Interview: Julie Feeney

Fresh after nearly being blown away by Hurricane Sandy in the US, Julie Feeney catches up with Stephen Heffernan about her recording process and managing with no manager

Julie Feeney’s year seems to be punctuated by natural disasters. Whilst mixing her latest album in Los Angeles ,she was interrupted by an earthquake on the final night, and her latest trip to New York was marred by Hurricane Sandy. Is the universe giving her a sign that 2012 might just be her year or is it just an unlucky chain of events?

Her preview concerts in New York earlier in the year helped her get a feel for the album and how its performance was going to to be like. She explained: "To perform it live in New York, in front of a New York audience, for ten nights, left a lot of air into the songs, I was able to listen with fresh ears. To finish the album after it was really fabulous."This album shys away from the once favoured chamber orchestra, and embarks on a more diversified use of instruments such as recorders, shruti boxes, pedal steels, harps and even a saxophone quartet. This incorporation may give the impression of an avant-garde performance whilst still retaining accessibility.

The recording and arranging process for her new album Clocks contrasts sharply with the way her previous album Pages was recorded: "This time I wanted to sing my heart out a lot. I did the singing on its own in Kylemore Abbey, that’s all I did for two weeks. I had no instruments or arrangements or anything. Kylemore is an incredible place to perform. It’s a beautiful space. The Benedictine nuns have a great attitude to life.’

Such is the multifaceted nature of Feeney’s music that audiences in different countries pick up different aspects as being the ones that are special: "In Canada, they were very, very receptive to words. People would be coming up afterwards with cards with lines taken out of the songs. In Germany they were very receptive to the orchestrations."

On her upcoming tour, she will be accompanied by ten different choirs, a somewhat complicated procedure: "In terms of doing the arrangements, the work was massive. There’s mixed choirs, all-male choirs and all-female choirs, three different types of arrangements that I had to do. They have worked extremely hard. It’s been huge taking on this project, but it’s important to broaden the challenge each time, both musically and performance-wise."

Britain, a market she appeared to be on the verge of cracking in the past, turned out to be a place where success was never truly hers. Feeney attributes this to useless managers and has subsequently taken over the job herself: "‘I’ve had very bad luck with managers over there. I know I should do it myself. I’ve done America myself without any manager; I’m about to take on management in America. With the UK, I’ve just been unlucky. When I had 13 Songs, I had interviews from the wall to the ground, but that year they just seemed to be interested in artists like me, the next year it was belters like Duffy, the next year it was electronic music. Right now the focus is the US and Ireland."

Julie Feeney plays the Draíocht Arts Centre, Blanchardstown on November 25th and St Stephen’s Church on December 7th.Tickets are priced at €15 and €20 respectively. Her new album Clocks is out now.