Cathy Davey: Her quiet farming helps inspirations to blossom

by James Hendicott
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Cathy Davey

Cathy Davey is a real mainstay of the Irish music scene: of her four albums, two have been nominated for the Choice Music Prize Irish album of the year, while her latest studio album, New Forest (released in 2016) peaked at number five on the Irish album charts.

Oddly, despite her success, Davey’s most recent release – a live album recorded at Dublin’s Unitarian Church and released a few months ago – comes despite music being a secondary focus right now.

“I’ve been working more on the farm,” she explains. “We’ve had a lot of stuff to do; I’ve got into the rhythm of animal things. I get into a groove with it, putting in fence posts, working with my hands, things like that.”

Davey shares an animal sanctuary set up around her home with partner Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy), with their combined project named for the Father Ted TV series, My Lovely Horse Rescue.

You’d think the pair spend a lot of time making music together, but it’s really not the case: they’re more into focusing on their own thing musically, and sharing the more normal aspects of life.

“Neil will sometimes call me in to sing a vocal for him when he’s working,” Davey explains, “but I think it’s more because I’m there than anything else. We’ve never really been involved in each other’s work beyond that.”

Davey’s work is slowly progressing, however, as the harder periods for what sounds like an idyllic farm life start to take shape a little more comfortably.

“I’m writing on drums right now, and recording bits,” she tells us. “I’m trying to do this thing, I have about half an album, which is just drums and melody, but I keep getting distracted by other stuff.

“Just melody and rhythm are my thing at the moment. I’m doing these nursery rhymes, too. I’ve wanted to do it for years.

“These are things I feel compelled to do,” she continues. “Writing music on your own is not easy, and doesn’t always lead to happiness.

“I need to break things up, and the farm has been great for that. Things need to feel right with the world outside.”

Davey is softly spoken and considered, something that’s become increasingly reflected in her music in recent years.

She comes across like she’s intensely thoughtful about life, and is working hard on aspects like balance, self-worth, and doing things for the right reasons.

“Life isn’t always ecstatic,” she tells us. “It’s not meant to be like that. Reality, I find, is more of a contented place.

“Something about music that isn’t good is it can feel like talking, talking, talking about yourself. I find caring about what people think of you very hard. Contemplating how you’re perceived isn’t good for the soul, or for your style.

“The new music, when it arrives, will be like my strong, straightforward tracks; like Little Red, and Moving.”

There have been other changes, too. “I’ve been doing things more locally in recent years and come round to the idea that I don’t really like touring. I’m a homebird,” Davey explains.

“If it were up to me, I’d play lots of nights, but in the same place down the road so I can just go home afterwards. The music industry doesn’t really work like that, but I’m doing little, intimate tours instead.

“It gives me time to get back to the rescue stuff, and to do some hibernating and organising for next year, before I come back with some concrete material.”

Given much of Davey’s best work is lifted with beautiful, thoughtful lyrics that seem born out of such contemplation, we’re highly optimistic.

Cathy Davey’s Live at Unitarian Church is out now and contains many of her classic tracks. She plays Knockanstockan Festival (Blessington) on Saturday, July 28 and Whelan’s We’ve Only Just Begun Festival on Friday, August 10.

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