Katie Noonan
Katie Noonan Geoff Potter

Katie Noonan sings songs about our southern skies

IF YOU had told a young Katie Noonan that decades later she would team up with one of her classmates and record an album featuring songs from Cold Chisel, Icehouse, Nick Cave and Richard Clapton, she wouldn't have believed you.

"It's funny how life works out," the talented songstress says with a gentle laugh.

Noonan's career is a rich tapestry of projects that delves and explores a versatile range of music and styles.

From George to Elixar to her solo albums, Noonan's musical journey is ever evolving.

Her latest project, Songs of the Southern Skies is collaboration with classical guitarist Karin Schaupp.

The two women first met at a gifted and talented program as young girls, but neither remembered the other until Noonan's mother pointed it out.

"I first remember meeting Karin at the Huntington Festival which is a classical festival in Mudgee. Classical festivals have a real collaborative feel and often the artistic director will just pair you together. I had heard of Karin and we both mutually admired each other's work," Noonan explained.

"There was this instant chemistry there the moment we played together on stage."

The two always planned to collaborate on a project, but life and babies got in the way.

It wasn't until last year that their plans came to fruition with their EP Songs of the British Isles and subsequent tour.

Overwhelmed with its success the two have teamed up again for a full-length album, Songs of the Southern Skies, which this time looks to songs from Australian and New Zealand artists.

When we chat, Noonan has just returned from a family holiday to Fiji to recharge her batteries ahead of the Songs of the Southern Skies tour.

Dressed in bluebirds, she is a vision of fiery red hair and porcelain skin. Her lips are painted red and her lace earrings bob about as we chat.

She apologises for being late, her water tank had run out of water and she had to race across to a friend's neighbouring property to use their shower.

As she tucks into a lunch of roasted vegies at the Berkelouw Books Café, it is clear she is a regular as she interacts with the staff, swapping stories and anecdotes.

"The kids just love it here," she says as she broadly gestures to the area.

Shortly after her band Elixar's gig at Joe's Waterhole in May, Noonan and her family moved to Doonan after previously living in a small town outside of Brisbane.

"This is the perfect balance," she says with a wide smile.

"We are lucky enough to have a big property and plenty of room for the kids to play. But it's got plenty of cafes and isn't too isolated.

"We chose to live here for the lifestyle and for the kids that was the main reason."

The song choices that feature on Songs of the Southern Skies are an impressive range that crosses genres, from Cold Chisel to Gotye to the Finn Brothers, Bic Runga, Icehouse and Nick Cave.

Each song has been stripped back to work for just a classical guitar and voice.

Almost unrecognisable in their new forms, they are transformed into new pieces of beauty with Schaupp's guitar and Noonan's billowing voice.

"You can barely recognise the songs; that was the idea," Noonan explains.

The hardest part for Noonan was selecting what songs to include.

"Thankfully Australia is blessed with an array of fantastic jazz, folk, classical songs," she says.

The album features an extensive list of guest vocalists and artists from Claire Bowditch to The Living End's Chris Cheney as well the young members of Brisbane's Voices of Birralee.

For the tour Noonan has organised for a local school at each destination to sing the choir part for Noonan and Schaupp's interpretation of Gotye's Heart's a Mess.

For their Pomona gig Noonan is excited to have the choir from her children's own school involved. While her two children are too young to be involved, they are already developing a love of music.

"They are super, super musical," she said.

"We are raising them without TV to encourage them to use their imagination more. They hear a lot of great music all the time."