SINGER/songwriter Fiona Kennedy says her latest song, The Place of My Resurrection, a number 1 hit in the iTunes charts when it was released recently, very much resonates with her life now.
The song is inspired by a saying in Celtic mythology, ‘’. It refers to the final place in which a person ends up.
“It has different meanings and it really spoke to me,” says Bishopstown-reared Fiona.
“I always feel I’m searching and wondering should I be doing this or that? But the last year has given me the time to write my own music. I’ve brought out three singles and I have another one on the boil. I really feel I’ve landed where I was aiming for, for a long, long time.”
Fiona is also spending a lot of time in her 94-year-old mother’s house, looking after her along with her siblings. Her father died a few years ago. Fiona was always been close to her parents.
“We always had a very happy home so I’m back there now with all the memories. My next song is about fishing days with my father. He was a great fly fisherman.”
Fiona, a married mother of two, always wanted to be a singer. While her parents were supportive, with her father driving her to gigs, they insisted that she go to college. With an aptitude for languages, Fiona studied German and Italian at UCC and is currently teaching herself Spanish.
“I’d say my parents hoped I’d get sense and become a teacher. I did the Higher dip (in education) and I enjoyed it. I teach guitar to kids.”
But Fiona was always going to be a musician.
“I paid my way through college, doing gigs.”
While Fiona fulfilled her ambition, she hasn’t had an easy path.
“Most of the people that would have known me when I came to prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s are gone.
“Even when I won Screen Test in 1985, the first televised talent competition in Ireland, it was meant to be my big launch. But there was a huge recession. I was down in Cork. I didn’t know anyone in Dublin. I spent a year trying to get somewhere, recording my own music.”
When that didn’t take off, Fiona moved to America. She spent a number of years there and did well, including entertaining the Kennedys (no relation).
Bobby Kennedy Jnr was hosting a function for a charity and Fiona performed on the rooftop of St Regis Hotel in New York at the event. Among her other successes was supporting Kris Kristofferson and John Martyn in Ireland.
Fiona recalls starting all over again after she got married the first time and moved to Cavan.
“I brought out my debut album and got nominated for an IMRO award, which was wonderful. But my personal life was not going well. The marriage ended. I had to move back to Cork. My daughter was nine months. I had to rent somewhere and once again had to make a living and try to hold onto my place in the Irish music industry.
“I was playing in pubs, doing everything I could. It was a hard time. But things got better. I was playing at weddings and civil ceremonies and I loved doing that.”
The success of her 2017 album confirmed to Fiona that she wanted to remain active in the music business. She was awarded the Network Cork Business Woman of the Year in the arts category.
“That gave me a confidence boost. I was doing a lot of live performances and writing music and playing it with my band. But the next thing, everything was wiped out with Covid.”
Fiona is live-streaming now, every Saturday night. With musician, Taylor Neaves, she has raised over €4,000 for Cork Penny Dinners.
“People have joined the live streams from all over the world. So in a strange way, the lockdown has got me a lot more fans. I’m surviving on the PUP and luckily my (second) husband is working.”
Fiona is bringing out an album at the end of the year, recording all her own work. While she is busy and glad to be still making music, she says that being a woman of a certain age in the music industry “is doubly difficult”.
“I’ve had to start all over again with people who didn’t know who I was. But I have so much experience and nobody can ever take that from me.
“I have a lot of empathy with people and I appreciate everything that comes my way. I know how hard it is to stay in this business. I’ve been in it for over 30 years. It is the worst business for females.”
However, Fiona is full of praise for Cork musician and producer, Cormac O’Connor, who has been bringing out her music over the past year. “He has been hugely instrumental in me being confident and doing my own thing. Cormac is great for ideas and for the technical side of things. Billy Kennedy (no relation), another Cork musician, has been great as well, playing guitar on a lot of my stuff.”
Clearly, Fiona, who sings passionately with a slight country twang, was destined for the music business, despite its challenges.
I have a lot of empathy with people and I appreciate everything that comes my way. I know how hard it is to stay in this business. I’ve been in it for over 30 years. It is the worst business for females.