Portsmouth singer transforms into Kate Bush
As Katy Smith looks out from the side of the stage at Victorious Festival, her heart pounds. What she thought would be a trickle of people curious to see if she could pull off a transformation into Kate Bush, is actually a sea of thousands of music fans eager for a slice of the elusive music legend.
Having disappeared from the public eye as quickly as she arrived, Kate has only done one major tour since 1979. Fans speculate she will never play live again.
So it is no wonder Katy feels nervous as she walks on to the stage as her alter-ego. But with her long dark locks, incredible voice and other-worldly costumes, she doesn’t disappoint.
The Victorious show was such a success the 23-year-old is about to embark on a nationwide tour as Kate Bush-Ka, with her father Gary – the drummer of popular Portsmouth band Kojak’s Revenge.
Katy says: ‘I was absolutely petrified. I didn’t want to walk out on stage but I had to. We were a new band at the time and weren’t even sure if people would be interested in a Kate Bush tribute.
‘But we were so shocked to see about 3,000 people out there. So many people said it was amazing and that they never thought they’d see her music performed. It made it all worthwhile’.
Katy, from Cosham, grew up listening to her namesake’s music. Her parents were huge fans and one of her fondest childhood memories is of putting together a Kate Bush mix tape as a gift for her mother, Sarah. With a smile, she reminisces: ‘She loved it and played it all the time. As a child I thought Kate Bush was crazy but amazing – and I still do.
‘She is my favourite female performer of all time. There are no limits to the expression and creativity in her work.
‘When Wuthering Heights came out in 1978 people said it was madness, that she sounded like a cat and no one would want to listen to her. At first radio stations refused to play her. When they finally did, it went crazy. To this day no one comes close to her, she is incomparable.’
And because of that, Katy, who is studying music at the British and Irish Music Institute, Brighton, is keenly aware that her performances will be thoroughly scrutinised by fans.
That’s why she puts so much effort into her act. ‘I knew I had to make it as authentic as possible – from the costumes, to the dance moves, to her voice. I watched her music videos over and over again and practised her dance moves in my bedroom mirror.
‘Her intonation and tone are so unique, but I got into her mindset and when I’m on stage I am her, I’m not me anymore. Luckily her voice comes quite naturally to me because I sing high, in that range.
‘I studied the songs really deeply – the way she breathes, the trills and even the little laughs. Everything has to be perfect’.
And it’s the same with the band. It was vital that all the musicians in Kate Bush-Ka loved the artist as much as Katy and Gary do. They are joined by Paul Jones on bass, Andy Lee on keys, and Danny Wilson on lead guitar.
‘Her performances are very theatrical’, says Katy. ‘When I’m just me I’m very self-conscious and wonder how on earth I’m going to get on stage and sing and dance without people laughing their heads off.
‘But when I’m Kate Bush it comes naturally to me.’
Katy has always been torn between her love of acting and her love of music. At King Richard School, Paulsgrove, she was in every play and belonged to Groundlings and Portsmouth Players theatre groups.
But music was always in the background.
‘For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an actress but I’ve always loved music.
‘My dad is a drummer and I’ve been going to watch him play since I was a baby. Music has always been a huge part of my life.
‘But while my friends listened to chart music I was listening to The Beatles, the Psychedelic Furs and punk. My parents are a huge influence – they were punk rockers back in the day. And I’ve always had a fascination with vintage music’.
After A-levels in drama and classical music at South Downs College, Katy had to make a choice about which direction to go. Would her future lie in acting or music?
‘I chose music’, Katy beams.
And it’s lucky for Kate Bush fans that she did.
The Kate Bush-Ka tour kicks off at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea, on May 17. For the full details go to katebushkaofficial on Facebook.