Singer/songwriter and Grammy nominee Katrina Leskanich continues to ride the wave.
Shortly after signing a world-wide deal with Capitol Records in the 1980’s, Katrina And The Waves’ signature song, “Walking on Sunshine” became a breakthrough smash and a staple of the MTV movement. The success of the band’s debut would be followed up with whirlwind tours and other hits including 'Do You Want Crying', 'Sun Street', 'Love Shine A Light' and 'That's The Way'.
As the innocent, feel-good music of the 80’s transitioned into the grunge and alternative sound of the 90’s and beyond, Katrina kept busy by recording and performing at festivals and shows in the UK and all over Europe - never quite making it back to the U.S.
That is, until now.
For U.S. fans eager for the return of Katrina’s signature voice and songs, the wait is over! Katrina will be joining fellow 80’s alumni Howard Jones, Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins), Midge Ure (Ultravox) and China Crisis for this year’s Retro Futura - a tour that will take the artists all across North America, celebrating the music that defined a generation!
Coinciding with Katrina’s first U.S tour in nearly twenty-five years is the release of her brand new studio album - “Blisland” [release date: August 19th]. An inspired collection of infectious songs and tasty guitar work that also includes a live, “Borderline Blues” version of “Walking On Sunshine”.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Katrina about the upcoming Retro Futura Tour, “Blisland” and what made the 80s so great!
How did you get involved with the Retro Futura Tour project?
I had worked with Rick Shoor [Paradise Artists] back in the day when he worked with Frontier Booking International. When they were setting up the tour he remembered me and thought it was worth the call. I was all in. I intend to have loads of fun and catch up with a lot of people.
When was the last time you toured the U.S.?
The last time was probably somewhere around 1989. We had a little bit of success with a song called "That's The Way" and went over to do some shows, but it wasn't like it was a proper tour. Doing this tour is going to be a lot of fun.
What can fans expect from your set?
For sure, I’m going to play "Walking On Sunshine". I'm also going to play two songs off of my brand new album, “Blisland” as well as a few other Katrina and The Waves songs. One of the songs I’ll be doing is my own version of our song “Going Down To Liverpool”. The reason the band got signed in the beginning was because The Bangles actually did a version of that song. I feel we have The Bangles to thank for initially getting us signed to Capitol Records. Mostly, I’m just going to bring my Fender Telecaster to rock out and have a good time!
What inspired your new album, “Blisland”?
I wasn't expecting to make a record. It's actually been ten years since I released a new studio album, but once I got invited on this tour I decided to go for it. It felt good to express myself and get some things out that had been bottled up. The album was very much influenced by a place in the world that I always tend to be attracted to - the southwest. In the southwest of England, there's a place called Cornwall and it was there where I discovered a little village called Blisland. I thought that was such a great name, so I decided to pull over. They had a fantastic pub called The Blisland Inn and about four hours later [and four-pints] I made up my mind that I was going to make a record and call it “Blisland”.
It’s based on the genre of music that I had grown up listening to. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Mama Cass Elliot and bands like The Raspberries and Rare Earth. I even wrote a song with ZZ Top in mind [Texas Cloud]. There's also a fun song with country influences [Farmer's Song] that was inspired by my parents living out on a farm and not having a clue about anything that was going on in the world.
Let’s discuss a few other tracks from the new album:
As the song says, “Blisland” can be anywhere, as long as you have a heart. I've lived in about twenty-five different places in the world and ended up here in London. It's a song about how anywhere can be home and a reflection of how the southwest makes me feel.
Sun Coming Upper.
I had a few bad years in my life and it was a bit of a nightmare time. It's talking about loss and wondering when I was going to get a "high". It was fun to think of the idea of the sun coming up as a kind of drug – a sun coming "upper".
That's an out and out love song. It's about falling in love with somebody, taking every step with them and then looking back and remembering that every step with them was love. It's as simple as that.
What can you tell me about your musical upbringing?
I was one of six children who grew up in a Catholic family and every Sunday we were trotted off to church, which usually involved a lot of singing. Whenever my parents would set us down for meals in the evening, they would have us sing holy songs before we ate. So there was always a lot of music in the home and my parents encouraged us to play lots of instruments. It grew from there. My parents eventually bought me a guitar and when I was in high school, I remember sitting around in a circle with friends singing Carole King, Carly Simon and Cat Stevens songs. I loved the idea of singing early on, and still do.
“Walking On Sunshine” is such an iconic song, but when you first heard it what did you think?
Originally, we felt it was something that was a bit uncharacteristic of the band. We had always thought of ourselves as being similar to bands like The Velvet Underground or The Ramones. So when Kim [Rew, songwriter/guitarist] came in with the song, it was something that was on the lighter side of our repertoire.
In the beginning, I remember whenever we played it; people would literally flee the dance floor [laughs]. It wasn't until we sent out a demo of four songs to a bunch of DJs that everything started to change. We were thinking about going with the song "Do You Want Crying" as our first single but all of the DJ's said "No, we want the song that starts out with the drums and the "OW!" [laughs]. Even our bass player (Vince de la Cruz) didn't really care for the song but would often say to Kim, "You know that song, Walking On Sunshine? Well, I can't get it out of my head!" We took that as a good sign. So we persevered with it, Capitol records stuck it out and the rest is history!"
What do you think made the 80s so great?
The music from the 80's was very melodic and identifiable. It was so clean and very easy to listen to. When people come to these shows and see someone like Howard Jones play, it'll be easy for them to feel the beat. The other thing about the 80's is that it was a time when people were really able to express themselves eloquently through fashion and dress. It was also pre 9/11 and all of the other really scary stuff we have to live with now. The 80’s were such an innocent time.
What are you most looking to about Retro Futura?
I'm so happy to be back in America and being able to play some new material as well as a few of the old songs. I'm also excited to be a part of a tour with other musicians that I really love and respect. Our itinerary has us all over the place. We even a two-day drive from Chicago to LA. Make my day! I'm happy! It's going to be the tour of a lifetime.
Katrina Leskanich Official Website: http://www.katrinasweb.com/
Retro Futura Tour Dates
Aug. 21: NYC – Best Buy Theater
Aug. 22: Philadelphia – The Keswick Theatre
Aug. 23: Brookhaven, NY – Pennysaver Amphitheater
Aug. 24: Boston, MA – Wilbur Theatre
Aug. 25: Cleveland, OH – Cleveland Performance Arts Center
Aug. 26: Toronto, ON - Koolhaus
Aug. 27: Chicago, IL – Ravinia Festival
Aug. 29: Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre
Aug. 30: Saratoga, CA – Mountain Winery *
Aug. 31: Lincoln, CA – Thunder Valley Resort & Casino **
Sept. 03: Tempe, AZ – The Marquee
Sept. 04: San Diego, CA – Humphreys Concerts By The Bay
Sept. 05: Las Vegas, NV – Mandalay Bay Beach
Sept. 06: Sandy, UT – Sandy Amphitheater
Sept. 08: Dallas, TX – Verizon Theatre @ Grand Prarie
Sept. 10: Orlando, FL – Hard Rock Live @ Universal CityWalk