We love fresh talent at InStyle and we've discovered a musical gem: Katie Sutherland aka Pearl and the Puppets. But we didn't get there first, Elton John did (she's signed to his management company) and he's been telling the world about the uber-talented Scottish songstress.
It's not hard to see (and hear) why - Pearl and the Puppets' music is irresistibly infectious, toe-tapping, folky-pop. And the melodic new single 'Make me Smile' is guaranteed to make you do just that. Trust us, you'll be humming the catchy chorus all day.
When we caught up with the delightful Pearl (the day after her 23rd birthday, and apparently, one cocktail too many), the singer/songwriter told us about her friendship with fans, and what it's like to be mates with Elton…
How did Pearl and the Puppets come about?
I was actually training to be a primary school teacher at Uni and one day I decided to buy myself a guitar and taught myself to play. I started doing open-mic nights and got myself a MySpace page and put some tracks up. Record labels started contacting me and brought me down to London to work with producers and then it all kicked off. I left Uni after two years, got management and then signed my record deal last year.
Where does the inspiration come from for your song writing?
When I bought my guitar I was in that stage where I was really getting into music by artists like Regina Spektor, Imogen Heap and Cat Power. I loved The Cranberries and The Cardigans. I was also obsessed with Damien Rice, Jack Johnson, Blur, and Beck.
What’s it like to count Elton John as a fan?
It’s bizarre! When I signed to Elton's management company, Rocket Man I had just left Uni and we went for this Christmas dinner and I was like, "Wow!" I'd never met anyone famous apart from maybe someone from The Gladiators. And suddenly I am going for dinner with Elton John!
What’s he like?
He's lovely. The first time I met him he could name all my songs. He's really thoughtful, sends wine at Christmas and stuff. He calls me up if something is going on; if the single is coming out or something important is happening. When I signed with my label he called me and said congratulations.
In a short period of time you’ve gone from training to be a teacher to hanging out with superstars. How does it feel?
It’s insane. Two weeks ago I was home for a few days and I met up with some Uni mates. They’ve all graduated now and they’ve all got nine to five jobs and it was so strange when we met up and I was like, “wow, I could be doing that!”
Your music has been used in Vodafone adverts in Australia and New Zealand and Orange in Romania. You must be pleased with all the exposure?
Well I wish I had a mobile phone by now. I’m like, “come on guys!”
Your music has also been used in a Victoria’s Secrets ad in the US. I read a rumour you requested to be paid in lingerie. Is that true?
I don’t know where that came from. It’s not true! The thing is I didn’t deny it. It’s funny though because it spreads – people blog about it as well. I get Google alerts about Pearl and the Puppets and one day I had 5 alerts telling me that Pearl gets paid in lingerie!
There are lot of female artists around at the moment - Florence and the Machine, Marina and the Diamonds and now Pearl and the Puppets. Is it hard to stand out?
There's not as many Scottish female artists out there as there are English so it’s quite cool that way.
What else do you think makes you different?
I really talk to everyone. For example, I'm going to take fans to the Tamara Drewe premiere and hang out with them. (Pearl's song 'Because I Do' features in the film). Fans check out my music and then they tell me they like it and then they're like, "oh you replied!| And I'm like, "yeah of course I did!" Why wouldn't I reply if you said that you liked my music?
Do you think you’ll be able to keep that up as you become more popular?
It's so hard. It's impossible to answer to every Tweet but if someone says something really sweet I try to get back to them and say thanks. It's easier with the internet – the whole twitter thing makes fans feel as if they know you. I love video chat because I just sit and chat to fans. And sometimes if I can’t sleep at night I will be like, "anyone up for a chat?" And then I go on a chat room and ask what's everyone up to.
Have you been on the festival circuit this summer?
I just played Secret Garden Party. It was mental! Oh my god I love it! I think it's my favourite festival.
Did you have time to see any bands?
I was supposed to just go home after the gig and the tour manager said, "Alright guys meet back here in an hour and a half because we had to drive back to Glasgow". But I got drunk! I came back with glitter all over me, literally in my hair, and my tour manager just stared at me. I said, "Err, I want to stay here" and she said, "How the hell are you going to get back home?" And I was like, "I'll find a way!"
So what happened?
I didn’t get home until 2.30am in the end. I blagged a lift off the Detroit Social Club because they were going to Newcastle and then got the last train. I love a little adventure. And I was still covered in head to toe in glitter. People keep kept staring at me and I said to my drummer, "why the hell are people staring at me?" and he said, "have you looked at yourself?" I hadn't looked in a mirror all weekend!
Do you have a festival survival tip?
Vics Vapour Rub. You can stick it up your nose when you go to the toilet so you can’t smell the stench. Don't use all of it though as you will need to use it after the festival as well when you are feeling run down!
It sounds like you’re having a very busy summer. How does it work with you and your boyfriend? (Pearl’s song 'Because I Do' was written for him)
It's totally cool. We've been going out for a long time. He's doing a Phd in Glasgow so he's still in Scotland and very busy so it's sort of "Hi- bye! Hi-bye!"
You’ve only been a pop star for a short time – but what’s been your most memorable moment so far?
There's been a few. There was one particular moment - the first time I heard one of my songs on the radio. Me and boyfriend were driving and then my song came on and we just looked at each other and said "this is so weird! How insane is that?" Also supporting Elton in front 20,000 people last summer. So strange but a great experience.
By Marisa Bate
Pearl and The Puppets new single 'Make Me Smile' is out 16 August - WATCH it here