painful as it is, I’m lucky to have this skill to get my feelings out. And I give other people a voice for their own feelings.”

With its images of abandonment and arrows in the heart, ‘I Cling On For Dear Life’ is even more anguished; while ‘As He Pleases’ tackles the helplessness of love over an atmospheric backdrop of lapping waves and gorgeous strings. Yet it’s not all music to cut your wrists to – ‘June Last Year’ is far from defeatist (“I won’t give you up without a fight”) and comes with a delicious country spring in its step; while there’s a spirit of defiance about the break-up depicted on ‘Greatest Love’. A quirky sense of joy sustains ‘Seafarer’ and the album’s only real anger and bitterness is reserved for deception of a different kind on ‘Old Man’.

“I’m not a revengeful person. I always think everything is my fault. I don’t write to get revenge – it’s more ‘if they hear this, they’ll know how much I loved them…’”

Not that it’s all about tragic love - ‘1,000 Bees’ is about getting drunk. “It’s the dark side that comes out of me when I’m inebriated. It’s a cycle. I get drunk, do silly things, feel terrible, write about it, feel miserable… and get drunk. Not that I drank a lot, but when I did, it didn’t take me to nice places. Anyway, I’ve given up drinking now and my head is clearer than it’s been for years.”

All-time hero, Olly Knights from Turin Brakes, makes guest appearances on two tracks, ‘Trying’ and ‘Greatest Love’ on ‘Light & Dark’, a far more elaborate, sophisticated affair than its predecessor ‘Tim’s House’, the album that came from nowhere to cause an internet sensation. Nobody was more surprised by its success than Kate herself.

“I never really felt I fitted in and was never completely comfortable being myself. I’d written songs but didn’t think I could ever be a performer. I know I’d never jump out of a plane and I felt exactly the same way about going on stage. So I didn’t dream of being a singer. I never thought I had a special voice – I’m still shocked by it all.”

You’re advised, however, to give her a wide berth before her gigs when she takes homeopathic remedies to calm herself. “I get so nervous I get Tourettes basically. I have these uncontrollable outpourings of obscenities. Most people go inward when they’re nervous but I go around swearing.”

She insists she’s not ambitious for fame or glory, but is immensely proud of the bigger sounds that characterise ‘Light & Dark’. And, now writing songs on piano rather than guitar, insists that ‘stupid men’ will no longer be tolerated in her songs… or personal life. “For the first time, I feel happy about myself. Do you know what? I think I’m growing up…”


Please welcome new Ninja signing Jono McCleery, a man whose voice has been compared – with good reason – to the likes of John Martyn, Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley. McCleery self-produced and self-released his first album in 2008, the funding coming from donations from his fans, including such high profile names as Vashti Bunyan (who will appear on the forthcoming album) and BBC radio DJs Tom Robinson and Fiona Talkington. Whilst legendary folk-rock/jazz bassist Danny Thompson is a vocal supporter of Jono. For his new record he has collaborated throughout with electronic producer Fybe, and arranger, Matt Kelly.