Norfolk inspiration for fast-rising Catherine

EMMA LEE Big things are predicted for Philadephia-born singer-songwriter Catherine Feeny, who has made Norfolk one of her homes on this side of the Atlantic. EMMA LEE caught up with her ahead of her show at Norwich Arts Centre this Tuesday.

EMMA LEE

You hear of people heading for the bright lights of LA in search of fame and fortune.

But while American singer-songwriter Catherine Feeny is on the brink of big things, she's got her breaks by doing things in reverse.

Born in Philadelphia, her musical education came courtesy of a mix tape one of her cousins sent to her older sister featuring British bands like the Smiths and the Cure.


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She relocated to north Hollywood, where she would play gigs. But after meeting Norfolk-based producer Sebastian Rogers, who runs a studio near Diss, after a show she was bound for the flatlands of East Anglia.

And she can't praise it enough.

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“I love the countryside, I love to go for walks in the forest. I love love love the beach. It's very different to LA. People are quite down to earth here. And whenever I leave my apartment I bump into someone I know. I feel at home,” she enthuses.

The result of her recording sessions in the county was her sophomore album, Hurricane Glass, which was originally released on the indie label Tallgrass.

It's recently been re-released with some major-label backing. But that's not all.

Her jaunty, dreamy, track Mr Blue is currently on the A-list at Radio 2 - although she hasn't heard it played herself yet.

“I've been listening to Radio 2 more than ever, but obviously not quite at the right moment. It's very exciting, though,” she laughs.

The track has now appeared not only on the soundtrack to teen soap the OC, but the recent Gwyneth Paltrow film Running with Scissors and a documentary about a New York guerrilla artist. And thanks to that 20,000 copies and counting of the song have been sold on American iTunes.

“I haven't seen it on the OC either,” she admits. “I have to get the boxset.”

Mixing folk, pop, country and blues, Hurricane Glass is beautifully-crafted and emotionally honest.

The record is officially a hit with the critics too, who've likened her to contemporary artists such as Cat Power, Ray LaMontagne and Joanna Newsom.

And she's played high-profile support slots with Suzanne Vega and Martha Wainwright.

Now she's about to set out on a headline tour of her own, including a date at Norwich Arts Centre.

“I've supported artists, which was great, but I've never done a headline tour of my own before. I'm taking a whole band, it's me plus four others in the Sprinter van - it's not quite a tour bus. We've been playing together for almost a year. We want to keep it lively and want to make sure we're not playing all the same songs,” she explains.

This summer she's also gone through another musician's rite of passage - her first Glastonbury performance. “I went for the whole weekend, camped and got the full experience. I'd hoped the weather would be better. But even so, people got in the spirit and everyone was there to enjoy themselves. There was so much good music - and great cider. The show went really well and it was a really lovely atmosphere to play in,” she says.

But despite being in rehearsals for her tour, she's already thinking ahead to her third album. Writing is already under way - and she's been finding inspiration in some unlikely places. “I went to Yarmouth for a week and holed myself up in a hotel room,” she explains.

Why did she choose the brash and busy East Coast resort, rather than the wilderness of the north Norfolk landscape?

“I wanted to do some writing and get away from my e-mail and my computer. I love the North Norfolk coast. It's beautiful and peaceful, but then I find that distracting. Yarmouth reminds me of parts of the New Jersey shore where I would go on family vacations. So it made me think of my childhood. And I got a good song out of it,” she says. “That place is so weird, though,” she laughs.

t Catherine Feeny plays Norwich Arts Centre on Tuesday, September 4. Support comes from Jacob Golden and Challenge of Feral Green. Tickets cost £8 in advance, £9 on the door. Box office: 01603 660352 or on-line at www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk.

t The album, Hurricane Glass, is out now. www.catherinefeeny.com

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