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At Home with Julie Feeney
Jackie Hayden rings the doorbell marked 'Julie Feeney' and explores the residence of one of Ireland's most promising singer-songwriters.
Jackie Hayden, 22 Nov 2005
One of the things singer-songwriter Julie Feeney likes best about her second-floor rented apartment on Wellington Road in leafy Ballsbridge, Dublin is that it is both close to the city centre yet also full of natural charm.
“I grew up outside Athenry in County Galway and I was always surrounded by country views,” Feeney explains. “My apartment has lots of lovely tall trees and greenery around it. All I have to do is to look out the window if I want to be reminded of home.”
There are even foxes in her garden. “There’s one in particular fox that comes around every night,” she reveals. “He seems to have become used to me because he doesn’t run off. It’s almost as if he knows me and doesn’t feel in the least bit threatened.”
Her apartment, set in a reconstructed Georgian house, is light, airy and roomy. A self-confessed hoarder, Feeney finds it difficult to keep the place tidy. “I find it hard to throw stuff away, and I’ve loads of stuff I don’t really need, like clothes and things.”
From her apartment, most of the city is within walking distance. And walking is one of the singer’s favourite pastimes.
“When I go back to Athenry at weekends, the whole family loves to go for a good walk,” she says. “I’m not able to drive, so I walk. I find walking is very good for my songwriting, so I never go anywhere without pen and paper. I usually come back with several ideas for songs.”
Her record collection is impressive, with albums from artists such as June Tabor, Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Declan de Barra and Nick Drake.
She has a recording unit in her bedroom on which she composed the songs for her magnificent debut, 13 Songs. “I’m truly obsessive about music”, she enthuses. “I’d listen to music all day if I didn’t have to go out and earn a few bob to pay the bills. I have about 500 albums and I’m currently working on songs which might go on my next album.”
Recently, she began work on an opera about Christianity – religion is source of deep fascination to her. “I like reading books about religion, especially Freud’s views on religion.”
One of her favourite books is Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. She’s also a big fan of Cathal O Searchaigh and CS Lewis, and was delighted to hear that Disney are about to film the latter's signature book, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
The demands on her time mean she doesn’t get to listen to much radio, claiming she needs space in her life for silence as well as her music. However, she finds television useful for chilling out.
“I had an apartment in Morehampton Road, not far away from where I am now. I had no television there for three years and that was great. So when I moved in here and saw it had a TV I was tempted to get rid of it. But I decided not to. The telly can be a dreadful distraction, and I feel I’m going through a particularly productive phase right now. But I only use as it as a kind of break to help me wind down from doing all the head stuff.”
She also has a tidy pile of copies of her album in the apartment and reckons that if the house was on fire she’d make it a priority to grab as many as she could carry. One musical item you won’t find in the Feeney household is an iPod, as she’s not a convert. “I might get converted some day, but I hate seeing those recordable CDs with handwriting scrawled all over them,” she says. “It’s not that I feel particularly noble about copying music or downloading. But I just feel I want to have the music the way the artist wants to give it to me, with all the sleeve design and the notes and all and the correct running order.”
You won’t find any pets in her apartment either. “I love dogs but I’m not really fond of cats at all. I suppose being on the second floor makes having a pet a bit awkward, and I don’t like the hairs they leave all over the place.”
Feeney likes to eat out and has many favourite restaurants in the locality. “Da Vicenzo’s is a particularly favourite of mine, and I also like Dowling’s. It’s a wine bar in Baggot Street. And then there’s Diep Noodle. It’s great having such places almost literally on my doorstep.”
She also admits to getting itchy feet now and to experiencing the urge to go off somewhere. “But,” she quickly adds, “ I get a great feeling coming back to this apartment, with my own space and my own things and, most of all, my music.”