April 14, 2015 Interview with Katrina – Ex Katrina & The Waves
Every so often a band creates a song that is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and takes on a life all its own. For English Rock band Katrina and the Waves, that unforeseen success came in 1985 with the international hit “Walking on Sunshine.” Perhaps one of the most recognized tracks of the decade, the band went onto to release a total of nine studio albums, before parting ways at the turn of the century. Synonymously associated with the massive single, everywhere each member went, vocalist Katrina Leskanich has accepted the positivity the song has provided her as well as listeners. Taking on her solo career in 2001, Leskanich has remained active writing and recording music, and in 2015 release her first solo album in a decade titled Blisland. Recently we sat down with the musician for a look at the success of Katrina and the Waves, life after the band, her inspiration for Blisland, touring, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in music for over three decades now, receiving international success with Katrina and The Waves lead by the massive hit “Walking on Sunshine.” Looking back all these years later what was the ride been like for you?
Katrina Leskanich – The ride for the past thirty years has been the shock and phenomenon of the song “Walking on Sunshine.” Back in the day, when we were recording it in the early ’80s, we had absolutely no idea anything was going to happen with this song. It kind of took over my life (laughs). It really did take over all our lives. It was just such a shock that the song went on to have the best career out of all of us. If the song is a person, this song is sitting by the swimming pool with a massive gold watch. The song has been very successful and sort of left me in the wake of it.
I often say to people when they ask what you do, I say a singer from Katrina and The Waves. They give a look of curiosity and then I say “Walking on Sunshine” and then it is all clear. It is really great to be associated with such a positive song. It would be such a struggle if we were talking and we were talking about a song like “All By Myself” by Eric Carmen. It is a joyful song and something to celebrate and be happy about. I guess that is part of the reason for wanting to get on the road this year, do it old school, and play some small clubs with a four piece band. It has been a very long time since I have done any work in America, because I live in London. It has been really fun to try out again and see what happens. The song “Walking on Sunshine” is one of the songs everyone has a story about. The weird films it has been in, Dolly Parton covered, it was a movie last year with Leona Lewis. It is really incredible, I just sit back and watch the songs progress with my own amazement.
CrypticRock.com – The song certainly has taken on a life of its own through the years. It is possibly one of the most iconic songs of the ’80s decade. Katrina and The Waves had a lengthy career as well, releasing nine albums and interestingly in 1997 won the Eurovision Song Contest with “Love Shine a Light.” Being an established act, what inspired the band to enter into the contest?
Katrina Leskanich – I have just had the weirdest career. On paper it looks like a very bizarre career to have something like “Walking on Sunshine” and still keep going as a band was kind of unusual. We knew we were up against it with a song that was doing as well as “Walking on Sunshine.” Every time we tried to take a step forward it was like taking two steps back, because if you are trying to promote a new album or speak about new material, and it was almost as if we kept being defeated that all people wanted to talk about and hear was “Walking on Sunshine.” The fact that we kind of kept going regardless, we just decided at some point to enter into the spirit of the song. We just thanked our lucky stars that we had a song that no matter how bad one of our shows may have been going, we knew we were going to finish with “Walking on Sunshine” and tear the place up (laughs).
Then we got this opportunity to be involved in the Eurovision song contest. It is one of these contests if you have a certain type of song, you are guaranteed to win. We knew we had a winning song, so we thought let’s go for it, what the heck. At the end of the day, about six hundred million people watched the show and it also meant a record deal for us with Warner Bros. It gave the band another life line.
CrypticRock.com – I did give the band a new life line. You certainly have kept yourself busy through the years and launched your solo career in the early 2000s. Seeing you earned the experience with The Waves, as well as contributing vocals to such hits as Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” was it at all daunting to go solo, or was it something you relished in exploring?
Katrina Leskanich – It was very daunting because the band split up around 2001, and the last success we had was “Love Shine a Light.” We were not seeing eye to eye on the future career of the group. I had been asked by BBC if I would like to work on BBC 2, which is practically the biggest radio station in the world. Of course I was very honored to that, so I worked as a radio presenter for a year and a half. Then after that, I did musical theater where I portrayed Ellie Greenwich, who was a wonderful songwriter in the ’50s and 60’s with such songs as “Be My Baby.” I did that for a year and a half as well. Then I started to work some more on my solo music, so yes, it was very daunting. I had been in Katrina and The Waves for twenty years. That was a very comfortable bubble to be in, but that is not always what life is all about. It was only recently I recorded my new album Blisland, that is my first new solo album in ten years. I just decided I was going to get back out there. Touring America was one of those things that had been missing from my list for a long time. I am just putting myself back out there for it and it is kind of like starting all over. Instead I have a very good safety net with a couple of great Katrina and The Waves song including “Walking on Sunshine.”
CrypticRock.com – It is very exciting that you are diving back into this again. In your solo career, you have released five studio albums including your most recent Blisland. This latest album is a very natural progression with a variety of styles. What was the inspiration behind this latest album?
Katrina Leskanich – I was not sure what was going to come and what my inspiration was going to be. It seemed to be naturally where I am right now. It seemed to be a lot of sociological comments on things; the world, and life. There is a song called “Sun Coming Upper” which is my response to “Walking on Sunshine” because it sort of explains where I am in life right now. The chorus goes, “When nothing is going right, I need a sun coming upper.” With so much bad news every single turn, I just want something that will bring back that beautiful feeling from that Summer of 1985 and the way life felt to have such a positive song as “Walking on Sunshine,” which was a total upper. There are a lot of experiences that come in, you live life a little bit, and if you can use music as a creative outlet, which I try to do and let it flow naturally, you can almost see what I think as well as feel about life on Blisland. The name Blisland is the name of a small village in England, which is in Cornwall, which is a place I love very much in the Southwest of England. As soon as you get into Cornwall, you see the sign, and it always makes me feel good. Even though they deem to spell it with an “s.” That is where the title from the album came from.
CrypticRock.com – That is very interesting. The album is very good and it is a very natural progression. It does come across very sincere. It seems like a lot of modern music has become very formulated, and that takes away from the intrigue on where an artist may go next. This album is very refreshing because it is not predictable. Was the diversity essential to you?
Katrina Leskanich – I have a very low boredom threshold. While I was writing the album, because it was all coming together in one chuck, I would write a song and then I would think, “I am going to write another song and do something completely different.” That is kind of what we did in Katrina and The Waves because we would borrow from so many different style and genres. We were sort of distracted, we liked Pop music because the songs were really short and you could get on with it and have fun. I wanted to play with some genres of music that were fun. For example, “Texas Cloud” has a cool ZZ Top beat, and I really like that about it. “Dizzy” is sort of like Mary Chapin Carpenter and “Blisland” is a little bit like The Eagles. I was trying to think of things I loved and enjoyed, especially from the ’70s. I wanted to create good chord progressions and put some really nice melodies on it so it would give me a buzz as well.
CrypticRock.com – It really seems to work well. I think fans will really enjoy this record. You mentioned about coming back to North America and touring here for the first time in a long time. You took part in the Retro Futura Tour. What was that experiences like returning to the stage in North America?
Katrina Leskanich – I contacted an agent I had worked with in the ’80s. I reached out to him and told him if anything comes up I would really like to be involved in some stuff in America. I had reached out on other occasions, looking for a opportunity, the phone did not ring, or it was not that right opportunity. Then he phoned up and told me he had Retro Futura coming up with Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins, Howard Jones, and Midge Ure, “Do you want to join?” I said, “Hell yeah!” That was the first time I had toured in twenty years, and that was what really inspired to me write the album Blisland. I knew all these guys were going to go out with original material. I thought, I should have something to show for myself. There was not any big plan for it though, I just said, “I guess I am going to record an album.” It just happened so easily, and it was so much fun. It really transformed my life and made me feel a whole lot better about being in the music industry. It was so empowering to think I can just do that. It made such a big difference for me and my relationship with music and the business. The tour itself was an absolute blast! We had great tour buses, all the venues were fantastic with loads of people. It was just absolutely wonderful to be back there. It was so wonderful that as soon as the tour finished I went back to the agent and said, “You have to book me something else, I have the buzz now!” I hope this is going to start or finish something (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – That is a fantastic story. It really revitalized your love for music. Now you continue touring North America and will be touring South Africa in 2015. Having been through the whirlwind of ups and downs any music career has, are you really enjoying performing live now more than ever?
Katrina Leskanich – I think so, for sure. Especially since it has given me the opportunity to perform the new material from Blisland. It has been such a long time since I have been able to perform new material. It has really given me a lot of confidence and joy. Instead of thinking I am coming to America just rehashing, obviously I am doing a lot of Katrina and The Waves material, but it is a lot of fun to play “Texas Cloud,” “Dizzy,” “Sun Coming Upper,” and “Every Step.” I believe the songs are good, and without too much fanfare about them, I think people are going to hear them and think they are ok.
CrypticRock.com – Completely agreed. What is very interesting is you have been through the whirlwind, you have seen the success and gone through it all. You can now kick back and enjoy it. The music industry has changed so much, now you are doing this for the love of music.
Katrina Leskanich – When you are feeling alienated by the music business, you begin to think, as I had for a long time, there is no place for me, so why do I even bother? Well I bother because I did not write “Walking on Sunshine,” so I do not have any royalty checks to fall back on. I have to work, but I enjoy working. It feels that when every other part of this business seems to preclude me, I think I can feel that at the very least I can play a little club and another one. I can get some joy from that and I laugh because I feel I found my own way and I do not even need the music business. As long as people still love music, like listening to a live band, and some good songs, there will still be a place for me.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, that is a great outlook to have. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror films. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Katrina Leskanich – It is a genre that kind of escapes me because I get scared to death over the slightest little things. Rosemary’s Baby (1968) is at the top of the list. I think it is one of the most fantastic movies ever made.
CrypticRock.com – That certainly is a fantastic film. Wonderful dialogue and a great story. Did The Exorcist (1973) frighten you?
Katrina Leskanich – I do not have a problem with The Exorcist. In fact, there are a few points in it that I end up laughing. I end up laughing because I am old enough to remember Mad magazine’s spoof on it. The Exorcist is in the same category for me as, well, as Rosemary’s Baby.