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29 October 2014

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Music Feature

Catherine Feeny.
Catherine Feeny

Catherine Feeny interview

Singer-songwriter Catherine Feeny has traded the sun-bleached cityscape of her native Los Angeles for the tranquil calm of the Norfolk countryside to record her second album - which is catching the ears of record bosses.

Singer-songwriter Catherine Feeny is putting the finishing touches to her second album, Hurricane Glass, which she's recorded in Norfolk.

The Californian has been working at The Mill Studio in Winfarthing, near Diss, after being lured to the county to work with ex-Lighthouse Family front man Tunde Baiyewu.

She was asked to sing on his debut self-titled solo album, most of which was recorded in Norfolk, after meeting him and his Norfolk-based co-writer Sebastian Rogers at one of her gigs in Los Angeles.

The 27-year-old built up such a rapport with the local singer-songwriter that she decided to move to Norfolk so he could produce her album.

Catherine's career is now gathering momentum. A song from her first album will feature on the soundtrack of a forthcoming Hollywood movie, Running With Scissors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, after the director heard it on radio.

The singer, who describes her style as folk with pop influences, has also been busy performing two showcases of her new material at the Wensum Lodge in Norwich.

Her first performance on 18 May was watched by Tunde and two scouts from major labels, who she refuses to name until she signs a deal.

Catherine chatted to Zoe Applegate about giving up her life in Los Angeles to work in Norfolk and why recording in England has had an impact on her sound.

You're based in LA, so how did you end up in Norwich?

I met Sebastian Rogers in LA and he brought the singer from the Lighthouse Family [Tunde Baiyewu]. Sebastian was over there doing his own music and he brought Tunde to see me and they got me involved in Tunde's album, singing a duet.

While I was over doing that, me and Sebastian started talking about doing some recording together.

I had some free time so we went into the studio and recorded a little bit and it went really well and we enjoyed working together so we carved out some more time, so I came back and I've been here from January off and on.

How did you meet Sebastian?

A friend of a friend brought him to one of my shows and he really liked my songs. I didn't know him very well until I came to England and it was funny travelling that far to hang out with someone who you don't know, but that's the way it happened.

What was it like working with Tunde?

It was lovely. He's a very calm person, very friendly and accepting. I really enjoyed working with him.

You've now recorded your album in Norfolk. Why did you choose to carry on working here?

Basically because Sebastian is here and the studio he works in is here and I haven't met many people who are as excited about my work as Sebastian is! It's always good to work on a project with someone who is excited about it.

What's it been like recording at The Mill?

It's great. I love the countryside. It's in Winfarthing in the middle of farmland and The Mill is a really small, intimate, homely studio.

I have a great relationship with Sebastian and Jonny [Cole], the owner and engineer.

With me and Sebastian there have been tense moments because we're working really closely on songs which are really close to my heart, but it's been quite a process of growth and learning.

I've recorded an album before but this has been a different process and it's quite interesting learning to listen to my own instincts as well as me and Sebastian learning how to weld our instincts together.

You didn't produce your first album, so you've had that experience of having to hand work over before, so has it been a case of getting used to working with different people?

This was a much more collaborative process. My first album was a much sparser sound. My friend Joe Purdy produced it. I didn't have a lot of input on the direction he took them in but I loved what he did with them.

Whereas with Sebastian, the productions are far more complicated and I've been in the studio every step of the way and we've been bouncing ideas off each other. 

What do you like about Norfolk?

The people who I like are here: Sebastian and Jonny and their friends have been very welcoming to me.

I like visiting London, it's a great city, but the pace here is a little more relaxed and I find the city really quaint and beautiful. But my favourite part is the countryside and the skies - that's what I like best.

Do you think it would have been easier to have recorded your album in a London studio?

It's possible. It's hard to know without having done it. Wherever you work there are advantages and disadvantages.

Do you think working in England has had an effect on the sound of your album?

Well, I think in that Sebastian is English and he has grown up listening to English music that certainly has had an effect.

If I'd recorded my album in LA - the musicians that I played with there and many of the people I knew there - were very much influenced by country music.

While Sebastian knows that I love country music and has been sensitive to that, it's not something he is naturally drawn to.

So certainly the album I recorded here is very different to the one I would have recorded in LA - working with Sebastian or not working with Sebastian.

Who are the artists you're inspired by?

There are so many of them. Every once in a while I come across one I haven't thought of in a while and think, 'Oh my God, I was inspired by them too.' As I was growing up my parents listened to a lot of '60s folk like Simon and Garfunkel, Judy Collins.

I love Joni Mitchell - she's one of my big influences. I listen to Sinead O'Connor and Edie Brickell.

I also listen to a lot of English stuff from the '80s like The Cure and The Smiths, so I have a range of influences but all of them very lyrically based.

Do you have any themes which you tend to focus on?

Like a lot of songwriters, I write about love because it's really exciting when you have it and it sucks when you don't. I write a lot about loneliness and isolation which I think a lot of people experience in our society.

How does being based in Norfolk compare to being based in LA?

You couldn't find two more different places! I've really enjoyed my time here on a lot of different levels but I do look forward to getting back to the sunshine and the people I know.

I have good friends and a musical network in LA, which I've begun to build here, but it's much smaller.

I think it will be a challenge to go back but good - I've been gone for about five months. It will be a little bit of a culture shock going back because here I'm pretty unique but there I'm not, so it's back to the rat race.

You're attracting interest from record labels - can you tell us who?

I don't know if I'm at liberty to discuss that. I don't want to put my foot in my mouth!

One of your songs has been picked for a Hollywood film - how did that come about?

I sent four of the tracks I'd been working on to a radio station based in Los Angeles, KCRW.

They started playing a song of mine called Mr Blue which I was really excited about because in the circle of musicians I hang out with in LA, something which really helps is to get your music on this particular station.

So they started playing Mr Blue and a director happened to be listening, heard it and thought, 'That sounds perfect for my movie.'

He called the station to find out who it was and the music supervisor on the movie called me and wanted me to send a MP3 of the song right away. It's exciting. It's not out for a quite a while yet though.

Do you intend to stay in Norfolk?

I really don't know. My future seems very uncertain at the moment. I'm going back to LA at the end of May as I still have a place there.

I'll be there for at least a month, then I'll come back, do some more shows and have some meetings, hopefully with record companies.

last updated: 16/06/05
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