Katy Carr – telling Polish history through her songs

December 13, 2020

Following on from our last month’s interview with Katy Carr, let’s find out a bit more about her as an artist and her journey to her latest album “Providence”.

Katy Carr’s parents met in Włocławek in Poland where her English-Scottish father worked and her Polish mother lived. Right after Katy was born in Nottingham in 1980, they moved back to Włocławek for 5 years before they returned to and permanently settled down in Nottingham. Katy would sing at a very young age and win all singing awards in her primary school. When she was a teenager, her paternal grandma started telling her stories about the 1930s and 1940s, which instantly spiked an interest in Katy. She felt especially inspired by female pilots from World War II, such as Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhart. At a young age, she joined Air Cadets and learnt how to fly as her goal was to become a pilot at the Royal Air Force. She obtained her pilot license, however with time her passion for music was growing and she decided to devote her life to music.

She has released 6 studio albums so far. The first two in 2001 (“Screwing Lies”) and in 2003 (“Passion Play”), her third album titled “Coquette” (released in 2009) included the single “Kommander’s Car” – a song inspired by the last 80 metres of Kazimierz Piechowski’s escape route in 1942 from a concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau. 2010 marked a premiere of a documentary called “Kazik and The Kommander’s Car” directed by Hannah Lovell and produced by Katy Carr, which was shown at film festivals both in the UK and in Poland. 

In March 2011 Katy Carr and The Aviators went on The Escapologist Tour, which aimed to help unite British and Polish communities throughout the UK through Carr’s music as well as screenings of the “Kazik and The Kommander’s Car” documentary. They also performed for Polish communities in Chicago and New York City. In November 2011 Carr was nominated for the London Music Award along with Kate Bush, Arctic Monkeys and Ed Sheeran. 

“Kommander’s Car” on the “Coquette” album marked the moment when Carr’s music began leaning much more towards the Polish side of history. Afterwards, Katy Carr studied Polish language at Jagiellonian University in Cracow to improve her Polish and experience the joy of learning her mother’s language.  Her fourth studio album “Paszport” released in 2012 has a mixture of both English and Polish lyrics on it. The subjects of the songs include the Soviet invasion of Poland, the Polish resistance movement, the repression of Polish people by the Soviets and even Wojtek (a Syrian brown bear who became a symbol in World War II). The album’s title originated from the idea that your existence in any country is determined by your passport.

“Paszport” is Carr’s first album out in her trilogy of telling Polish history. In 2015 she released the second album called “Polonia”. The album begins with a track of the same title, which is a love song to Poland. In the following songs she expresses her fascination about her mother’s country even more, for example by singing about Charlie Chaplin and his Polish fiancée or about a Polish general. 

On the 30th of October 2020 Katy Carr released the third and final album in her trilogy and titled it “Providence” – like she told us in our interview, she deeply believes that all the people and all the experiences she encountered throughout her music journey happened to her due to providence. In this album she talks about George Orwell’s friendships with Polish people and how they impacted his novels “1984” and “Animal Farm”. Carr also said that “Providence” is fully dedicated to her late mother who passed the values of Polish culture onto Katy. On this album she explores water-related themes, such as the Miracle on the Vistula River. She also touches upon death and fighting for freedom a lot.

Katy Carr is a British-Polish musician who sings, writes songs and plays multiple instruments (piano, ukulele, banjolele, keyboard). She received many awards throughout her career, such as Polish Daily Award for Culture in 2013, the award for the Best Concept Album for “Paszport” at the Independent Music Awards 2014, a Pro Partia medal for her philanthropic and musical work for Poland. What’s even more interesting and impressive is that she has never signed herself to any record label and she remains independent. And as stated on her own website: “For Katy, music is a lifeline and universe for sharing stories to bring about happiness, healing and revolution to those voices and histories of a past long since forgotten.” All in all, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Katy Carr is deemed the music ambassador of Polish history in the UK. 

Wiktoria Lewandowska

Pictures: Ben Wright


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