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Katie Noonan: Music is a family business

Heather Wallace

For those who have followed Katie Noonan’s career since she started Brisbane band george with her brother, it’s no surprise music is a family affair.

She and brother Tyrone followed george with a jazz band, Elixir, as their next venture and Katie has regularly performed with her mother, opera singer Maggie Noonan.

A five time ARIA winner Katie has also gone it alone and performed with some of Australia’s best known musicians, including Tim Finn, Deborah Conway and Clare Bowditch.

She’s performed in everything from opera, jazz, pop, rock and dance and with her new band Vanguard is touring the country, performing at Canberra’s Street Theatre this Friday, 6 November and it’s still a family affair, with her husband Isaac Hurren performing alongside, and son Jonah joining them backstage on the tour.

“I’m taking him to see ACDC soon,” Katie tells me when I ask what music the nine-year-old son of award musicians likes to listen to. “And he loves ‘Uptown Funk’,” she adds, proving a wide-ranging love of music is a family trait.

“We don’t have TV at home, but we did cave in last year and let both the boys have their own iPads. I’m starting to think that might have been a mistake to be honest,” she says ruefully, in common with so many parents.

Katie herself doesn’t remember ever making a conscious choice to be a musician; she grew up surrounded by music and songs, first learning piano before studying vocal training at the Queensland Conservatorium.

I ask her what she thinks of reality singing TV shows like The Voice or the X Factor, and she says that while wishing those that follow that path well, she sees it as little more than ‘glorified karaoke’, not producing anything new and encouraging young singers to reproduce other people’s work.

She is passionate about encouraging creativity in local artists and is critical of former Arts Minister George Brandis’ policies towards arts funding.

With the change of government leadership she is hoping for an improvement, but isn’t holding her breath. “My one wish for the Australian music industry is for legislation that requires Australian radio stations to actually play Australian music,” she says.

Of course, Katie herself has performed the occasional cover, 80s icon Cyndi Lauper invited her up on stage in 2008 for a joint performance of ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’, and my personal favourite of Katie’s work is her exquisite cover of Elton John’s ‘Yellow Brick Road’ on Elixir’s self-titled debut album.

“Elton John was the first pop musician I remember my mum liking,” she says. Her own influences include Jeff Buckley, Bjork, and Ella Fitzgerald, who all have unique sounds.

Her own sound, regardless of genre, is ethereal, and regularly moves audiences to tears. Her new album Transmutant is the product of personal changes she has gone through over the past few years.

Supported by a crowd-funding campaign that reached its target in just 48 hours, it’s given her full reign as producer to explore her various muses, all the while brining the same beauty and clarity of sound her audiences love.

Katie is excited about returning to Street Theatre with her latest album, as it’s a venue she knows well and loves. It’s also a home gig for keyboardist Stu Hunter, and the whole band is looking forward to performing here.

When I ask Katie what she’d do if she wasn’t a musician, she pauses and thinks seriously about the question. “Honestly I’d probably be a music therapist,” she says. “Music is an incredibly strong force, and I can’t imagine not having it in my life. I love maths too though, music is maths equations with heart thrown in.”

She says her sons have that love of numbers too, and if they chose not to follow their parents’ musical path that would be fine. “Maybe they’ve rebel and grow up to be tax accountants!”

the essentials
Where: Katie Noonan’s Vanguard plays at Street Theatre
When: 7.30pm, Friday 6 November
How much: $45
Tickets: Buy them here


We’re giving two lucky HerCanberra readers the chance to win a double pass to see Katie Noonan at Street Theatre this Friday 6 November at 7.30pm.

To enter, send us an email at [email protected] and tell us why you’d like to see Katie and her band perform live in 50 words or less.

Entries close Thursday 5 November at 11.59pm. Winners will be notified by email by midday Fridat 6 November and their tickets kept at the box office for pickup on Friday night. 

Feature image courtesy of Cybele Malinowski


Heather Wallace

Heather’s career in arts and heritage PR spans 15 years, with highlights including working for Sean Connery at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and promoting Australia’s World Heritage places. Her blog, Myths and Misadventures, (, is about life lessons we can learn from the Romans. You can follow her on Twitter @Missmythology. More about the Author