Little Sparrow interview / photo shoot

Little Sparrow interview

OK, I admit, I've been slow on the uptake when it comes to Little Sparrow, all the while Manchester's media & influencers have been developing soft spots for this quirky performer, I've been busy - splashing through puddles, blissfully ignorant.


To remedy this I’ve organised a photo shoot / interview at Craige Barker’s new studio, it’s perched above Mcr Coffee Company on Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter. A top location for a top music photographer.


Before the venue was confirmed we previously arranged to meet at The Koffee Pot, usually a safe bet but today the coffee machine’s broke, the engineer reckons he’s found the malfunction but a coffee shop with a broken coffee machine is a grim place, the waiter offers me a glass of water instead, we vacate as quickly as we arrived.


Today's studio guest has brought along friend and photographer - Shay Rowan. I first met Shay a few weeks ago at Mad Manc Cabaret, Little Sparrow was on the bill and performed songs with her band in front of an expectant crowd. To give you an idea of the MMC crowd - everyone in there thinks (and probably with good reason) that they should be on the guest list. They played tracks from Wishing Tree, they went down well. Shay planted the seed that night that led to today’s meet and he’s brought along his camera to document the shoot.


Little Sparrow interview


Little Sparrow was born in Cambridge in late 70’s, her real name’s Katie Ware, she has a rich musical pedigree and has flirted with a variety of styles from opera to rock before finding her niche. She was introduced to music when she was a baby by her father (an accomplished guitarist), her first experience of recording followed shortly after.


My dad would play guitar to me most nights”, she says,


“I can remember drifting off to sleep listening to him play. Weirdly that effect has stayed with me, even now when I’m writing with the guitar I start to feel sleepy”.


“I started experimenting with recording music when I was 5 years old, I would pretend my Sindy dolls were singing and I’d record them into my tape deck, and as I got better I would add piano and other instruments”.


Involuntarily I find myself looking at my musical subject with a raised eyebrow, we start to laugh but I’m secretly wondering if she’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal.


“I agree it sounds a bit crazy but it’s genuinely true” she confirmed.


Before the Sindy’s were retired to join the boxed up antiques in her Dad’s studio their swan song arrived when they featured on the sleeve of Katie’s debut album when she in all girl band called Daze. “One was driving a beach buggy, another hanging out of a tree!” she enthused.


The Band achieved little success but to their credit - they did play The Hacienda.




I love wearing ridiculous dresses, and don’t be surprised to see me wearing a wedding dress on stage


I ask Katie to describe her fashion taste, her style, without hesitation she replies “The Walton’s or Little House on the Prairie”.


“I love wearing ridiculous dresses, and don’t be surprised to see me wearing a wedding dress on stage” she added



She’s humble as she tells me she doesn’t consider herself to be that great a guitarist, piano is her instrument.


“I was desperate to play the piano, that’s all I wanted to do.” She told me


Growing up, the family did have a piano but they also had a tendency for hoarding, before she would be able to sit down in front of it and lift the lid for the first time she would have to negotiate what must have seemed an unsurmountable obstacle for any 9 year old girl, for effect let’s call it Dust Mountain, (just beyond China Crevasse and the Porcelain Peaks). Thankfully her dad had other ideas and flipped the obstacle into a novel way of guilt tripping his little girl into sticking with the instrument, and it seems to have done the trick, her love for the piano is still going strong – almost 30 years later.


“Bear in mind that my parents are hoarders, my dad’s studio room had a piano but the room was absolutely full of tat, boxes brimming with miscellaneous porcelain amassed over decades.


“One day I said to my dad, “I’d love to play that piano” pointing over the wall of boxes, dad looked down at me and said “If I clear a path to the piano you must promise to play it” I’ve been playing and writing little songs ever since”.


She goes on to talk with pride about her dad's recording highlights.


“My Dad is a great guitarist, he was in a prog rock band Tuesday’s Children (picture left) and another group Consortium, they had the same manager as David Bowie and The Three Degrees were the backing singers. I’ve watched my dad playing all my life and I’ve always though I’ll never be that good”.


At this point photographer Craige B takes over and directs proceedings, its mid-day in Manchester and the light is piercing through the wall of windows. He wants us to sit in precise positions to make the most of the light in the room. He’s smiling - he’s happy.


Little Sparrow moved to Manchester in 2000 to join Headway (formed from the remnants of Britpop band Marion), “We used to rehearse just over there” she says pointing out of the studio windows across to Night and Day CafeFull on power ballads, kind of like No Doubt.”



I can see she enjoyed being in the band and she was certainly starting to move in the right circles.


“The record company flew us all to America with a view to touring the states and releasing music” she shared.


“The band were brilliant and we had management in place, we were all ready to go but for one reason or another the final product didn’t materialise, we never managed to have a track released. It was such an anti-climax - and the band just drifted apart. Phil (Cunningham) the guitarist went on to join Electronic with Bernard and Johnny Marr and then on to join New Order, he was my co-writer at the time, losing him was difficult but these things happen and it meant that I would have to do it on my own”.


Undeterred by her anticlimactic brush with the big time and one positive to come from the split was that she now had the control to write songs that weren’t so hard on her voice - songs that suited her voice, songs like Wishing Tree.



Anyone involved in the creative process will appreciate the enormity of making a record or filming / mastering video. It is a massive amount of work, and it’s time consuming. Equally when you have a clear vision and determination like Katie - it can be the most rewarding and beautiful thing in the world


“The album came out May 2014, and Wishing Tree the single came out shortly after but I didn’t have a video for the single, I had lots of creative ideas just no time to explore them” she said


“By the time I had arranged to go to the forest to do the filming then working on the animation and editing - a year had passed”.


“When I filmed the Struck Gold video I said to my video guy It’s gotta be quick and it better be cheap. We did one shot, straight through from start to finish, the whole video is just me staring down the barrel of the camera, the one thing we did was to sing the song at 2 x speed, and it has a very intimate feel”.



“I try not to be too controlling but that’s difficult when you have a clear vision, I know what I want and I certainly have to be there during the editing process, I want to see every split second”.


Wishing Tree the album has been attracting attention in all the right places, heavy rotation on BBC stations has lead to forthcoming dates including Manchester International Festival, Liverpool International Festival & Blackthorne Festival plus a prestigious support to Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman.


Chris and I introduce and Interview the new artists that are coming through. I’ve not presented before but the just encouraged me to be myself so that’s what I did. The show is called The Sound check


Following on from powerful performances at Dock 10 in Media City an opportunity came up to record in BBC’s MPAS studios where she met Chris Hawking (6 music). A chance meeting that has provided the opportunity for Katie to be a presenter on a show aimed at nurturing fresh talent.


“Chris invited me to use the MPAS room – It’s like Manchester’s answer to Maida Vale”. She smiled.


“It’s developed into a programme where Chris and I introduce and Interview the new artists that are coming through. I’ve not presented before but the just encouraged me to be myself so that’s what I did. The show is called The Sound check”.



Having spent a couple of hours with Katie today - I’m feeling the love, It’s easy to see why she gets a positive reaction wherever she goes, she’s cool, interesting and going places.


Is Wishing Tree a strong enough piece of work to progress Little Sparrow as an artist? That’s a real possibility, it’s permeated through the studio sound system during the interview and I’ve found it to be genuinely epic in places, introverted and fairy-tale like in others - it’s a magical soundtrack.


For your chance to #win a CD copy of Wishing Tree signed by Little Sparrow. Share / re-tweet this article. We will pick a winner from the entries on June 13th and announce via social media.


For more on Little Sparrow | @uklittlesparrow


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