Katie Little: a mass of talent

Katie Little Mass Experience
New musical duo Mass Experience is made up of Katie Little (right) and her husband, Timothy Poulton (left). Photo: supplied.

She’s an acclaimed writer, comedian and speaker. But it’s Katie Little’s new music as part of the duo Mass Experience that’s set to wow you, writes Travis de Jonk.

Katie Little is a creative dynamo. She’s a successful writer, singer, stand-up comedian, graphic designer and motivational speaker. She is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Catch A Falling Star, about growing up in one of the most famous families in Australia.

Most recently, this multi-talented woman has formed an indie electronica duo – Mass Experience – with her husband Tim Poulton; himself a man of considerable talents. The group has just released their debut album, Sitting With Demons, a song cycle that’s already captured attention around the world. On Spotify alone, the opening track ‘So High’ has had over 130,000 plays. while the album has clocked up more than 200,000 spins – mainly in Europe and North America.

‘So High’ by Mass Experience. Video: Mass Experience – Topic/YouTube.

I listened to Sitting With Demons before our scheduled interview and my reactions was simply ‘Wow! I wasn’t expecting that.’

It is an extraordinary and unexpected debut, exceptionally produced and containing elements reminiscent of artists like Goldfrapp, Air and Pnau. The carefully crafted tracks take you on a journey from ambient chill out, through to retro psychedelia and uplifting dance, perfectly punctuated by Katie’s hauntingly sweet vocals, purring minimalist lyrics.

It’s genuinely hard to believe this is Little’s first serious venture into making music.

There are spooky melodic moments, bouncy raver moments, moments of celebration and release. Other moments feel like sonic love letters. It’s genuinely hard to believe this is Little’s first serious venture into making music. Given that she already had so many strings to her bow, I had to know why she now decided to make music.

Listen to Mass Experience’s debut album ‘Sitting With Demons’ on Spotify.

“I put my heart and soul into my memoir and I’m very proud of it,” she animatedly explained to the Sentinel. “But a part of me also realises that in this day and age, not everyone reads books. I’ve always been passionate about music … music in this case was the most natural fit for what I wanted to create. As an artist and communicator it’s important we explore and use the many communication tools and methods available. You never know what string might break and which one will take off!”

According to Little, Mass Experience has been 25 years in the making, forged by the passion for music she shares with her family, compounded by the recent passing of her parents – Australian entertainment royalty, Barry and Jeanne Little – as well as the pressures and isolation of the coronavirus bubble.

Sitting With Demons originally started life as a blog about being forced to sit with difficult and uncomfortable feelings – which of course lockdown was,” Little tells me.

“Mum suffered with Alzheimer’s for eleven years … lockdown also cut me off from seeing my mum. There was no quick fix. You just had to sit and face it. It was a really difficult time. It was borne out of dark difficult time, but I didn’t want what I created out of it to be dark.

“I kept looking at my blog entries thinking they are too long, they are too long – cut it shorter” she continued. “Meanwhile, Tim was was in the other room showing the kids how to use some of the music equipment and it made me click – what I was writing were lyrics!”

She grabbed a mic and recorded a track. Little and her family were all bowled over by how good it sounded. She knew she had found the right fit and medium for what she wanted to create, and amazingly the rest of the album easily fell into place. Those blog posts informed the lyrics, feel and mood of the songs on the album.

‘Want Me Back’ by Mass Experience. Video: Mass Experience – Topic/YouTube.

As we talk I can’t help but be struck by how Little’s voice echoes the undeniable twang of her famous mother. She’s energetic, eccentric, warm and relatable like her too. Katie Little is a lovely reminder of a woman Australia loved and took to its heart.

I’m also aware of how difficult it can be to carve your own identity when growing up in public in a famous family; how hard it must be to recognised for yourself when, to so many, you’re known as ‘Jeanne’s daughter’.

It’s true that much of Katie Little’s achievements, work and identity remain inextricably linked to her background and her family. She confesses it has been both a blessing and a curse, and something she’s faced all her life.

Katie Little’s stand-up comedy makes light of the dark moments. Video: Little Family/YouTube.

Thus, overt references to her famous family are imbedded within the themes in much of her work. For example, her memoir Catch A Falling Star chronicles the history, the lives and eventual deaths of her parents, Barry and Jeanne Little.

Her stand up comedy – which served as her coping mechanism through a decade of darkness while nursing her Alzheimer’s-afflicted mum; managing her challenging, often belligerent dying father; and navigating the trials of her own family through it all – obviously draws heavily on family identity.

“I’m a writer and a memorialist,” she says. “It was really important to me that mum was memorialised properly and rightfully celebrated for her contributions, such as being Australia’s first female TV comedian. It’s why I wrote the memoir and did all those shows and interviews. So I think I’ve done that. It’s only recently I’ve felt that for the first time in a decade of being consumed by all of that, I’m finally coming up for air and starting to look forward.”

Katie Little with her mum, Aussie TV icon Jeanne Little.

Listening to Sitting With Demons, you get the sense of a change in perspective. The music she’s making is a stark departure from everything she’s done before. It doesn’t look, sound or feel like anything her parents have done. There’s no recognisable ‘Little family’ hallmark.

The most noticeable difference for me was Little’s singing voice. Sultry and melodic, it is completely different to the ‘Jeanne Little’ Aussie twang of her speaking voice. The addition of her idiosyncratic abstraction, style and processes applied in creating the music results in something noticeably new and distinctly her.

Music is not only Katie Little’s newest career venture but it marks an important moment that this exceptionally talented woman became an artist with her own unique identity, talents and value. It’s something she’s strived for all her life. It seems like her spectacular venture into making music has brought her the closest so far to finding it.

Sitting With Demons, the debut album by Mass Experience, is available now to buy, download and stream through all major platforms, including Apple Music, iTunes and Spotify.

For more on Mass Experience, visit www.massexperience.life.

For more on Katie Little, visit littlefamily.live.

Listen to our recent interview with Katie Little on the Sentinel Speakeasy podcast: