Four young Yorkshire mothers are dreaming of abandoning the day jobs to follow their dream, Stephanie Smith talks to the members of Waking the Witch hoping to make it in the music industry.
For a band in the middle of a national tour, Waking the Witch look remarkably bright-eyed, clear-skinned and not hungover at all.
But then, this girl band tends not to stay up late partying in the traditional post-gig manner. They have to get back home, if they can. Two of the members have got to take their kids to school in the morning.
"It's not very rock 'n' roll, is it?" says Patsy Matheson, sitting in her stone-flagged farmhouse kitchen in Pudsey, Leeds. "Today I've got to pick my eldest up from school and then a friend is having them until teatime and then Tim will pick them up when he's finished work."
Patsy freely admits that there is no way that she could managed a 26-date national tour, stretching from Inverness to Southend, if it weren't for Tim, her husband. And the same applies to the other women.
"Our partners are really supportive," she says. "I didn't get a holiday last year because of touring and Tim's annual leave was all taken up with looking after the children. All our blokes – we couldn't have achieved most of what we have achieved without their support. It sounds cheesy but it's a fact."
It's a bit cheeky calling Waking the Witch a girl band, because these are definitely four grown-up women. Patsy, Jools Parker and Rachel Goodwin are in their 30s, while Becky Mills is the baby of the band at 29. She's the newest member, too, joining a year ago, a year after the other three had already been together for a year. Each of the women had been playing solo around Yorkshire for years. "Inevitably you all meet up," says Patsy. "I was doing a gig in Otley two years ago and Rachel came to see me. The same week I had an email from Jools asking if I was still playing, which I hadn't done for a couple of years because I'd had the kids."
And that was it – the witch was woken. Teaming up, they say, makes them more noticeable, more unusual, and more likely to succeed in what is a notoriously fickle business. And success is what they want now, after years on the small touring music circuit. Sure, they're older, but they are also wiser, and they're ready for it.
It seems to be working: they have self-produced two albums and this is their fourth national tour.
Their music spans ballads and blues, folk and R&B. Some of their songs are simply beautiful – haunting modern takes on love and longing.
All four women write separately and then pool their songs. They've been likened to Sandy Denny and Joni Mitchell, but the comparison they say chimes most is with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. "I suppose, we're four girls and we all play the guitar and we all sing and so the emphasis is on vocal harmonies," says Patsy.
"Except they're a load of chaps with droopy moustaches," Becky adds.
Patsy says: "Our music defies categorisation, because it goes across lots of different genres. The good thing about that is that it reaches lots of different people."
Their influences include contemporary bands such as Coldplay and, especially, Kate Bush. Waking the Witch is the title of a Kate Bush song (from the Hounds of Love album, for any old KB fans out there). They meet to practise about once a week, so it's quite a commitment, especially for the two mums of the group. Rachel lives in Harrogate with her partner, Chris (a graphic designer who designs the CD covers) and their two children, Lucy, five, and Joe, three.
Patsy is married to Tim, an engineer and musician, and they have two children, George, six, and Charlie, four. Patsy did a History and History of Art degree at Leeds University. "I used to sing with my sister – usually Simon and Garfunkel. "Whatever boys did, we did. We both learned to ride motorbikes and play the guitar. And how to spit and smoke fags," she laughs. "All of us, except Becky, have sisters and we all used to go around the house singing." All four women met their partners through music. Jools is married to Pete, an IT consultant. She also works with a group called The Silver Surfers, helping elderly people to use the internet.
Becky's boyfriend lives in Bristol and is a musician. She was spending so much time at Patsy's house that she has recently moved to live a few doors away from her. She is from near Pickering and has had, she admits, a menagerie of jobs, including vocal coaching. "I didn't really have a career path," she says. She started singing aged 15 in her dad's band, Mid Life Crisis. As well as the separation from partners and children, another drawback to pursuing your dream is money, as in it being a little too tight to mention.
Meanwhile, the kids certainly aren't losing out. In fact, they rather like mummy being a pop star. "They think it's marvellous," says Patsy, "but also they take it for granted because it's always been that way." And who wouldn't be proud to have a mum who has played at Glastonbury?
It's all great stuff , but there are those who will wonder why they do it – why they choose a life of penury and dressing rooms with sticky carpets? "Playing live is a real buzz," Patsy says. "People are taken aback because we can all actually play, whereas a lot can't. Plus, we're all really good friends and we all enjoy each other's company. We're giving it to the end of the year. If we're not making a full-time living by then, the music will have to go back to hobby status."
Waking the Witch are at The Bedford Hotel, Scarborough, today and at The Boardwalk in Sheffield tomorrow.
There are other Yorkshire dates. See www.wakingthe witch.co.uk