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With the small but perfectly formed Come Over EP, Cathy Davey is finally ready to face the world.
Phil Udell, 17 May 2004
Who the hell, you may be forgiven for wondering, is Cathy Davey? When her name cropped up in January on the list of the year’s most promising new Irish acts, she was as mysterious as the majority of others were familiar. There had been no slogging around the Dublin circuit, no self-financed releases, no hanging out with the in crowd. Instead there was heavy weight management and talk of a record company bidding war but precious little in the way of actual music. Until now, that is. Davey has made her entrance with the small but perfectly formed Come Over EP, four tracks that go some way to cementing her reputation.
As will become apparent during the course of our conversation, Cathy had a very clear idea of how she wanted to play things right from the off.
“What I needed when I signed was not to be forced into being ready to do my album. I needed time to find the right musicians and know what I was doing. That was what I got and it was really important. I was working solidly up to the point when I was ready to do the album, then that took three months to make. We finished it in January but there’s still the mastering and artwork to go.”
Was there much of a musical journey from the demos to the album? “It’s basically the same except played a lot better”, she laughs. “It makes a difference having professional musicians; I was just recording at home. I love the naive sound that comes from those recordings – that’s my sound and I’ve definitely retained that. But I appreciate the different personalities that have been brought in as well.”
If that all makes the process of Cathy’s music sound very insular, well then it is.
“My way of developing was just being on my own,” she explains, “that’s what I enjoyed most – writing and playing on my own and that’s the highlight. This is very sad sounding but that is the best part of my day.”
Almost uniquely, she never played live until a while after she’d been signed. “I didn’t gig and perform because I couldn’t get the sound that I wanted on my own and I couldn’t pay the musicians. I didn’t want to be in a band, I wanted to be solo. All these different elements mean that you have to have a bit of money behind you. I’ve done three tours now, which have been great and have really got me out of my shell and I’m enjoying it.”
Didn’t that then put an extra pressure on the performance, given that by that point those in the know were already talking her up?
“No, because they have been very low key. The second one was with David Kitt and they were a lovely crowd, really appreciative of music. We’ve just sort of crept in. I didn’t want anyone to know that ‘Cathy Davey’s going on tour’.” She laughs again. “Actually, no-one knew who I was so it was relatively easy.”
The image of an artist working away in her own little world is also enhanced by her claim that she never really listens to any other music.
“I don’t think about it so much that I don’t listen to stuff because I don’t want to be influenced but I don’t naturally gravitate to other people’s music. When I’m at home I’d rather write and if I want a break I’ll watch TV. I’m more of a TV addict than anything else, that’s my way of relaxation. I’ve never had a stereo either but I’m getting one soon.”
So, is what we’re about to hear 100% Cathy Davey and nothing else?
“Well I’m sure influences sneak in, you can’t walk out of your house without being bombarded by music. Pop music is unfortunately everywhere and that’ll get you. I have friends who are into really interesting music that I listen to when I go round theirs. There are people I listen to but once in a blue moon, I’ve never worn out a CD or anything like that.”
We’re guessing then that her lyrics come from a similar, highly personal place. “They do,” she confirms. “I’m guessing that everyone writes from their own experiences unless you’re working on a fictional level. I’d love to be able to do that, I’ve tried it. There are elements of glamorising things up to make them a bit more poignant but they are all based on my life experiences.”
They can be pretty straightforward too, especially the blatant sexuality of ‘Come Over’ itself.
“I like directness, I like simplicity,” she says. “I appreciate people who are poetic and give metaphors to make things a bit harder for the listener. I like the craft of writing but I also like simplicity and the accessibility that that brings.” Is that how she approaches life? “Pretty much, I’m a bit of a fatalist as well so things are pretty cut and dried with me.”
Given that she had been so close to the songs, was it a battle to stay true to their original spirit when she moved into the world of recording studios and session musicians.
“I always wanted to keep it to the way it was but the trouble with that is you sound like a singer songwriter who’s got a band in for the sake of it. You have to make space for everyone else and I enjoyed that, it was very exciting. If you’re getting these musicians in there’s no point making them do what you’d do. I play piano and guitar myself but I have another piano player who’s ten times better than me and she’ll make it much more beautiful but the basic ideas were there and we’d try to get the life from those. I wanted a very raw album, I didn’t want too much going on.”
On the results so far, it’s something she’s achieved. There’s not a note out of place on Come Over as it powers along with an almost punk rock energy, tempered by a taut acoustic based arrangement.
“Taut..” she muses. “That’s a good word for it. I try not to overdo anything. Why flower it up if you don’t have to.”
The Come Over EP is out now on Regal