Kathryn Joseph: 'I am obsessed with the truth of everything, even if it's painful'

Kathryn Joseph: 'they've made the noise I make –this small weird world – make sense to people on the outside.'

credit: Lena Galovicova

Award-winning singer-songwriter has joined forces with Glasgow's Cryptic for an ambitious live performance of her new album

Josh Armstrong was on an opera writing residency at Aldeburgh Music in Suffolk when he first listened to Kathryn Joseph's debut album Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I've Spilled as he wandered along the stony beach.

'I was immediately drawn to Kathryn's unique tone,' he says, 'and her ability to draw me into the depths of her raw and honest beauty, as sublime as the vast crashing sea.'

He knew he wanted to work with her in some way and, on his return, spoke to the artistic director of Cryptic, the Glasgow-based arthouse where Armstrong is associate director. They originally decided to devise a piece of work based on Joseph's debut record, but this changed when she decided to press on with her second record, From When I Wake The Want Is.

What emerged from their meetings was the idea to stage a live performance of this album, an embodied and augmented version of Joseph's musical performances, which are renowned for their raw viscerality. Armstrong realised the potential of the 'experience economy'. As he explains: 'A curated, multi-sensory event provides a new perspective on the musical experience which is enjoyed through other media.' While staged concerts are mostly reserved for large-scale, big-budget tours from high-profile artists, Armstrong decided to work on a small-scale concert. 'I wanted to explore the power and potential in giving Kathryn and her audiences the experience of presenting her live performances in new contexts.'

From When I Wake The Want Is is the kind of poignant autobiographical album that lends itself perfectly to a stage translation. Joseph hones in on themes of passions and secrets hidden away, inscribed onto our bones, and what happens when these etchings wake up and burst through the flesh that was holding them hostage. A work so personal was obviously going to be difficult for Joseph to give over to someone else, but she needn't have worried.

'Josh is amazing and I love being in his company,' she says. 'This has meant the rehearsal process has been really lovely and I've felt very able to cope with something that I wasn't sure I'd be able to. I feel really proud of what we have made.'

Thanks to set design by James Johnson, lighting by Nich Smith and costume design by Markéta Kratochvílová, Joseph says: 'It feels like they've made the noise I make – that is this small weird world – make sense to people on the outside.'

Exploring grief, loss, desire and renewal, From When I Wake The Want Is was written during a year when Joseph split from her partner, experiencing the feeling of missing him, but, simultaneously, surviving through it.

'I am obsessed with the truth of everything, even if it's painful or uncomfortable,' Joseph says. 'I think life would be easier if I wasn't, but then I don't think I would write songs – and playing live is my favourite thing to do, so the weird circle of it all is worth it.'

The experience is a cathartic one for Joseph, and Armstrong also believes that the audiences will feel similar emotions when the production goes on tour. 'Kathryn is such a strong presence when she performs, that it's difficult to ignore,' he says. 'Through her honest and raw performance, I hope that people leave grateful, full, and excited for another day.'

As for Joseph herself, she's mainly hoping that a new crowd will be able to experience her music in a new and innovative way. More than that, however, she admits: 'I am mostly hoping not to cry during the last song like I did all the way through rehearsal.'

Kathryn Joseph: Tramway, Glasgow, Thu 13 Sep; Summerhall, Edinburgh, Fri 14 Sep; Tolbooth, Stirling, Sat 15 Sep; Perth Theatre, Mon 17 Sep.

Kathryn Joseph: From When I Wake

Dramatic presentation of Kathryn Joseph's new album staged by Cryptic.

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