At this time of year, the glut of new releases by Australian singers can have a depressing inevitability: from David Campbell to Tina Arena to Human Nature, it seems everyone releases a covers album in the lead-up to Christmas, with varying degrees of success.

That Katie Noonan has joined the pack might be seen as a cynical move, but for the fact that hers is hardly a safe concept: on Blackbird, she reinterprets the classics of the Lennon/McCartney songbook as jazz songs. It’s an album that could see her potentially pissing off a lot of Beatles fans.

And I have! she said, speaking to Sydney Star Observer from her home high in the rainforest outside Brisbane.

I’ve already had a few adverse reactions. That’s fine, that’s what music should do -” I hate music that’s just OK, where you don’t have a strong opinion. It was the same with george; people either loved them or hated them. Blackbird is for people who love Lennon and McCartney. Well, who love hearing it in a new way -” the purists won’t like it. Yoko Ono has already heard it and given her blessing.

She said the unconventional pairing of musical styles made sense to her.

I think jazz and Lennon/McCartney are a good match -” they both grew around the same time. In the ’60s, jazz was really exciting and breaking new ground. Their music was all fuelled by the same changes of the time.

The album was made over a couple of days in New York with a backing band comprised of jazz royalty. The rapid-fire recording process was a new experience for Noonan.

We had one rehearsal day on the Tuesday where I rehearsed 15 tracks and got to know everyone. Wednesday to Thursday, we made the record. It was crazy -” I’d never made a record that fast. I was under a lot of pressure, but I think I sang better than I ever have.

The one constant throughout Noonan’s career has been her willingness to collaborate. It’s this open-mindedness that’s seen her music change wildly from album to album -” who would have expected that the earth mother who once fronted george would go on to turn out a brilliant dance album (this year’s remix project, Second Skin)? She said her musical diversity came naturally.

I don’t think it’s conscious. Music is such a wild, exciting thing, and I love collaborating with different musicians. I’m not into being too comfortable. It’s good to be jumping out of your little box as often as possible -” as long as you’re honouring your instincts, because instincts are all you have to go on.

Despite having two children under the age of three, Noonan is also surprisingly upbeat about her life as a working mum.

It’s been a big adventure. I’ve got many memories of playing around the country and breastfeeding during the soundcheck. I find that double bass cases make fantastic baby beds.

info: Katie Noonan plays the Studio, Sydney Opera House, 9 & 10 December. Book at www.sydneyoperahouse.com or on 9250 7777.
Katie Noonan … -˜I hate music that’s just OK, where you don’t have a strong opinion’.

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