In a set that is both spare and soulful, singer Catherine Feeny and drummer Chris Johnedis play from their self-titled 2014 debut album. The heartfelt “I Don’t Know if I Am” is based on a poem from a local anthology; “White Flight” refers to Feeny’s childhood in the Philadelphia suburbs, and to Portland’s issues with diversity. Watch the performance above, listen and download the songs below, and scroll down to read more about writing the songs.
About the song “I Don’t Know if I Am:”
CF: I really don’t know what her [the author’s] situation is at all. There’s an organization in Portland called Write Around Portland and they host writing workshops in prisons and detention centers and other kinds of community centers, and this was in one of their anthologies, a poem called “I Don’t Know If I Am.” I loved it and adapted it and added some lyrics. A young woman named Kyura wrote the poem. And I’ve tried to find her and have been unsuccessful so if anyone knows her or is her, I would love it she could get in touch.
About the song “White Flight:”
CF: I grew up outside of Philadelpha, and the story in the song is essentially the story of my family. We moved away from an area called Mount Airy, where our house had broken into several times. And we moved to a small suburban area. I had a good childhood, but there is a lack, in the suburbs, of community sometimes, and also diversity. I was lucky to attend a school that was fairly diverse and I really enjoyed that diversity. But moving to Portland I was kind of shocked, especially after having lived in Los Angeles and in various parts of England. I was thinking more about race after living here for a little while, wondering “where is everyone who is not white?”
About playing ukelele:
CF: I’m playing through an amp and with a tremolo pedal, all of which make the decay a little bit longer. It’s kind of fun to me playing with that, the sparseness of the sound. The electric guitar the way we play it has a short decay in most cases. It leaves a lot of space, which I enjoy.
Do you come from a jazz background?
CJ: Sort of. Actually no, the answer is no. But I’ve listened to a lot of the music, and currently I’m at Portland State, hanging out with the jazzers. Most of the folks are a lot younger than I am, and most of the folks know a lot more about theory, and there are some people who listen to more records.
CF: I think Chris comes from a jazz background! (laughs). To my ears, he has a lot of jazz influence and a lot of jazz expertise. I took voice lessons when I was a kid, but I never really was super interested in theory, so I took guitar lessons in the back of a guitar shop, but was more interested in listening to records and writing my own songs. I listened more to pop music and folk music and country music growing up.
Audio recording and mixes: Zack Carver-Gustin and Steven Kray, with technical assistance from William Ward and Randy Layton
Videographers: Jarratt Taylor, Chloe Holland
Editor: Jarratt Taylor
Executive Producer: David Christensen