AS two hours of compelling conversation and mischievous mirth draw to a close, Kathryn Joseph pauses for a moment. “I feel lucky,” she says. “My music is miserable and my talking about my paranoia is miserable and boring, but mostly I’m thinking about how f****** lucky I am.”

It’s we who should be grateful, however. If the singer hadn’t gone through an experience you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy we might never have heard her extraordinary debut album Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled or its follow-up From When I Wake the Want Is, which is released early next month.

In person Joseph is impishly funny and self-deprecating to the nth degree. She speaks in torrents, her serpentine sentences either drying up on the riverbed or flooding blithely into new ones. She’s one of us, in other words. When Joseph performs, however, she's anything but. She appears to ascend to another plane, fixing her gaze upon the crowd and laying herself open to an extent few others are prepared to do. Her upright piano is less a shield to hide behind than a weapon.

“It’s like she’s hunting the audience,” says Josh Armstrong, who will direct Joseph in a specially commissioned run of shows promoting the new record on behalf of Glasgow’s art and performance company Cryptic. “It’s almost animalistic.” When Joseph performs, he adds, it is her vulnerability that shines brightest. “And within that she is really honest. I think during those moments she feels very empowered, as opposed to seeing vulnerability as a weakness.”

Born in Inverness on the last day of 1974, at the age of two Joseph moved to the village of Dunecht, a dozen miles west of Aberdeen, with her mother Liz, a teacher from Golspie in Sutherland, and father Jim, a surveyor raised in Glasgow.

“We lived on the estate where my dad worked, a beautiful place where there was a big house and farms,” she recalls. It sounds like paradise – but it wasn’t. “Very quickly I had an awareness of a pecking order in life that gave me the creeps.

“I remember going for a walk and being stopped and asked what I was doing. ‘I’m going for a walk.’ And they were angry and immediately said, ‘You shouldn’t be here – this is private land.’ They asked me where I lived and as soon as I told them they were like, ‘Oh, you know Mrs Garden.’ I hate that s***. It really bothers me.”

Soon she had two younger sisters, Ruth and Amy. Fuelled by exposure to her parents’ favourites Abba, the Nolan Sisters and Barbara Dickson (“the only thing my dad let us listen to in the car”), Joseph began piano lessons at the age of 10, but a personality clash with her teacher meant grade three was the highest level she would achieve.

“I hated it,” she says. “As soon as the lesson was over I was dreading it for the entire week. She’d catch me looking at the clock and go, ‘Yes Kathryn, only a quarter of an hour to go.’ It completely sucked all of my love for the piano out of me.”

The first record she bought was True Blue by Madonna and her first gig was Runrig at Balloch Park on the shores of Loch Lomond. As a teenager she’d listen to film and TV soundtracks such as Miami Vice and dream of writing her own. “That’s where I found stuff that I became obsessed with. That’s what I imagined I wanted to do as a job. I never imagined wanting to be a performer.”

Aged 16, she ventured south to study sociology at Stirling University, an experience that would also prove short-lived due to Amy developing leukemia at the age of 10.

“That’s the closest I’ve come to a nervous breakdown,” she recalls. “I remember sitting in the bath side-on, and I would go through my whole day in my head pretending I worked in a book shop in Dornoch but lived in Golspie.

“I only ate toast and Brussels sprouts. I didn’t go to any classes and didn’t let anyone into my room, and I didn’t come out when anyone else was there.

“I’m like, ‘I’m not functioning and my sister might die and I just want to go home and see her.’” (Amy recovered and is now a mother to Heidi, who has also overcome life-threatening illness.) Freed from the pressure of building a career, Joseph returned to Aberdeen and embarked on a succession of jobs in restaurants and bars. It was around this time that she began playing piano again, though an aversion to the demands of being a professional musician meant that despite being offered a record deal at the age of 23 she focused exclusively on playing sporadic shows in the Granite City.

Time passed. Having grown up listening to mainstream artists such as Phil Collins and Rickie Lee Jones, whose music she had discovered via the soundtrack to the TV drama Thirtysomething, she started listening to PJ Harvey and alternative American acts including Low, Smog and Bonnie “Prince” Billy. She worked in The Lemon Tree arts venue, where she drew the romantic attentions not of musicians but of stand-up comedians. By coincidence she began going out with one, Andrew Learmonth.

In 2009 the couple moved to Glasgow and she became pregnant. The baby boy, whom they named Joseph, was born three months premature in September 2010 but died a week later when his bowel ruptured. For his mother, his death was the spark that lit the fire, and she dedicated herself to making music her life, despite her previous misgivings.

Soon the singer – who had been Kathryn Sawers until her son’s passing and Kathryn Joseph thereafter – was pregnant again and had befriended two of her neighbours in Dennistoun, Claire and Marcus Mackay of Hits the Fan, a small independent label that had released the debut Frightened Rabbit album in 2006.

With Marcus as producer and musical partner – and Claire as manager and label boss – Joseph completed her debut album shortly before giving birth to a daughter. The couple named her Eve before subsequently separating.

Bones You Have Thrown Me was named Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) in 2015. Instead of the negatives she’d faced early in life, at the age of 40 Joseph was pleasantly surprised by the reaction to her hard-won success. “I expected to get a lot more s*** for how I look or not fitting in and I didn’t,” she says. “People have been really kind, so that made it easier for me to do it.”

Once the whirlwind that accompanied the SAY award had blown itself out, as well as guesting on RM Hubbert’s 2016 album Telling the Trees Joseph participated in two further creative assignments.

In 2017 she slaked her thirst for soundtrack work by collaborating with Cora Bissett on songs for the National Theatre of Scotland’s adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s bestselling novel Room. “I loved it,” she says. “It was another of those things where I thought, ‘I won’t be able to do this,’ and then I was like, ‘This is ace.’”

Then later that year she and Mackay hooked up with James Graham of the Twilight Sad to form Out Lines, whose album Conflats was released last October by Rock Action Records, the label run by Mogwai. In recruiting both Joseph and the Twilight Sad to join the likes of Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert and Sacred Paws, the imprint now has arguably its strongest ever roster. Like many people, Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai’s first experience of Joseph’s music was Bones You Have Thrown Me, which he describes as astonishing. “Seeing Kathryn play live, I was in awe of her,” he says. “She’s an incredible talent and a truly lovely person. We were privileged to work with her on the Out Lines album and on her new record.”

Joseph’s focus for now is on the Cryptic tour for her new album, abbreviating its title to From When I Wake, and balancing increasing professional demands on her time with her relationship with her new partner Kenny Oram, who lives in Aberdeen, and being a mother to Eve, who is now seven years old. Much of the album is inspired by she and Oram’s life in the wake of Bones You Have Thrown Me.

The album was released soon after they fell in love, although the romance was far from straightforward.

"We split for a year and now we’ve got to the point where I’m in Aberdeen half the time. It’s functioning but it’s tricky.”

There is also the ongoing absence of a friend to face. Scott Hutchison, the Frightened Rabbit singer who took his own life in May at the age of 36, was a huge presence in the lives of Joseph’s extended musical family. “It’s terrifying,” she says carefully. “He knew how loved he was, he knew how important what he was doing was to everyone, and there’s this bit of your brain that won’t let any of that in. And then you’re gone.

“Why can’t the s*** ones die? That’s how I feel.” Her voice grows quieter and, for once, her speech slows. “It makes me very sad.”

Earlier, when asked about her propensity for weeping, she’d said, “I feel a lot a lot of the time. I do a lot of crying.”

When those tears flow into songs, the fog of sadness lifts. We should be grateful when it does. We are the lucky ones.

From When I Wake the Want Is is released on Rock Action Records on August 9. From When I Wake is at Tramway, Glasgow on September 13 then touring. Visit