Kate Nicholson has taken creating an album during the pandemic and awaiting a new arrival all in her stride, writes David O’Dornan
She is due to give birth to her second child any day now. She already has a toddler to look after. And on top of that she works as an out of hours GP in the middle of a pandemic.
But despite the demands as a mother and a doctor, the indefatigable singer Kate Nicholson recorded her debut album in lockdown, with the first single released last month already winning rave reviews.
Kate, from the village of Moneyneany, near Draperstown in Co Londonderry, is a musical powerhouse when it comes to her performances, but she is equally a force of nature when it comes to her devotion as a mother and health professional.
“The phones are running constantly, you’d get 100 phone calls a day in a lot of practice, it’s actually very hard to keep up with the demand,” she says.
“Everyone’s very busy — if anything it’s busier than normal. It’s taking a lot of time to administer all those vaccines this year, for sure.
“I was off on maternity leave at the start of the pandemic, and then when I returned I actually did some shifts in what’s known as the Covid centres that GPs were running.
“It was quite scary actually, there was a lot of sick people near the peak of the pandemic and it was beginning to feel like it was about to escalate out of control but then I think everyone adhered to the measures and things calmed down in time, thankfully.”
That maternity leave was the birth of her first child, son Oisin, with baby number two imminent. She balances her life as a mum, doctor and musician with the help of husband Chris, who is also a GP and works ‘in hours’ while she works ‘out of hours’.
Not only that he commutes to his practice in Belfast, where they used to live before moving to Portstewart on the north coast in February 2020, just a few weeks before the first lockdown.
While many might balk at the thought of spinning so many plates, easy-going Kate seems to take it all in her stride.
She smiled: “Oisin is just over a year and a half and he’s full of beans. He’s got some words he says over and over, such as ‘tractor’ and ‘car’.
“I made a whole album during lockdown one, because it was quite an isolating time, as you can imagine with no baby groups and family weren’t even allowed to visit.
“I had to pour my energy into something creative I think just to keep me sane I suppose!
“I’ve always had a passion for it. During university I worked in the Empire Music Hall in Belfast so I got to listen to amazing music there and worked in a music shop. I played music at weddings when I was younger too.
“Whenever I was young I learned violin and tin whistle but I write my music on a guitar.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was 17! I just haven’t had the opportunity to record them as medical training and GP work was so consuming.
“Not that maternity leave isn’t busy — because it definitely is!”
She agrees there is a synergy between her careers as a medical professional and performer, with music being a great healer, particularly in terms of mental health. She said: “Music is great therapy and lockdown brought that home big time. It’s very cathartic to process any emotions and let them go.
“I had a lovely opportunity to perform live at Women’s Work festival (last month), that was the first gig there had been since before lockdown, it was really amazing to be able to play live again. Even being able to play with other musicians again was just fantastic.”
Next up after enjoying baby number two over the summer, she is set to launch her debut album — Fallen From Grace — later this year and is already enjoying reviews of her latest song.
She said: “I think I’m going to release it in the autumn because I’ll have the new baby to look after for a while, but I’ve been kind of overwhelmed by the positive response to the Street Lamps single.
“I’ve had a bit of radio play and a bit of exposure and lovely words from music critics and things, so I’m very happy.”
But one other important thing for Kate is to be a role model and inspiration for people to follow their dreams whatever age they might be.
She is 35 and wants to debunk the myth that your ship has sailed in the entertainment business if you don’t start your career at an early age.
“I couldn’t agree more and I think the music industry is set up to make people believe that but I think it’s a very outdated concept,” she says. “I think if anything, music is the most timeless of all things and if you write a good song, I really don’t think age comes into it.
“I would love it if it was the case that it might inspire others reading this, because it would be quite sad if people were sitting with a good song at home and did nothing about it.
“That’s one of the reasons I have pushed on with this, I really didn’t want to have any regrets. And I’m glad I gave myself a kick to do it.”
And did life come full circle for Kate, who once dreamed of performing like the artists she so admired taking to the stage at the Empire in Belfast, when she worked there as a student?
“It did actually, I played downstairs and it’s such a beautiful venue. It would now be a dream to sell-out the upstairs part.”
You can listen to her new single on Spotify and all other digital platforms. Her new album is available to pre-order at www.katenicholson.co.uk