Ballet’s loss is literate, emotional sophisto-pop’s gain.
Catherine Anne Davies is palpably excited when MOJO meets her in a Soho restaurant on a wet early summer’s day. That morning she was asked to support the Manic Street Preachers at the Eden Project in Cornwall. “I can retire now,” she laughs. For the Welsh-born, Buckinghamshire-raised singersongwriter-producer, this is more than just a big gig. Davies has already played large shows; before the January release of her debut album as The Anchoress, she undertook a 94-date arena tour playing guitar, keyboards and singing with Simple Minds, having impressed Jim Kerr with her contributions to 2013’s “dark country” supergroup The Dark Flowers. Simple Minds were “a really great apprenticeship”, she acknowledges. The Manics, though, are special. “It’s weird to talk about a band changing your life, but from about the age of 12 I pretty much just listened to the Manics. Before them I was training to be a ballet dancer, so I was very much immersed in the classical world, that and my parents’ records – The Carpenters, Beatles, Carole King. All that exploded the moment the Manics entered my life.” Davies is an eloquent exponent of music as aspirational force; a design for life. “My mum’s a receptionist and my dad worked at a nursing home,” she explains. “When you’re working class, that ‘libraries gave us power’ that the Manics sang is true. Your only way out is education.” Forced to curb her ballet ambitions when she broke her back aged 17, Davies took the Manics’ autodidactic message to heart, achieving a masters in literature and a PhD from University College London. Little surprise that her album, Confessions Of A Romance Novelist, brings those