When I was 16, I played my first gig in the Civ pub in St Andrews. It was at six o’clock before the punters came in – I was underage but they let me play a little gig in the back room. And King Creosote, Kenny Anderson, came. He has kept a journal of every day of his life and I recently had the pleasure of sitting with him and going through it, and he showed me the diary entry he wrote in 1992 after seeing me play.
It said, ‘I’ve just seen this girl called Kate at The Vic. She’s so talented. I think she’s got something amazing. And I’m going to ask her to join the band’.
So I immediately joined the Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra and started going around Scotland in a freezing transit van with them. Much to my parents’ frightened faces. They were like a bunch of Fife anarchists. They were living in weird little unheated cottages on the edge of town, just surviving, being musicians and nothing else. They didn’t really believe in record deals and they didn’t trust the music industry. So I kind of moved in and grew up with that mentality as well.
I have realised now in middle life how significant a role being adopted has played in the rest of my life. Jackie Kay, the poet [who is adopted], says there’s ‘windy place’ inside. And that is just the truth of it. I had kind of breezed over it for years, until my forties. Then I did that amazing programme, Long Lost Family, and found sisters.
And they’re just gorgeous, beautiful, fierce women. And we really do still just stare at each other going, oh my god, we look the same. We’re very close in age and we grew up 15 miles apart. They were in Dunfermline and I was in St Andrews. They remember going to St Andrews at weekends, when I was working in an ice cream shop. And I was like, Oh, my god, I probably served you a cone!
It was funny because I met my biological mother, thinking I’d look just like her and she’d be an amazing singer or something. But no, neither. But the first thing she said to me was, you couldn’t pass your father on the street. He was Irish, and apparently a fantastic singer. So it seems like that’s where it’s come from. But it’s a strange feeling because at the end of the day, these aren’t people I know.
The way that I describe it, which feels most helpful to me, is that it has enriched my life because it’s really good for the soul to be able to put faces and characters and meaning into those two blank corners. But you run a risk. These are human beings. And once you go down that road you can’t really go back. It’s not been a bed of roses the whole time of course. But I’m glad I know.