Caitriona Fallon was born to sing.
“But I’m almost afraid to call it jazz,” says the Irish singer when asked about the music she’s written. “The sounds that I like come from instruments I hear in my head, like muted trumpets and double bass.
“There’s a jazz influence, but it’s changing now. I’m with different musicians, so I’m hearing different sounds. There’s definitely theatrical vibes there, but more easy, jazzy, bluesy, folky - lots of crossovers.”
Since arriving in Tauranga with husband Marc Anderson and their three children, she has put together a band made up of Wayne Melville on bass, Aaron Wright on guitar, Marc on drums and Leon Gray on piano. Her shows for the 2018 National Jazz Festival quickly sold out.
“New Zealanders love their jazz,” says Caitriona. “I’ve been incredibly lucky with where I’ve landed. I was only here a couple of months and Tarnished Frocks and Divas catapulted me out there quickly.”
Last year she stunned Tauranga audiences with her riveting performance in the Tarnished Frocks and Divas’ 2017 show, Zoetica.
At the age of 19, Caitriona had joined Riverdance, becoming the lead vocalist and touring the world with the theatrical show for around four years. She visited New Zealand in 1998.
“I had an ambition to be a singer,” she explains. “I auditioned and got the job.” Her husband Marc, from Whakatane, was part of the Riverdance production team.
“Marc and I had been travelling a lot, and he felt it was time to come back home,” she says. “I’d been to Mount Maunganui and loved it.”
Her band in Ireland was called Cookie and the Vaudevilles.
“We fell into the jazz genre. My nickname was Cookie, and Vaudeville came out of that theatrical era. We did a couple of jazz festivals and then it ended due to moving to New Zealand.”
Her new band meets at their house every Wednesday.
“I was really lucky to meet a bunch of people who can really play,” she says, “but we get on well too. We’re writing and playing. We have a lot of instrumentals going on, so we’re trying to find words to put on top of those. The wine helps to let loose!”
There’s an emotional depth to Caitriona’s singing that stirs most listeners.
“When people ask me what my style is, I don’t really know,” she says. “There’s an underlying sound, but it can cross over from folk into jazz into blues.”
Although she writes her own songs from her own inner emotions, her favourite album is Tom Waites’ Closing Time.
“He has this most gravelly, sometimes out-of-tune voice that’s not always very melodic, but it has depth and feeling. I do one of his songs – a track called Martha. When you hear his songs, the melodies are beautiful but he sings them in a completely individual way.
“I seem to be evolving through a transition which is lovely, and I’m really enjoying it.”