Catherine Feeny interview
Those of us who demand more from girls with guitars than just girliness and a guitar are quite rightly drawn to the music of Catherine Feeny. She has, no doubt about it, it in spades. Her recently re-issued second album (Fancy tracking down the long-deleted debut ? Good luck.) ‘Hurricane Glass’ is something of a marvel, tempering a predilection for grave reflection with wry, dismissive ‘tude. It comes wrapped in a folk-y covering that takes detours into blues rock that recalls The Band and hushed lullabies (album closer ‘Forever’ quietly carves your heart) that cause the world outside to dissolve. Keen - me ? Well, maybe Just a little bit. Just as single ‘Mr Blue’ appears to be taking over the airwaves, she takes time out of her schedule to talk.
Your music sounds so organic at times, so lovingly unforced, I can hardly conceive of you actually sitting down to write it. How do you go about putting a song together ? “I definitely do write in a very organic fashion. I don’t sit down and decide what I’m going to write about. Production-wise, we’re very much trying to develop a sound. Lots of times we would record vocals and guitar first and build everything else around it, so yeah, what you’re saying, that’s quite accurate.” And does playing them live allow you to develop them, almost ? Do you ever look back and think that what you’re now playing onstage isn’t exactly what you recorded ? “Definitely - especially in the way it’s very different when you’ve been playing a song for a couple of years. I wouldn’t say one was better than the other. It’s quite exciting to capture a song just when you’ve written it and then catch its evolution. After you’ve done the song for a while you find something different there kind of like a familiar-ness replaced by being able to find something new in it. Then, of course, the guys in the band bring something of their own to it, which is great.”
We stay on live performance for a bit. I wonder if the right audience can affect what’s happening onstage. “Definitely. Yeah, definitely. It’s really quite a circular relationship. The audience can give you something and that can lead to you giving them back a different thing.” So does that mean that you see yourself as live performer more than a studio artist ? (Credit to the lady for not simply exclaiming at this point : “A-ha ! Music interview cliché alert ! I claim my five pounds !”) “Good question. (Phew …) I’m not sure. I really enjoy the live thing but also song-writing.” I tell her she’s a breath of fresh air in an increasingly bland market – she reminds me a lot of Canadian Kathleen Edwards. “Is that right ? Wow. That’s great.” Who do you see as peers, artists who you feel you might have something in common with ? “That’s always a hard question. I think there are lots of good singer-songwriters around now. I’m a big fan of Patty Griffin's work. Mmm. It’s hard to choose something contemporary. Oftentimes you're comparing yourself … I’ve listened to bands more of late. The Shins, Midlake.”
Ever look back and think you didn’t really capture the song properly, think about going back to recordings where you wouldn’t mind one more take ..? Or just move on once it’s down ? “I suppose it’s more of the latter. You have to move on or you get a bit bogged down. That said, I haven’t done a lot of writing on tour – you tend to be either sleeping or driving, sound-checking or playing. There’s not a lot of hanging around and that’s when I do my best writing, when I have time to kill.”
Feeny's a fantastic interviewee. At first guarded, she warms considerably once it's clear I'm a fan and not simply filing copy. She's considered and thoughtful in her response but has the good grace to laugh when I don't really deserve it. And for an American (something she asks us to forgive her for a couple of weeks later onstage in Manchester), she's 'UK Wry' as opposed to 'US Sunny', something that being based over here makes a necessity. So what’s next ? ‘Mr Blue’ should at the very least ensure increased album sales. Its radio play should hopefully help it into the singles chart. Is album number three on the way ? “I’ve started recording the next album and have a load of songs written already. I’m not the kind of artist who will impose artificial, you know, ‘Ooh – I wanna try that style now’. I’ve tended to record the new songs with my band live, which has been really good. The new album will definitely be different but more of a subtle evolution and not so much a drastic change.” Hallelujah. Go on, make her a star.