AN INTERVIEW WITH KATE MULLINS
from the vocal trio, The Puppini Sisters.
Q: When did you decide that you wanted to be a professional musician?
A: In that weird sort of way that kids seem to know what really makes them happy, I always imagined I’d be a musician and that one day I’d have a record deal… So from there, I auditioned for music college during my A-levels. Wish I still had that sort of naive self-belief and determination as an adult!
Q: How did you find your time at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance?
A: I absolutely loved music college. It was both terrifying and electrifying all at once. I felt really challenged in a good way and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment on reflection. I also made some of my favourite life long friendships there making music, drinking a LOT of cheap rosè and setting the world to rights whilst gazing out across the Thames down in Greenwich.
Q: How many tutors and mentors have you had over the course of your career and how have they helped you to become the musician that you are today?
A: I would say that my piano teacher, Haydn Dickerson, had a huge part to play in me going onto be a musician. He just saw my potential and encouraged me in a really nurturing sort of way introducing me to so many different wonderful classical pieces of music. At Trinity, I don’t think I really found a mentor as such but my fellow musicians and peers have proved to be some of my greatest teachers and mentors of my career. My current partner in musical crime, Will Bartlett has certainly pushed me to become a better and more risk-taking musician, but really there are too many of my peers to thank than I can possibly count here.
Q: Where did the idea for the Puppini Sisters come from and how did the band start?
A: In short, Marcella Puppini! An amazing powerhouse of a human being – I never stop being blown away by her relentless passion, energy and capability. She and I had made up the tenor section of Trinity’s jazz choir when we were both studying there and when she’d graduated and realised how much she missed singing in harmony, she called upon my services! Myself, Marcella and Rosie Schura (the original 3rd Puppini Sister) would meet up and listen to The Boswell Sisters and The Andrews Sisters and eat and drink our own body weight in pasta and red wine and planned a close harmony take over the music industry. Our first gig was Vivienne Westwood’s Christmas party at famous Cafe Royal where we performed to track on the world’s narrowest bar with Marcella’s husband David hovering by our ankles making sure we didn’t fall to our deaths in a blaze of martini glasses…
Q: Tell us about your journey with the Puppini Sisters – how did you get where you are, and what have been your highest points?
A: We worked really hard, to be honest! We’ve become the world’s authority in that style of three-part vocal harmony, that’s definitely a high point for me. We were very lucky that Universal came to Trinity to hold open auditions and that gave us the break we needed to get our voices out there. We are now 6 albums into the Puppini Sisters; the last two have been via crowdfunding campaign which has brought us so much closer to the people that listen to and love our music. This has been magical. Recording 3 tracks with the awesome and generous Michael Bublé was also a massive highlight, recording in Capitol Studios in LA, working with the legendary producers David Foster and Bob Rock, that was incredible. Our O2 arena performance with him has got to be a highlight too. That stage is so big it has it’s own microclimate…But the biggest high of all has got to be the extra family members I’ve acquired living, breathing, rehearsing, touring, laughing and crying with my wonderful bandmates. It’s been one helluva journey and it’s not quite over yet…
Q: What are some of the biggest struggles that you’ve had, both as a solo artist and as a Puppini Sister?
A: I think the hardest part of this whole living the musical dream process for me was all of the years I didn’t realise that I was a shy introvert pretending I was 100% comfortable with a career that relied so much on having the strength and courage to put yourself constantly on show. Your face, your body, your voice, it’s all the job. And if you’re really not massively convinced you’re worth all of that attention, you tend to find yourself “playing the part” you think everyone wants you to play to get you on stage or in front of the camera each time and it’s very possible to lose yourself a little along the way. I feel much more at peace with myself these days and wish I could retrospectively give myself a kick up the arse about all that nonsense, but it’s taken a lot of lows and a lot of soul searching. And when you’re doing most of your growing up with the same people, like with any family, it’s had its hard times. But it’s also had its amazing times and when the chips are down, you know you’ve got each other’s backs for life.
Q: Tell us about your favourite gig(s)!
A: My favourite gigs… have got to be the first US tour we did. We were on a 60ft sleeper tour bus bombing around The States with a brilliant American tour manager, Derek, who just filled our downtime with so many brilliant activities. Hot springs in the Rockies, late night “dive” bars in Manhattan and a helluva lotta desert in Texas. It was like being on the best holiday ever and we got to do some wicked gigs in between. Americans really get our show. We were young, excited and full of the joys of the early days with a major record label at that point. It was an absolute blast. We also joined Cindi Lauper on her “True Colours” Tour that trip, which was just amazing. Playing The Greek in LA amongst other venues with her, The B52’s, Joan Jet and Erasure. Gay marriage had just been legalised in California that year and as a huge gay rights activist, Cyndi just put on a great big party for her fans each and every night that tour. Was such an honour to be a part of it.
Q: Is there anything that has surprised you about the music industry?
A: Oh just the usual really, how incredibly ruthless it is. Making a business out of creativity is ultimately just a recipe for maximum rubbish. Crowdfunding is the best gift you could ever hope for as an artist.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given as a musician?
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: You’re enough just the way you are. Honour how you really feel and don’t hide behind ‘the mask’. It’s not what people really want from you either so don’t think it is!
Q: What would you say to a young musician who is interested in starting a music career?
A: Don’t expect to know what you want right from the start. You will grow and you will change so just enjoy the ride. And make sure the people you choose to have around you really care about you and have your back. You’ll need a regular and healthy dose of reality checking every now and then!
Q: Looking to the future, what’s next for you and what are you most excited about?
A: I think I’m ready for a complete career change soon. Who knows where I’ll end up next???! Animal husbandry perhaps… I certainly want a quieter pace living the “good life” in the countryside with my amazing husband so I think it’s time for a total change soon…I’ve loved the career I’ve had to date, and I want to keep it that way. I think it’s as important to know when to dismount as it is to know when to give something a go in the first place.
Q: What’s on your desert island disc?
A:Tom Waits – Picture In A Frame
Pantera – Walk
Mozart – Requiem in D Minor: Lacrimosa
Emilia Martensson – And So It Goes
Nick Cave – Into My Arms
Edward Elgar – Introduction and Allegro Op 47: Moderato
Van Morrison – Raglan Road
Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now (later version)