My Weekend: Writing songs and performing excites me just as much now as it ever did

Weekends are busy for singer songwriter Fiona Kennedy, who tells us about her upcoming gigs and how she spends her downtime
My Weekend: Writing songs and performing excites me just as much now as it ever did

Singer Songwriter Fiona Kennedy

Fiona Kennedy is a Cork singer songwriter, recording artist and IRMA Award nominee. She has a very long track record which includes albums, EPs, and singles and many TV performances.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I’m Cork born and bred but I’ve lived in many different places and performed all over the world. I’ve met Corkonians when I’ve been playing in the most far-flung places... at a concert for the Americas Cup in Auckland, New Zealand, and even in Kazakhstan.

I’m the youngest of five, from a close family, and I always knew I’d eventually settle back in my home city. 

The legacy of Cork musicians has been tremendous and just to be a small part of that means so much to me.

I played to 50,000 people in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the ’80s with just my acoustic guitar before Kris Kristofferson and now my own daughters were there to see Ed Sheeran … they wouldn’t believe me until I showed them the newspaper cutting.

Writing songs and performing excites me just as much now as it ever did and I released five singles over the past 18 months with two of them going to number one in the ITunes chart. My latest, ‘All Together Now’ produced by Christian Best (Mick Flannery) is due out in early June.

My husband Andy likes to call himself ‘the unpaid roadie’ but I think he secretly enjoys the buzz of a great gig and the camaraderie of my band when we’re all on the road to a show.

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

At the moment I’m spending almost every Friday night, that I’m not playing, at the Harbour Lights Singer Songwriters Club in Crosshaven listening to various songwriters perform their own material. It’s a beautiful place overlooking Church Bay and I had a very special concert performance there myself recently.

Singer Songwriter Fiona Kennedy
Singer Songwriter Fiona Kennedy

Lie ins or up with the lark ... which is it for you?

I don’t have much of a routine, particularly in summer if we’re touring. If it’s a late gig the night before, then I’ll lie in, but usually my little dachshund starts barking from downstairs and makes me get up.

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

The weekend usually means I’m working and I take Monday and Tuesday as my days off if I can. 

My work-life balance is not great though I must admit. 

Recording and releasing music takes a huge amount of my time and can be very stressful. I rarely have a full day when I’m not doing admin/writing or anything to do with my career. Music does take over your life so it’s important for me to switch off when I can.

If money was no object where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

Many years ago I answered an ad in Hot Press magazine looking for an Irish musician to play a concert in a venue in Venice. I got the gig and, having done an honours degree in Italian and German in UCC, I found I could really communicate and connect with the Italians. With the new direct flights to Venice from Cork Airport I’d definitely whisk my better half off and do a repeat performance in La Serenissima.

Closer to home, is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries?

The title track of my last album is ‘The Beach’ so it’s no surprise that I absolutely adore being by the sea. I wrote the song about Barleycove Beach in West Cork but as a city dweller, it’s a bit far away just for an afternoon walk so I often head to Kinsale or Crosshaven as they’re closer. If I have more time, you can’t beat a walk in Clonakilty or as it’s also known, Guitar Town.

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

Anytime I can catch up with friends and family is a good time. 

It’s so important to stay connected and when you work at the weekends as I do, it’s very easy to lose touch with friends who aren’t in the music industry. 

I’m sure I have them all driven daft with invitations to come to gigs but they’re used to it now so they put up with me.

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

I’ve been known to do a bit of fly-fishing which I picked up from my dad and lately I’ve actually been getting very interested in gardening. It’s a great de-stressor though ... maybe that’s the attraction. I’m also a member of Network Cork and though I wouldn’t call it a hobby , it’s a huge interest. I’ve won the Network Cork Business Woman of the Year Award in my category on two occasions which was a wonderful achievement for me.

Entertain or be entertained? Do you have a signature dish?

I’ve always cooked from scratch for the family but I’d say the one thing I do tend to get right is cakes and scones. I find they work a treat on frazzled nerves and who doesn’t feel better after a warm home made scone with cream and jam. 

My secret weapon is my mum’s classic old recipe book Full & Plenty — it’s foolproof.

We have so many places to eat out in Cork — where are your go to spots for coffee/ lunch/ special meal?

For coffee there are two top spots: I love The Kingsley Hotel’s riverside cafe ‘Bean & River’ on the Leefields — great service and fab coffee.

My other go-to is Bean Brownie on the Ballinlough Road — their Tahini cookies and Dotey loaves are my faves.

Loving Salads do a fantastic selection of fresh salad at the Farmers Market in Wilton for lunch.

For a special evening meal I really enjoy heading to the White Horse in Ballincollig or the White Lady in Kinsale — two extra special places to eat with loads of atmosphere.

Sunday night comes around too fast.. how do you normally spend it?

If I’ve been playing on Friday and Saturday I might indulge in a glass of red with an Oak-fired pizza. Himself lights up the fire out in the back garden on summer nights and we’ll sit outside and put the world to rights. If a few friends join us, it’s all the better.

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?

It doesn’t. I often have a nice relaxed Monday morning after a busy working weekend.

Anything else you are up to right now...

My latest single ‘All Together Now’ is due for release in the coming weeks so it’s an exciting time! I wrote the song about a déjà–vu moment I had when walking in to perform in the famous New York venue CBGB. It will resonate with anyone who has memories of the old College Bar in UCC and producer Christian Best did an amazing job with it. My new album is due for release later this year.

I have a few upcoming gigs: In concert with my band in one of my favourite Cork venues — upstairs at the White Horse Ballincollig on Friday, June 10. (Tickets available from Eventbrite and The White Horse.)

I play a special outdoor performance in Kinsale on Saturday, June 18, called ‘Songs for a Summer’s Evening’ where I’ll be accompanied by Ilse de Ziah on cello and John McGrath on guitar.

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