Introducing Mark Northfield and Cherry Mint Koala
WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?
I'm a pianist, composer and singer/songwriter from Berkshire, England. Also founder member of occasional piano trio Cherry Mint Koala (alongside two seriously fine musicians: violinist Charlie Brown and cellist Tony Woollard).
I tend to make precise, thoughtful and slightly melancholic rock/pop with a prominent classical and theatrical streak, often in collaboration with other vocalists. At the risk of blowing an imaginary trumpet, I've been labelled 'a treasure' (Bluesbunny), 'a maverick genius' (Rhythm n Booze) and 'an excellent composer' (Altsounds). I've also been accused of writing 'marvelously crafted tunes' (Sputnik).
Musical comparisons? Rufus Wainwright and Stephin Merritt co-writing a musical, possibly. Other notable influences include ABBA, The Divine Comedy, Kate Bush, Pet Shop Boys, John Grant, Tom Waits, Pink Martini, Cole Porter, Nils Frahm, Radiohead, Underworld, Beethoven, Chopin etc. I also like an indecent amount of pop music from just about any era and can't resist a good, old school 12inch extended version. So there.
My professional work as a pianist for dance has helped shape my eclectic output. Although I'd worked with Tony and Charlie on many previous recordings, Cherry Mint Koala developed as a result of project performances through my main employer, ArtsEd in West London, where I'm currently the Head Ballet Pianist for the Musical Theatre degree course, managing a small team of class musicians. It is a lively and creative working environment; a great place for developing new ideas and twisting tunes from various genres and eras into unexpected shapes. This experience has come in especially useful from 2019 onwards.
STUFF UP TO 2016
To date, I've self-released several albums and EPs - the albums are listed in the main menu on this website. I've also explored my visually creative side through promo videos (stop-motion animation, puppets, drag/zombie action etc), been a finalist in the UK Songwriting Contest (with 'The Forecaster' from Alterations) and gained BBC local radio play for a festive single co-performed with my husband Gareth Forster and a community choir from South London ('Christmas Eve, Gracechurch St' - a charity single for Crisis). BBC Radio 2 used my cover of Robyn's 'Dancing On My Own' for a series of trails in 2014. This track was also included on my covers album 'European Dream', released in June 2016, exploring the darker side of Europop.
Most of the original stuff I've recorded can be found through my Bandcamp store, but they don't allow covers to be sold (well, not legally they don't!) so European Dream is a streaming experience, or it can be downloaded from iTunes/Amazon/CD Baby and such like. There is no produced CD of it.
After that covers project, I had a fair period of mulling over what to do next. I was pretty distracted and depressed by what was then happening in the wider world and the decided turn for the populist worse signalled by Brexit and Trump. Discovering various podcasts (especially Remainiacs) and going on various pro-EU marches helped me understand just how strongly other people also felt about this, and what we stood to lose if the Hard Brexiter fanatics got their way. There was a shared recognition that something decidedly dodgy and underhand had taken place in 2016; this gradually revealed itself and became more worrying as the months and years slipped by.
It didn't occur to me until summer 2019 that perhaps this political and cultural crisis was something I should tackle creatively. But a conversation over a meal one night with a work colleague and her husband (who happened to have worked closely with Theresa May during her time as PM) set me down the path of doing what I thought would be a one-off rough home recording on my phone, just for a laugh: a short and jolly rendition of 'Singing In The Rain' re-titled 'Dying In A Ditch', as per Johnson's famous promise.
It wasn't a one-off. A second swiftly followed. The third track I concocted mid October set an exact chunk of text from a Remainiacs podcast (Ian Dunt attempting to explain the nonsense surrounding GATT Article XXIV in 60 seconds) to an original - if highly derivative - piece, interwoven with Chopin's Minute Waltz. The sweary but adorable Mr Dunt retweeted it and I suddenly had an afternoon of a constantly pinging phone. I think from that point on I knew this satirical furrow was one I should be ploughing, because it not only gave me an outlet for all the frustration, but it managed to bring comic relief to something deadly serious to quite a few other people. I finally felt I could do something useful.
Over a year and another dozen or so songs later, I haven't altered my assessment. When it stops feeling useful, I'll stop doing them.
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