You could say it’s a big deal when a Sunshine Coast performer and recording artist signs up with a music company that has handled acts like Sarah McLaughlin, Barenaked Ladies and Coldplay. That big deal has happened for jazz/pop songstress Katherine Penfold, who has signed with Nettwerk Music Group/Justin Time Records. It’s a creative relationship that has led to the creation of a new album, Sweetest Thing, due out in October.
“This is my sixth or seventh album, but it really feels like my first, because there was nothing that was influencing me other than exactly what I was feeling and hearing,” Penfold told Coast Reporter in an interview leading up to her show-opening appearance Saturday, June 22 at the Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival. “I have just had the most incredible experience with this album, to be myself and go down a truly creative road I never would have gone down otherwise.”
Penfold will reveal a few of her new tunes with her new backup band when she opens the jazz fest afternoon show, including the first single, “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” It will officially be released as a single on June 21, when it can be heard on Spotify and Penfold’s website. A huge hit for Roberta Flack in the 1970s, it’s the only cover tune on the 10-song album. The re-work of the classic was produced by Tampa-based producer Brandon Crumbly, better known as EyeLoveBrandon, who Penfold said, “plays the instruments and created the beat from scratch.”
It’s been said that Penfold’s voice is reminiscent of Billie Holiday, which it surely is, but it’s Billie with a level of refreshing energy not usually associated with the legendary singer. While always musical, Nova Scotia-born Penfold didn’t start singing until she was about 14, after her family moved to Manitoba. A teacher persuaded her to sing at a school assembly, a performance she describes as “pretty awful,” but from then on, she said, everybody considered her a singer and she just went with it. Anyone hearing her now might agree that was a good decision.
Penfold has always leaned toward jazzy pop, and that inclination has evolved on Sweetest Thing into a genre called neo-soul, a sort of mellow, funky jazz. “It’s just so relaxed. When I walk out on stage and sing this, it’s like what my voice was made for,” she said. “I can’t believe this genre exists. I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.”
It’s fitting that a Sunshine Coast audience will be first to hear Penfold’s new work sung live. She and Australian-born husband Luke Starbuck, who now own a home in Langdale, moved to Gibsons in 2010. “The Coast has been so utterly supportive of my career, from the time when I was just playing keyboards and mumbling along at Sweetwater Bistro in Lower Gibsons,” she said.
Saturday’s open-air gig will be well within earshot of that (now-closed) restaurant, but count on it, she won’t be mumbling.