'Live life with a smile and it's easier to cope'
Performing is in Katie Bottomley’s blood and she followed her mother, Lynne, into the spotlight, taking to the stage at the tender age of six. The singer, songwriter, musician and self-confessed Barry Manilow fan has continued to entertain during lockdown uploading living room performances to Barney Musicians Share despite being diagnosed with a brain tumour and a rare genetic disease affecting her nervous system.
How did you get into music and what instruments do you play?
My mum, Rose Lynne Bottomley (nee Murray), was a professional singer and heavily pregnant with me at the time so inevitably I was fated to perform. I was pretty much born with tap shoes, song and jazz hands.
Apparently, I was dancing around wearing only Terry towelling nappies and a bowler hat before I could talk.
As soon as I could speak, singing became a big part of my life. As well as singing, the first instrument I learned was at ten. My mum taught me guitar and that year, after hearing Tees Valley Jazzmen, I was fascinated by the beauty and elegance of the clarinet.
I was hooked. Years later and after much practising I gained my Grade 8 with ABRSM. With the same music school, I gained the same grade in piano, which I love.
As for instruments in my house? Well, there are probably about 14, from cello to flute, mouth organ to penny whistle.
I would love a set of drums but fear the neighbours would have some kind of breakdown.
What inspires your music and which other artists have influenced your music?
When I first started writing I seemed to be inspired by my angsty teenage feelings. Lyrically it was all about society and how life generally appeared to my then young self.
Looking at some of the lyrics you can tell who my influences were, such as PJ Harvey, Nick Cave or Joni Mitchell. I tried too hard then. Too hard to be political and poetical. Some of the things I wrote were good and am proud to have written. Some however could have been written Ricky Gervais’ alter ego David Brent.
Growing up, my style changed. Now I’m influenced by pretty much anything, I’m influenced by humour in life itself. I generally try to not take myself too seriously. I posted a piece in BMS (Barney Musicians Share) about lockdown and how it made me feel. It was very much tongue in cheek. Some people kindly compared it to a Victoria Wood-esque song. She was a big influence of mine growing up, wonderful humour.
What are your favourite musical genres?
It’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is. It’s impossible to answer. I don’t know, I guess it depends on my mood. I love Northern Soul. I probably listen to that more than anything but then again, I love to listen to ACDC to Johnny Lee Hooker or Led Zeppelin to Mozart. I’m letting my geekiness come out now, my secret is out but I’m a Barry Manilow fan as well, can’t beat a bit of Copacobana. Lol.
The dale has a wealth of musical talent, what do you attribute this to?
There are so many platforms for musicians and anyone involved in the arts locally. We are so lucky to live in an environment which supports all forms of the arts.
We have The Hub, in Barnard Castle, which has a wide range of music lessons and performances to local choirs and music groups. We have musicians who meet every Tuesday at the Cricketers at 7pm and the fabulous Open mic nights at the Old Well every Thursday 8pm. If this isn’t available to us due to the Virus, we don’t let it stop us. We do things online; we have the earlier mentioned BMS and create a different kind of platform. We are built of sturdy stuff us musicians.
When and where was your favourite performance?
I don’t know about my favourite, but one that stays in my mind with great fondness is my very first gig on stage.
Mum was doing a performance on the stage at Middleton Village Hall one early evening. I remember watching her from the wings, the spotlight shining down on her as she sang. She looked so beautiful. I watched and as I filled my mouth with yet more liquorice, I felt so proud. I must have been about five or six. I wiped my hands on my pink corduroy dungarees and was unprepared as after the audience applauded, mum beckoned me on stage. I walked on with liquorice all over my face, hurryingly finishing off the remnants in my mouth before donning my blue leather cap and singing My Old Man. There were a few giggles from the audience, but that was one I will never forget.
Do you have a special place where you write music?
In a word, no.
Apart from music, what other interests do you have?
The older I get the more I want to experience travel. Life is too short to sit in one place. If I had the money, I’d travel the world, however, I’m a musician and unless I win the lottery that may not happen. I love cooking. My son told me I should be a chef the other day which was a huge compliment, so cooking is something I love. I make a mean beef madras.
Do you have a favourite lyric, if so, what is it and who wrote it?
Regarding having a passionate night in with her husband Barry, Freda responds to her down trodden partner and says:
“Not Meakly, Not Bleakly
Hit me on the bottom with a woman's weekly”.
Of course, from Victoria Wood. (You are all going to have that song in your head for the rest of the day now).
How are you keeping busy while the country is under lockdown?
Learning. Unfortunately, I have been very ill this year. I had a pituitary tumour partially removed in April and one month ago I was diagnosed with a 1 in 100,000 rare disease called Porphyria. I spent most of the last couple of months in hospital sadly.
However, I have learned within this short time that a light heart and a glass half full approach to life in general is so important. It’s my illness that has made me realise how trivial some things are that we would normally take to be of huge importance.
Personally, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about things, stressing over what at the end of the day is nonsense.
I have learned that life goes on regardless, and if you do it with a smile, it makes it all so much easier to cope with.
Name three good things you have learned about people in the past few months.
How incredibly kind, generous and supportive people can be.