Katrina Leskanich is the lead singer from the Grammy nominated band, Katrina & The Waves famous for hits such as Walking on Sunshine, Going Down to Liverpool, Sun Street and the Eurovision winner Love Shine a Light. Next Thursday Katrina makes her debut at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and Dave Cross caught up with her to find out more.
Hi Katrina, how has 2017 been for you so far?
Pretty good. All is well with my family, plenty of exciting irons in the fire, a new album, The Very Best of Katrina, a new book project ‘Metropoodle – My London Guide’ which will be published on Kindle in September and a US tour.
Wow, busy and are you looking forward to playing at the RVT next week?
I can’t believe I haven’t already played in the world famous RVT! Of course I am looking forward to it. I have heard so many interesting accounts of nights there and hope September 21st will be another.
What can we expect on the night and are you bringing a band?
I have a band of what I call my English Boys. They are all very talented and we make a great sound together. I know them well and we are all on the same page musically. We play the old songs from Katrina and the Waves and my solo material and some of my favourite covers. It’s very raw and very rock and roll.
I’m guessing we will hear Walking on Sunshine and Love Leave a Light, but what about Going Down to Liverpool and Sun Street?
Are you requesting Sun Street Dave? I don’t always play it but I certainly can do. It’s a little lightweight for my tastes. I am planning to perform Going Down to Liverpool which was a song the Bangles covered before we had any success. They had a hit with the song which helped Katrina and the Waves get noticed in America and clinch a much needed deal with Capitol Records in 1984.
Can you tell us how the band came together in the early 80s and is it true you weren’t the lead vocalist at the very start?
I was in a band called Mama’s Cookin’ while my Dad and our family were stationed in Mildenhall, Suffolk. We played American rock music around the USAF bases. Most of us in the band were under age, I was 17, to be in the clubs but I think people just turned a blind eye. I was the manager as well and I think I was given lots of shows practically out of pity. An English guy in Cambridge called Alex Cooper was looking to find a backing band for another Englishman and songwriter called Kimberley Rew, so my American friend Vince de la Cruz and I were recruited and I did sing back up to Kim until he started writing songs for me. We were called The Waves to begin with then somebody said, “Hey, you’ve got a girl in the group. You could get a lot more interest if it was reflected in the name” so we added on Katrina.
Your record Walking on Sunshine has really stood the test of time, and still gets played a huge amount, what do you think it is about the song that has made it last?
It’s a borderline catchy/irritating song that sticks out a mile on the radio and pops out on commercials and movies. The obviousness of the song makes it easy for people to take in and it’s got easy sing-a-longable hooks. My favourite version of Walking on Sunshine is by Dolly Parton who opened with it on her tour a few years ago and apparently is on rotation at Dollywood!
Can you tell us about Love Shine a Light?
We had recorded the song but thought it was “too lightweight” for us. Alex’s brother asked if we had anything for his Samaritans group and their new campaign so out it came. And then Jonathan King, who knew of Katrina and the Waves ability to create pop songs, asked if we had anything for the 1997 Eurovision. We thought that Love Shine a Light might work for Eurovision and handed the song over and thought that would be the end of it until Warner Music Group said they would give us a record deal if WE performed it at Eurovision. I had never seen the show before but I have seen a fair few since.
What do you remember of the night you won?
We were encouraged by how well the live dress rehearsal went and the reaction from the crowd in Dublin. I had been warned about the political voting so I tried to keep a lid on my emotions but it was soon evident nothing could beat that song on the night. Once you win you are caught up in blur of smiles, tears and laughter and that was just the BBC knowing they would get to host the next year in the UK! After the win, I got a telegram from the newly elected Tony Blair and from Prince Charles. At 3am we got back to the hotel and raised a glass or seven with Terry Wogan who introduced me to Black Velvet – Champagne and Guinness and insisted I join him in a celebratory cigar – back in the day when you could smoke in the hotel bar. Those were the days!
What are you up to now?
Well, I’m coming out of a pretty intense period of work after a long US tour with a touring party of 60 people on tour buses for 6 weeks. And it’s not quite over yet with a couple shows in Oslo, taking part in the BBC’s Children in Need Rocks the 80s and some Christmas shows and of course my first night ever at the infamous Royal Vauxhall Tavern!