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Cambridge Folk Festival 2022: Katherine Priddy explains how she keeps one foot in the folk world and one elsewhere

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Birmingham-based folk singer-songwriter Katherine Priddy has enjoyed a whirlwind couple of years, during which time she released her debut album, The Eternal Rocks Beneath.

Katherine Priddy. Picture: Sam Wood
Katherine Priddy. Picture: Sam Wood

Delivered with an emotional maturity, depth and a tenderness that carries a darker edge, Katherine’s original material highlights musical influences such as Nick Drake, John Martyn, Tunng and The Imagined Village, while her lyrics are often inspired by phrases and imagery from books and poems (she is an avid reader).

The angelically-voiced singer, who emerged onto the scene in 2018 with her debut EP Wolf – which folk star Richard Thompson named his ‘Best Thing I’ve Heard All Year’ in MOJO magazine – is set to grace next week’s Cambridge Folk Festival, as one of the acts on the Sunday.

Speaking to the Cambridge Independent from Birmingham, Katherine had recently returned from Glastonbury, where she made her debut at the festival performing on the Acoustic Stage.

“We did a live performance on BBC2 for that as well,” she reveals, adding that she’s mainly been touring of late. “It’s been a year since my debut album came out so I’ve been gearing up to getting back in the studio, potentially for another album.”

The Eternal Rocks Beneath, released in June 2021, certainly received a positive reception. “The folk prodigy delivers an elegant debut, infused with soaring vocals and nimble guitar-picking,” wrote Neil Spencer of The Guardian in a four-star review.

Katherine says: “It’s gone much better than I could have hoped for really; I think because it was a first album I didn’t exactly have expectations... I hoped it would do well and I was very proud of it but I didn’t really know what to expect, but yeah, I think it’s still in the top 10 in the folk charts this month, which is bonkers a year on. So I feel very lucky and I’m very grateful.”

Interestingly, the album is being pressed onto limited edition pink vinyl, available at the end of August, though it can be pre-ordered. Katherine notes that her sound is “not too folk-y”, adding: “I’ve always tried to make sure I keep one foot in the folk world and maybe one foot elsewhere.

“There are some great young folk musicians, or people doing the same sort of style as I do, coming through, and places like Cambridge Folk Festival are brilliant for finding out about new musicians and going and watching new people on the scene.”

Katherine, who kept busy during lockdown by hosting a series of well-attended live streamed concerts – as well as taking part in online events such as the Philadelphia Folk Festival – has previously been described as a “prodigy” and not just by the aforementioned Guardian reviewer.

She laughs when I ask if that meant child prodigy. “I don’t know, I haven’t read that! I suppose I started writing fairly young; when I was about 13, 14, I started writing songs. For the first album, quite a few of the songs on there are songs that I wrote when I was still in my mid-to-late teens. I don’t know if that quite counts as child prodigy!”

[Read more: Clannad’s special farewell at Cambridge Folk Festival, Suzanne Vega interview: ‘It was as if we had forgotten how to be public humans’]

At what point did Katherine decide to try and follow a career in music? “I think for a lot of my teenage years, and when I was younger, I was quite shy and I didn’t like singing in front of people,” she says, “so it was limited to my bedroom for quite some time.

Katherine Priddy. Picture: Sam Wood
Katherine Priddy. Picture: Sam Wood

“Then I started doing the odd open mic and the odd gig and it wasn’t until I’d gone through and completed uni that I thought, ‘Right, I’ll head back to Birmingham, I’ll go in the studio and just see what happens’ because at that point I was writing a lot more and I was really enjoying it, and it felt like I was beginning to think maybe I could do something with music.

“That was when I was about 20, 21 probably. I’ve been very fortunate that it’s been happening ever since.”

Katherine Priddy, who played The Den in 2019, will be appearing at the Cambridge Folk Festival on Sunday, July 31. For information and tickets, go to cambridgelive.org.uk/folkfestival. For more on Katherine, visit katherinepriddy.co.uk.

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