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Having lived a peripatetic existence for several years, Katell Keineg has now settled in Dublin and is earning deserved kudos for her moody brand of arty acoustica.
Tanya Sweeney, 25 Nov 2004
To most musicians, travel is merely an aspiration, and the open road is an enlivening and exciting prospect. For Katell Keineg, it’s merely a matter of course.
Although living in Dublin, the worldly Welsh-Breton is no stranger to the bohemian existence, having spent some time commuting between Dublin and New York.
“I don’t know if I’d describe it as bohemian,” she says with a shrug. “I have parents from two different countries, I grew up in two countries and speak two languages. I don’t live the jet set life, which the word bohemian suggests to me. To some extent, it’s natural to me as I have two nationalities and I’m used to having many cultures in my life.”
Needless to say, the art of travel is one that Katell holds close to her heart.
“It’s important to travel, I kind of get bored if I don’t,” she claims. “It keeps you from provincialism for a start! If you’re a curious person, it’s great, you can suck up ideas from all over. That’s not to say you can’t have a perfectly great life if you travel around. You’re always a stranger somewhere, and you don’t feel as though you don’t belong.”
Now that she has been a fully-fledged Dublin resident for some time, does she feel she belongs yet?
“I wouldn’t say I’m an outsider, but I wouldn’t feel 100% at home here,” she concludes. “I have very close friends and I feel accepted and everything, but I don’t feel 100% integrated.”
Although she has been warmly embraced by Dublin’s singer-songwriter fraternity, being embraced by the posse holds little interest for her.
“I’m not interested in the scene,” she claims. “I prefer arty rock & roll. Like the stuff from New York, rock music with an experimental bent, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The AM, Miss Universe. We all know each other here but I wouldn’t cultivate my place in that scene.”
Though she may express more of an affiliation with the New York scene, Katell decided to move to Dublin after eking out a bi-coastal existence for some years.
“I couldn’t carry on living in two places,” she recalls. “You get a momentum going and then you’re leaving. It’s a strange life – I couldn’t do it anymore. It’s hard to put down roots, when you’re coming and going you don’t mesh into people’s lives too much. I appreciate going to NY for music, I find it amazing for getting new ideas. They have that traditional experimental music scene which is great. There are lots of good things happening but I just can’t live there anymore. It’s way too hard.”
Having settled in one place, Katell has finally found time to release High July, her first full-length album in seven years.
“I recorded most of it three years ago,” she reveals. “I wasn’t sure to put it out. When you’ve been on a multinational for a while, you need time to figure stuff out. I had no idea what I was doing, or how to put out a record. It took me a while to find my feet.”
Bearing in mind her self-confessed indifference to the marketing side of the music business, a major label would surely seem like the best place for an artist of Katell’s disposition.
“Oh, I absolutely don’t miss it at all,” she insists. “It was great in the beginning, when I had a great A&R woman, and a great group of people there. But they disappeared before the record came out. It was taken over by some not-very-interesting people, so I was stuck there. It was great to be finally released (from the contract). I’m not nostalgic about that time at all.”
Having recently completed a handful of UK shows, Katell is eager to return to the live circuit in Ireland, if only for a smoke-free stage.
“I went on stage there (in London) and everybody was smoking!” she exclaims, as though it were the most unnatural thing she has ever seen. “My God, how quickly we got used to it, eh? I’m loving the smoking ban, because onstage I get to gulp in lots of clean air. I don’t feel bad that everyone’s outside smoking in the cold. Look at it this way, they’re having a great time chatting each other up out there!”b
Live In Dublin is out now on Kila Records, distributed by RMG