Following on from a bold and captivating array of releases over the last few months, Manchester-based singer and songwriter Catherine Burgis aka Test Card Girl has now returned with her latest effort 'If You're Feeling Down'.
While moving away from her usually diverse and textured sound, 'If You're Feeling Down' sees her return to her humbled roots. Stripping back nearly all the production, leaving just an acoustic guitar and her own stunning voice, this new delight cements her as one of the more enticing names emerging right now.
So with the new single available now, we sat down with her to find out more about her background and what has inspired her most over the years.
What was the first instrument you fell in love with?
Since as far back as I can remember I’ve always had some form of toy keyboard featuring terrible (but brilliant!) MIDI sounds and demos. I think this has given me a love of the piano and synthesisers ever since, but also those kinds of synthesised sounds you only get on keyboards from a certain era!
What kind of music did you love as a teenager?
I was a classic 90’s Manchester teenager – obsessed with indie bands, Oasis, the Stone Roses, the Smiths – and I’d gone a bit further back to get into all the 80’s stuff, especially New Order. But I also had a love of more folky stuff that my mum had introduced me too – Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman, Bert Jansch, Joni Mitchell to name but a few.
What was the first album you remember owning?
I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this but I went through a long and devoted love affair with Canadian band Barenaked Ladies. My brother bought me their album ‘Stunt’ and I didn’t listen to much else for a few months!
What is the one song you wished you could have written yourself?
Wow – that is an endless list. I think probably a Stephen Fretwell song called ‘Do You Want to Come With?’ – it’s really simple but I love everything about it. Just shows you don’t need loads of fancy production (something which I sometimes struggle with!). Or (if I’m allowed two!) Tilted by Christine and the Queens. That song blew my mind.
Do you have any habits or rituals you go through when trying to write new music?
Not really because songs sort of hit me when I’m not trying to find them. If ever I sit down and say ‘right leave me be for 12 hours I’m going to write a song’ then nothing happens, and I just end up eating quite a lot of snacks.
Who are your favourite artists you have found yourself listening to at the moment?
I love discovering songs from soundtracks – I’m a serial Shazammer! I recently discovered Sault and Raury that way. I’ve been listening to a lot of IDER, Susanne Sundfor, Marika Hackman – all artists/bands I really admire. I’ve gone back to old favourites too during lockdown – Tallest Man on Earth, HAIM, New Order (specially a song called Your Silent Face that I’ve had on repeat), Fontaine’s D.C who I saw live before lockdown and think are incredible, Big Thief, Johnny Flynn, The Skinner Brothers, and I read Johnny Cash’s autobiography which sent me down a listening rabbit hole!
If you could open a show for anyone in the world, who would it be?
Christine and the Queens – her shows are so amazing I would just be in some kind of dreamland.
What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a musician?
Well, so far, I’ve only been a recording artist rather than a performing one as I only did my first gig in February and then we got locked down! But what I love about releasing music is that something that meant something to you can mean something to someone else – maybe something completely different – but it can move them in some way or make them smile. It’s an incredibly empowering feeling to be doing something that in a really small way might make a difference to someone getting through their day. I use music as a constant soundtrack to my own life so to be part of someone else’s is amazing and makes me feel I can be braver in trying to express things the more people say they are enjoying the music.
And what is the most frustrating part?
I think to build a self-sustaining career as an artist is just an almost insurmountable challenge due to the way streaming revenues work and, at the moment, the lack of live opportunities. The whole thing can feel a bit like you’re haemorrhaging cash to try and get your music out there as an independent artist. But you’ve just gotta keep reminding yourself of the satisfaction of being able to share music with an audience who wants to hear it (however small) and keep plugging away. I’m also useless with social media – I find the concept of the selfie pretty hideous – but know you have to play that game, so self-promotion can be a bit uncomfortable! But the more you can be yourself, the better in that regard.
And what is the best piece of advice you have received as a musician?
It’s actually something I once heard Ricky Gervais say on a podcast (so obviously not directly to me!) – but he said, ‘do something uncompromising and peculiar to yourself and you could become a cult everywhere’. I love this – I’ve spent a long time trying to fit in with a crowd or make things that I think people will like, and now I’m just making things I like, and we’ll see how it goes!
Test Card Girl's new single 'If You're Feeling Down' is available to stream and download now. Have a listen to it in the player below.