Norfolk base suits rising star Catherine

EMMA LEE Many people head to LA and try to make it big. Singer-songwriter Catherine Feeny did things the other way round and swapped the bright lights of tinseltown for Norfolk. With her second album out now and one of her songs appearing on the soundtrack of a new Gwyneth Paltrow film, EMMA LEE caught up with her ahead of her appeareance at the Latitude festival.


Artists have long been inspired by Norfolk's landscape and laid-back pace of life. And it's exactly those qualities which made up-and-coming singer-songwriter Catherine Feeny relocate from Los Angeles to Norwich.

And it seems like she's going places. She has just released her new album, Hurricane Glass, and one of the tracks from it, Mr Blue, appears on the soundtrack of Gwyneth Paltrow's new film Running With Scissors.

"It's amazing - a dream come true. As a songwriter I'm always watching films and thinking 'my song would sound really cool there'. It can define a scene," Catherine says.

"I'd finished recording four or five tracks and I sent them to Nic Harcourt on a radio station in LA and they started playing my song Mr Blue. The director happened to be listening and thought 'I need this for my film'. Apparently the song is at a pivotal part of the film."

Originally from Philadelphia, Catherine showed an early passion for music. She sang, took classical voice lessons and played the piano and the violin. As a teenager she started singing in bands.

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"My interest in music is obsessive," she says. "I started singing at a really young age.

"I was very influenced by bands like The Cure and The Smiths."

She also found inspiration close to home. "My uncle was a singer-songwriter. It was amazing to have someone that close to me that was doing something like that," she says.

Her favourite artist of long-time standing is Joni Mitchell, and she's also a fan of Emmylou Harris, Sinead O'Connor and Tracy Chapman.

So how did she come to end up in Norfolk?

"I met [producer] Sebastian Rogers in LA and he convinced me to come over and do some recording in a studio at Winfarthing, near Diss. It got to the point where we were doing a full album. We started getting some record company interest and publishing company interest so I decided to move here," she explains.

"For a long time I was going back and forth between LA and Norwich and when I moved to England, I'd made friends with people in Norwich and I preferred it here to being in London. It's nice to come back to a place that's more peaceful. There's more open sky and I live in the centre of town and I know the people in the shops - it's less anonymous than London is," she says.

She says that Norwich is a buzzing place to be.

"There are several bands coming out of Norwich that I've seen that are good - I love to go and see the Neutrinos and I think Sargasso Trio are great. Cord are getting attention. There seems to be a growing scene."

Catherine got a record deal in November to release the follow-up to her self-titled 2003 album.

"I signed to a small label called Tallgrass - it's their first album release," she says. The album was produced by Sebastian Rogers and mixed by Dave Way, whose previous credits include Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple, Macy Gray and Paul McCartney. According to some critics, it should be should be filed alongside the likes of KT Tunstall and Beth Orton.

The result is an introspective work which focuses on personal struggles and complex relationships - including the politics of her home country and George 'Dubya'.

The Sunday Times described it as: "One of those albums that soothes the listener into quietude with strummed guitar and mellifluous vocal lines - and only then coils its complications and ambiguities around you."

She wrote it the "old school way", locked up in her room with her guitar.

"I'm really proud of the record," she says.

As well as recording she's been building up a following through several high-profile tour support slots.

Last year she supported Suzanne Vega, and recently hit the road with acclaimed singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright.

"She is an amazing performer," she says of Wainwright. "I was a bit nervous going on tour with her because she's a bit more left-field than my music is, but the audiences were really warm and accepting.

"Usually I play with a full band, but I pared it down for the tour - it was a really interesting practice to make the songs work with two people rather than four. And it was great seeing Manchester and Bristol and these different cities and meeting people."

Sounds like it's the kind of lifestyle she's going to have to get used to.

Catherine Feeny's album, Hurricane Glass, is out now. She plays the Latitude festival at Henham near Southwold on July 14.

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