Interview: Catherine Feeny

Abigail SaltmarshAmerican singer and songwriter Catherine Feeny is heading back to her second home - Norfolk. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH catches up with her as she prepares to play in Norwich.Further listening: Catherine FeenyAbigail Saltmarsh

American singer and songwriter Catherine Feeny is heading back to her second home - Norfolk. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH catches up with her as she prepares to play in Norwich.

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When Catherine Feeny appears steps out on stage at Norwich Arts Centre she will be a stone's throw away from where she used to live - literally.

The American singer and songwriter, whose music has featured in a Hollywood blockbuster, spent more than two years working in Norfolk, during which time she lived in a small flat above St Benedict's Street.

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'I loved being in Norwich. It was such a lovely place to spend time - a beautiful city with such a lot of character,' she says. 'I'm really looking forward to coming back and playing at the Arts Centre this weekend - and being so close to where I used to live,' she said.

Growing up in Philadelphia Catherine, now 32, discovered a passion for music early. As a child, she took guitar lessons at a local music shop, learning Led Zeppelin and The Cure covers and while also studied classical vocal techniques at Settlement Music School.

Her love for popular music won out over her interest in opera, however, and in high school she joined a four-piece punk band.

After college, she moved to Los Angeles and found her place in a burgeoning singer-songwriter scene where she gradually built an audience who loved her folk-pop style.

In 2003, she recorded a self-titled debut album with artist and producer Joe Purdy, which found an enthusiastic audience in Americana circles in Europe as well as America.

And it was that same year that she caught the eye of Norfolk-based musician and producer Sebastian Rogers, who attended one of her performances in LA.

Sebastian became so enamoured with her music, in fact, that he offered to produce her second album entirely on credit, promising to pay the studio and the musicians when she got a record deal.

It was then that Catherine relocated to Norfolk, moved into the St Benedict's flat and set to work recording at the Mill Studio, in Winfarthing, near Diss.

'Living in Norwich was certainly quite different from LA,' Catherine admitted. 'I loved it but I live in Portland now, which is interesting because it's somewhere between Norwich and LA - if such a thing is possible!'

The album, Hurricane Glass, was picked up by EMI, and it's lightning-rod track Mr Blue was chosen for the Hollywood film Running with Scissors.

It also featured in TV show The OC as well as reaching the A-list of Radio 2, Britain's most listened-to radio station with Janis Long, Terry Wogan and Jeremy Vine especially big supporters.

Following the release, Catherine toured the British Isles extensively, both as a headline act and in support of such artists as Martha Wainwright, Dr John, Suzanne Vega and The Indigo Girls.

And while making the album, Sebastian and Catherine fell in love. They later married and although they now live in the US, they do return frequently to see family.

'I also came back to record my latest album, People In The Hole, at the Mill,' said Catherine. 'So it is nice to be coming back to Norfolk again to perform tracks from it.'

The album, which features Catherine's distinct acoustic sound, has already been released in the States and will be given a full UK launch next year.

'I was working on it for a while when I was signed to EMI,' she said. 'Then I eventually decided to put it out myself. But the plan is to have another release.'

Since then, she has undertaken several small tours in support of the album, one of which saw her travel across the US, playing intimate venues including people's living rooms and gardens. She has also performed a few dates in Europe and the UK.

The concert at the Arts Centre on Sunday will feature a number of songs from the new album, as well as some 'old favourites,' said Catherine.

'This has been a pretty small tour but it's been nice to do it this way,' she said. 'The album has been well received, people are enjoying the music.'

The plan now, said Catherine, is to keep writing and recording - and she is considering making a fourth album in Belgium.

'I just want to keep moving forward. I have been writing new songs and now I want to be recording them.

'It is difficult with the music industry the way it is at the moment but I love writing and performing songs, so that is what I will continue to do,' she added.

t Catherine Feeny plays Norwich Arts Centre on December 6.

Further listening: Catherine Feeny