Walking Home: Katrina Leskanich returns to the recording booth — and AmericaWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been a summer of homecomings for American singer/songwriter Katrina Leskanich. In the 1980s, as the lead singer of pop sensation Katrina and the Waves, she was the voice behind one of the decade’s most infectious songs, “Walking on Sunshine.” So pervasive was the tune that even now, decades after Katrina and the Waves parted (ba dum bum), you’d be hard pressed to find a music fan who doesn’t have the song burned somewhere in the tooth of their mind.
Now, a quarter-century after the release of her defining hit, Katrina is back in a big way. In addition to participating in her first North American tour in 20 years, Leskanich has also released her second solo EP, “Blisland.” Released digitally in August, it was a project, she claimed, that was undertaken almost by accident.
“I didn’t really think that I would still be recording another album. My last studio album was ten years ago. And I just, well, I kind of thought, ‘well, with this tour coming up, it could be a kind of fun thing to do.’ And I wasn’t really sure I even had a record in me,” Leskanich said from her home in England in an interview with Toledo Free Press.
“But then, once I started writing it, it all kind of came so quickly and was such an enjoyable experience. It took me about two and a half weeks to write the material, and then about three weeks more to record it. So it was kind of really fun that it went really quickly, and it was just an absolute joy to work on.”
The resulting piece is distinctly Katrina — reminiscent of that sound that grabbed the attention of pop fans the world over three decades ago — but also functions as a time capsule of the kind of music Leskanich fell in love with when she was first introduced to music. Echoes of Neil Young, Cat Stevens, the Eagles and more can be heard throughout the piece. Discovering those influences through working on the album was an unexpected joy, Leskanich said.
“It’s an enjoyable experience, because you never know what’s going to pop out. So, you know, when the writing is really, really flowing — I wasn’t even quite sure what the music was going to be about until I started writing. And then, I identified a lot of things as [influenced by] things that I’d listened to in the 70s, when I was growing up, my parents’ records.”
In addition, Leskanich took to the road in North America for the first time in 20 years with the Retro Futura tour, alongside fellow 80′s artists Tom Bailey (formerly of the Thompson Twins), Howard Jones and more. Leskanich noted how, even this many years into her musical career, she never takes for granted the joy she gets from performing onstage.
“Obviously, singers have ‘sell-by’ dates, like an athlete. And it’s something that I treasure — I treasure every second that I’m still able to sing, and I still absolutely love it. It’s an incredible buzz. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing to be able to share your music with smiling faces and a captive audience.”
No matter how many miles and years she gets to add to her career, though, it’s “Walking on Sunshine” that will always be connected to her, of course — a fact that Leskanich clearly embraces fully. In addition to performing the classic version of the song on tour, a stripped-down, bluesy remix of the song is featured on “Blisland” — one honed at a gig in her now-home-country of England.
“I was playing in a club called ‘The Borderline’ in London, and it’s very much a country and western, blues bar. And it just didn’t seem appropriate to do ‘Walking on Sunshine’ — I was doing this show, kind of unplugged, without a kit. And so, I just thought, well, I’ve got to a do it a different way.”
From its reimagining of a classic to its new pieces evocative of an age gone by, Katrina said she hopes fans get as much enjoyment out of “Blisland” as the artist herself did while making it — and listening to it.
“I think it will be interesting for people to see the progression of someone through their life, and how their voice has changed, or their songwriting style. And also, how little it’s changed,” Leskanich said. “And I hope because I enjoy it, and I’m happy to sit there of an evening and listen to it several times in a row, I hope that people will feel the same way.”