Redcliffe’s most famous exports, the Bee Gees, had the family band thing down to an art. It’s something that singer Katie Noonan admires—and understands.
“It’s that magic thing of siblings, you know? When siblings sing together, it’s a really special thing,” she explains.
“It’s a kind of irreplaceable synergy that you get when brothers and sisters sing together. And you’ve just got that connection.”
Noonan’s own family has been heavily involved in her musical life. Her first project, George, saw her sharing the stage with her brother, Tyrone, and in 2004 she collaborated with her opera singer mother, Maggie, on a collection of jazz and operatic tracks.
“I guess we had [it] with George, and obviously the Bee Gees had it on a much larger scale,” Noonan laughs.
“For me to make music, I need to feel love and trust, and with family you have that already... hopefully. And just complete honesty. It doesn’t get more honest than your family. And that makes for good music as well.”
If anyone would agree with that statement, it’s Brisbane’s own Gibb brothers, whose songwriting and performing prowess helped them shift 220 million albums worldwide, and saw them pen hits for artists like Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand. This year, the bi-annual Queensland Music Festival will pay homage to the pop trio with ‘How Deep Is Your Love’, two concerts of Bee Gees favourites performed by award-winning Australian artists, including Noonan. Adding to the wow factor is the support of a full orchestra.
“It’s pretty epic,” says Noonan. “I mean there’s a whole orchestra and a whole band, and then there’s obviously all the singers that we have, and it’s quite a diverse group of singers across quite a few different styles. So I’m looking forward to hearing what they do with it.”
Elements of the show — such as who sings what and with whom — are still being finalised, though Noonan had made sure to snag her favourite tracks.
“I got to pick my songs. Well, I picked two. ‘New York Mining Disaster’: I put dibs on that one early on,” she chuckles. “And then I said, ‘Oh, I’d love to do ‘Night Fever’; that’d be fun’. So I’m doing those two. And then I’m doing ‘A Woman In Love’ with Tina Arena, which is a Barbra Streisand song. And I think — I’m hoping — that I’m doing a duet with one of the boys on ‘Guilty’, which is another Barbra Streisand song; it is just such a killer song, so good.”
You’d be forgiven for uttering the words ‘is that a Bee Gees song?’ at the show. Noonan admits that she had plenty of surprises looking through the song catalogue.
“I obviously love the Bee Gees, you know, the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack and all that stuff. I think they’re amazing songs,” she says. “But I really didn’t realise how many incredible songs they’d written for other people. It’s been quite a journey of discovery for me, discovering these new songs that are really incredible, like genius pop songwriting: back when pop music was just so melodic and interesting and fascinating, you know, and not afraid to take risks in terms of time signatures and grooves and stuff. I mean, it’s seriously funky, some of that old disco.”
It’s hard to name a clear favourite, and Noonan still has a soft spot for her first Bee Gees album.
“I had the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack on vinyl, which I bought second hand for a couple of dollars in the ‘80s. It was just so funky.”
She will, however, concede that the lesser-known Gibb-Streisand collaboration has caught her attention.
“I’ve been really loving listening to ‘Guilty’. I mean, that is an amazing song. It’s a duet with Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb, and it’s incredible. I think it’s about 1980 or so, when Babs was in her total prime. Very, very interesting, great groove, you know, changing time signatures back and forth. And these are songs I’ve never sung before, so it’s been cool to get to know them.”
Noonan hopes that audiences will share her fascination and appreciation of Queensland’s own chart-toppers when ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ fills the newly restored Brisbane City Hall in July.
“It’s basically a great celebration of great talent that grew up here. And I actually really don’t think a lot of people know that. If you go, ‘Oh, do you know the Bee Gees, they grew up in Brisbane’, most people don’t know that.”
The Brisbane connection also resonates with Noonan personally, and is the reason she throws her support — and exceptional voice — behind Queensland Music Festival events.
“It’s amazing that [the Bee Gees] grew up here. I have to travel a lot to do what I do, but I choose to live here because my family are here and because of the amazing lifestyle,” she says.
“And I’m also fiercely proud to be from here, and I love the music that we make here, and the art that we make, and the dance, and all the stuff we make here. I’ve done a few things for the Queensland Music Festival over the years, and I’m thrilled to be involved again.”
Joining Noonan for ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ will be music industry heavyweights Christine Anu, Tina Arena, Anthony Callea, and ‘The Voice’ contender Darren Percival, to name a few. Noonan admits feeling a little star struck.
“I’m a massive fan of Tina. I grew up listening to Tina and thinking she’s amazing, so for me, that’ll be a thrill singing with her. And Darren’s amazing, and Christine Anu’s fantastic, and I mean they’re just all great singers, so I think it’ll be a pretty epic celebration.”
For now, Noonan’s doing what the Gibbs did best: sticking close to her family. After a massive tour that saw her perform in the US and Canada, things are winding up closer to home.
“It’s good that the kids can come on the road with me this week, because it’s school holidays,” she explains.
“I’ve just finished my Songbook tour this weekend. And then I start a tour with Karin Schaupp next Friday. It’s a very busy month actually.
“The good thing is, I go away and my family always know I come back, and that when I’m home I can just be totally kind of theirs, you know. So I just pack everything in while I’m away, and then when I’m home, I’m ‘Mummy’.”
Katie Noonan performs in ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ July 19 & 20 at Brisbane City Hall Auditorium.