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Yakking With Cathy Davey

Cathy Davey

A GAMBLE FOR EMI

With hair ‘looking like it had been hacked by a crazed eight-year-old’, Cathy Davey calmly put down her guitar and stepped off the stage smiling after playing yet another storming set to the dithering public.  Good to see she’s overcome her stage fright.

EMI have seemed to develop a pattern of signing bands on a whim.  They took a chance on The Thrills back in the early noughties, which paid off.  Then, seeing the potential in this young singer/songwriter from Dublin, they took the gamble again in 2002 and yet again, after somewhat of a shaky start with debut ‘Something Ilk’, it has seemingly paid off.

While the crowd slowly disperse, we made our way through the red doors of The Stables to unwind.  As we began our interview upstairs away from her adoring fans, a stressed Cathy, clearly unhappy with her performance, flopped out onto the floor.  27-year-old Cathy Davey has repeatedly attempted to shrug off the label of just another girl with a guitar crying over her lost loves, but her latest album ‘Tales of Silversleeve’, like its predecessor, ‘Something Ilk’ smacks of broken hearts and abandonment.

RELUCTANT STAR

Moments of stage fright, ever increasing pressure from labels, fussy producers who wouldn’t “rein into her way of thinking”… some of the often less talked about side effects of being famous.  You name it; Cathy’s career has experienced it, on its somewhat bumpy road to success. But instead of hindering her career, this experience has turned her into more of a success story. You could even call her The Cinderella of the Irish music scene.

Cathy Relaxing in 2FM Studios

Cathy Relaxing in 2FM Studios

The year was 2003 and the feeling of someone walking over her grave sent a shiver down her back as the ‘Come Over’ EP fell into the hands of the big wigs across the water at EMI.

Their reactions were to take a chance and sign a then unknown Cathy. The young, naïve 23-year-old was then thrown in the deep end late in 2003 with renowned producer Ben Hillier (with producing credits on records for Elbow and Blur) in Rock Field Studios in the wilderness that, in geographical terms, is known as Southern Wales.

Of the recording process, she says she ‘wasn’t used to having to comprise with someone else’ and ‘was very nervous singing in front of him and it never really stopped’ but still believes that ‘a lot of good stuff did come out of the experience’.

‘SOMETHING ILK’

As the interview progressed she told me of the “massive and probably unnecessary pressure” she was under during the run up to the release of ‘Something Ilk’.  She struck me as someone who was truly in it for the music and somewhat uncomfortable with the success and pressures that come with being signed to a label.  The result, ‘Something Ilk’, was an album she was unhappy with, calling it “a massive waste of money”, putting her dislike of it down to the fact that she didn’t “think she was ready’ for the experience”.

As the release date of her debut approached fast, the Irish being a bunch of begrudgers, were geared up to slate the album.  Not caring too much for those who belittle her for getting signed on just the strength of her recordings, Cathy says that being “signed on a recording deal, you’re being signed for your recording material”, not the amount of gigs you’ve played.

Believing “more could have been done” with debut ‘Something Ilk’, Cathy and her band did the necessary touring and

Cathy Davey

Cathy Davey

promotions and quickly puts its mixed commercial success, along with her disappointment, behind her and began work on her sophomore effort, spending “a twentieth of what was spent on Something Ilk“.

SECOND CHANCES

Three years can be a long time in this ever-changing music industry.  Many artists would worry over being dropped from their label and forgotten by the fickle public, but EMI, seeing the potential in Cathy, gave her another chance.  Davey herself, secretly hoped the public would forget all about her and her songs of anguish, and let her drop off the radar, giving her that all too rare second chance to “start afresh”.

With her second chance tucked neatly into her back packet, Cathy hot footed it out of the offices of EMI and decided to return down the fail-safe road of what she knew best, and what had gotten her signed in the first; recording in the comfort of her home.

Ditching tempting offers of big producers and even bigger studios, she began recording tracks at home, for her sophomore effort, in the belief that “your stamp is wiped out once you work with a producer that you’re not able to rein into your way of thinking”.

Tracks done and dusted, she brought the assorted demos to Liam Howe, of Sneaker Pimps’ fame, of whom she was more than happy to let add his magical touch, to produce what would eventually be christened ‘Tales of Silversleeve’.

WELL EARNED SUCCESS

Davey hit the nail on the head this time around, releasing ‘Tales of Silversleeve’ in October 2007 to a more welcoming response than her debut.

Extensive radio play of the album, and of her single ‘Reuben’ earned her a Meteor Award for ‘Best Irish Female of 2008’ and a Choice Music Prize nomination for ‘2007 Irish Album of the Year’ only to lose out to fellow Dubliners Super Extra Bonus Party.  This left her manager “rather pissed off” but didn’t really upset Cathy as she felt it got people who otherwise wouldn’t of heard of her “listening to her music”.

After the excitement of the awards, 2008 saw Cathy wear out the soles of more than one pair of shoes with her promoting the arse-end out of the album up and down the country.  And what with 2009 readying itself for the launch of album number three, it seems EMI are going to have to buy her another few pairs.

Hitting closing time and me there with not a single trace of alcohol in my veins, I could feel the auld withdrawal symptoms starting to creep up.  So with a slight shake in my hand, I decided to wrap it up and let Cathy get on with the usual antics of harassment by drunken fans, a necessary evil associated with being famous.

With a new album being recorded in the new year, deciding to record at home is a move that’s paying off for her, I for one, cant wait for its release.

Cathy Davey – Moving

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