- Fri, 2007-06-15 09:01
Philadelphia born Catherine Feeny started her musical career in LA, but moved to the more relaxed environs of Norfolk after hooking up with Hurricane Glass producer Sebastian Rogers. It’s a move that’s put her on the map here too, and a year of support slots with, amongst others, Martha Wainwright, John Prine, Suzanne Vega and most recently Stereophonics’ vocalist Kelly Jones, has resulted in a burgeoning fan base.
Her sophomore album is a myriad of forms on a theme; the skip and jump of Always Tonight’s wistful funk is in contrast to the fraught melodrama of new song Shape You’re In, whilst the lullaby that is Hush Now is cut against the ‘desertscape’ political rhetoric of Unsteady Ground. From the sweet pop of Mr Blue, to the seething No Reply, and mid-west bar room rock of the title track, there is a telling lyric for every engaging hook on Hurricane Glass.
I Like Music caught up with Catherine to talk about her new album, Glastonbury and The OC.
“I Like Music because… it makes me feel alive.” Catherine Feeny
ILM: Your new single, ‘Touch Back Down is out new (released on June 11th 2007). Can you tell us how the song came about and describe its whole vibe?
Catherine: Sure. That song, I’d been away for song writing for a long time. I started writing songs when I was quite young, probably 12 or 13, and then I went to university and got distracted by school and boyfriends. So I hadn’t written a song for quite a while and I moved to Los Angeles and started feeling like I was really missing song writing. And also, I happened to be in an acting class that was really creative and exciting. And I think it was that creative energy and the weird dating scene in LA (I was seeing a fellow at the time and he seemed impossible… it was “I really like you but,” and I couldn’t get him on the phone, so he clearly didn’t really like me that much, but at the time it was like, ‘what’s the problem here, you like me, but what?’)
So a combination of all of those things coming together meant I just wrote the song and started playing it at shows and playing it with my band in LA. And then I made my first album, and it didn’t seem appropriate for that album, but when I started playing songs for Sebastian (Rogers) and we started talking about what should go on the album a sure bet that we should definitely put that one on there. Most of the instrumentation came from him: the big strings and the kind of pedal steel; he wanted this big romantic swooping sound and I think it comes together quite well. I was used to playing it with a band, where it was a guitar, bass and drums, so it took me a little while to understand what he was going for but I really like the lush romanticness of it now.
ILM: Yeah it really works. Your forthcoming album ‘Hurricane Glass’ is out on June 18th. Can you tell us which track you had the most fun laying down in the studio and why?
Catherine: Probably the title track, Hurricane Glass; we did that very live. It was me and Steve Barney, who played drums on that song, and Johnny Cole who played bass just all playing together. Steve Barney is a fantastic drummer and brought the song to life as soon as he started playing it, so that song I have the fondest memories of.
ILM: Mr Blue appeared on The OC, and the recent Gwyneth Paltrow flick Running With Scissors and a documentary on New York guerrilla artist Stuart Ross. How did all that come about?
Catherine: The OC came about by the publishing company ways that I don’t understand, but the film soundtrack came about in a much more interesting unusual way. I sent some tracks to a radio station in LA, called KCRW, which is part of the public radio network in the States and a fellow called Nick Harcourt. I started playing on his morning show which has quite a broad listenership in Los Angeles; it’s called Morning Becomes Eclectic, and he started playing it and the director of the film actually heard it while he driving to the set one day and thought, ‘that would be perfect for a scene in my movie.’ So his music supervisor started emailing me from my website frantically saying, ‘I need this song right now’, so that was really cool.
ILM: That’s a great story. I also love the story about the album title - It also features slide guitar don BJ Cole, who also provided the inspiration for the album title. He was playing in London in a Tiki bar and you went to meet him, so you a drink which came in a weird receptacle called a hurricane glass. It was just one of those words, so you wrote it in your notebook. The words ended up in the chorus. Do you find that happens a lot with lyrics?
Catherine: It’s kind of cyclical, I go through phases where I feel really creative and every combination of words is so cool and then I go through phases where I’m not even paying attention to it, so that does happen sometimes. But that was quite unusual.
ILM: Hurricane Glass was written and recorded in Europe and America, an assured, perfectly-crafted piece of work, your music is emotionally charged – describe the Catherine Feeny process of making such lovely music? Is it lyrics first then melody? How does it usually work?
Catherine: It kind of evolves over time, but with most of the songs on that album, the lyrics and the music came together at the same time. With songs like Hurricane Glass and Touch Back Down and Hush Now, the lyrics just came out fully formed as they were, but with songs like Unsteady Ground or Always Tonight, those I rewrote several times, because I hadn’t quite gotten what I wanted to get or it didn’t quite sound like I wanted it to sound. I think it’s really exciting and fun and satisfying if you can sit down and in an hour or two have a song, that’s really cool.
ILM: There’s been a groundswell of independently generated fans for you, a rapidly growing fan base in both the UK and U.S, and support slots for the likes of Martha Wainwright and Suzanne Vega – how was it touring with Martha and Suzanne?
Catherine: It was fantastic. It’s always lovely to tour with people, especially women, who have more experience and people who you can learn from. Martha Wainwright has been on the stage since she was a very young kid; she has a very showbiz family. She’s so comfortable on stage she just rolls with whatever comes her way and just makes it ok and funny and part of the show and that’s something I really enjoyed watching and felt that I could steel a little bit of that.
ILM: What is your advice for other artists passionate about what they do who want to get a record deal?
Catherine: I suppose you just have to make the music the focus rather than any fringe benefits that might or might not come with it. If you keep your focus on the music, then hopefully other things will fall into line. And try not to be inpatient; as someone who is career oriented you are likely to want things you don’t have and be inpatient for things to happen, and you can end up jumping into places that perhaps aren’t right for you sometimes if you’re too inpatient and not mindful of what stage you should really be at.
ILM: What’s the best and worst thing about LA? And the best and worst thing about Norfolk?
Catherine: The best two things about LA are the weather and the creative energy that’s flowing there among the people. The worst thing I’d say is the fog. The best thing about Norfolk is the countryside, it’s beautiful. I love driving through the country and all the country pubs. The worst thing is the weather. I find my mood is really affected by the weather; it’s quite hard to get through weeks and weeks of rain.
ILM: You played London’s Bush Hall recently and play the acoustic stage at Glastonbury on June 23rd – bet you’re excited about that?
Catherine: Really excited, I’ve never been to Glastonbury so I’m sure it’s going to be an eye opening experience, because everyone says it’s so huge you can’t imagine. I’ve played a couple of festivals before, but on a smaller scale. I’m going to be camping there the whole weekend, so I hope the weather’s good.
Catherine’s new album, Hurricane Glass is released June 18th 2007.