5.5 Questions with Karena K
Long time JWS friend Karena K gets the 5.5 treatment this week. She’s a tireless independent music promoter, musician, performer, and songwriter. She’s involved in numerous projects (Rattlin’ Bone, The Blue Valentines, etc) with the prodigious Wily Bo Walker. She also has recorded as a solo performer and as The Vampirettes. Often, you’ll find her hanging out in the JWS chat room and chatting with fans and other performers.
Tell us about the first time you heard yourself on radio.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It’s a bit of a struggle to remember the first time I heard myself on radio. I did some session recordings for the BBC when I was a teenager, but I don’t think that really counts. I think as I was on TV first, it kind of knocked the edge off it.
I think it may have been Radio Clyde when we, The Heartbeats, went in for an interview with them in the 80s, though it may have been live so I wouldn’t have heard it. I just remember being utterly terrified at the time. I had terrible nerves playing on stage or in studios until I was in my early 20s so it’s all a bit of a blur. Was all very exciting though!
Since Wily Bo and I hooked up again 4 years ago it’s been a different ball game obviously and the first play we got 3 and half years back with Drive was arguably more exciting than ones way back as I had a chance to appreciate it and get so much feedback,, which is a new thing. Hearing Midnight Walk for the first time on air was something else though. When it’s a song you’ve written and performed, it is a very different feeling. My heart was in my mouth the first time. Now, I’m somewhat more nonchalant.
As a performer, what’s been your coolest day ever?
I’m very fortunate to have had many cool days as a performer, so many that it’s incredibly hard to pick just one.
The first recording of the early Heartbeats tracks at Park Lane Studios
in Glasgow was both scary and exhilarating and ranks very highly.
I played an enormous venue somewhere in the US, around Chicago, as lead alto with a jazz orchestra, a totally amazing experience and the biggest stage I’ve ever seen anywhere. Playing Dubai Rock Festival with my Blues Band was brilliant too.
I think a couple of Rattlin Bone gigs rank as my favourite days, Upton Blues Festival, people climbed on top of the food wagons and danced, mad day; a theatre gig we played in Figuero Da Foz when we were on tour in Portugal a couple of years back and the day we did the video for Rain On My Footsteps.
However, I think playing the Albert Hall as lead alto with WYJO takes some beating. It was a wonderful experience and was my first time being televised playing too, I will probably never get to play there again so I guess that’s got to be the one.
When you’re performing a song, where does it take you in your head?
Oooh now, that’s a hard one. It depends on the song. I’m very much a lyric girl so it needs to mean something to me. I’m very much a torch singer so I use the feelings I song inspires in my performance. It’s not hard to guess where I am most of the time. If I’ve written it then it’s probably takes me back to the time and place that inspired me to write it in the first place. If it’s a cover then I use the memory it invokes.
What does music give you?
I would say it probably gives me purpose, release, comfort and most importantly company as music is my companion in life. Favourite songs are always there to guide you through the ups and downs. Music is like oxygen for me, I eat, sleep and breathe it…and have done since I was around 2. I can’t imagine and don’t want to know what life would be like without it.
When you’re onstage, what’s different about you from the every day Karena?
On stage I’m not hugely different to who I am in real life, unless I’m performing a role, like The Vampirettes. I’m a very open person and I sing with the same open heart, I let them see the inner me which is risky and not to everyone’s taste. Torch singers seldom are…not everyone wants to see someone bleed on stage, which is how someone described it to me once.
What’s on the ideal Karena K sandwich and what would you wash it down with?
The ideal Kareña K sandwich would be bacon and lettuce on an olive ciabatta roll just out of the oven with butter. I’d wash that down with a skinny latte as that would most likely be brunch….too early for bourbon! Heh heh