When you envision a successful star’s home, it seems logical to picture extravagance and luxury located in an upscale, and possibly secluded, California neighborhood. For Cy Curnin, vocalist for the New Wave group The Fixx—whose hits include “One Thing Leads to Another,” “Saved by Zero,” and “Red Skies”—that image of his home life is far from his reality. Instead, the singer
has chosen to reside on an organic farm in France with his wife, young daughter, horses, sheep and 150 goats—all permanent guests at his bed-and-breakfast.
Ask Curnin for the reason why he chose to get his hands dirty and live off the land and his answer sounds more like the beginnings of one of his songs: He did it for love. But he’s quick to say that it didn’t take long to find his passion for what he does and the land he calls home.
Food with Barcodes
“This has been a discovery for me—like being at the right place at the right time,” he says. “In 2001, Aurélia, my then-girlfriend and now my wife, decided just to pack her bags, leave New York and move back to France, where she’s from originally. When she got there, someone gave her a sheep, so she decided to go to school to study goat farming and make goat cheese.”
Curnin missed his love and a few years later decided to move out and join her. The couple bought 20-plus acres of land and a 1790 longère style home that was once a cattle farm in the Loire Valley of France, two hours south of Paris. On the property, they built a bed-and-breakfast, decorated with a mix of rustic and modern décor. Its walls are three-feet thick, allowing the home and B&B to remain naturally cool. Additional insulation was added where necessary and wood-burning stoves and electrical heaters keep the rooms warm. “In France, electricity is very cheap because they’ve invested in nuclear power,” Curnin says, “so the government gives you good tax kickbacks if you use electricity.”
The site has two rental homes (gites)—one that accommodates up to 12 people and another that can fit up to four—equipped with kitchens. The B&B is a popular, rural getaway for many Europeans who enjoy a holiday exploring the Loire Valley, which is home to beautiful chateaux, countless wineries and delightful villages. The property includes a lake for fishing, and children can participate in the daily farm activities. Rates vary depending on the season and the space.
Once he had the land, it was the tragedy of September 11, 2001 that turned Curnin’s attention to what he calls “food with barcodes,” and he realized that this farm could allow his family to be self-sufficient. “There hadn’t been one drop of pesticides or fertilizer ever put on this soil other than natural,” says Curnin. “We are now 100 percent self-sufficient, and it only takes an hour or two hours of work every day. It’s maintainable.”
The working farm and bed-and-breakfast became so successful and time-consuming that it squashed any idea of a goat farm. “We started eating off the land and added organic vegetables to go with what meat we had,” explains Curnin. He also constructed an enormous (80 x 40 x 30-foot) underground rainwater collection system that amasses approximately 190,000 meters of water a year that was otherwise going to waste.
Although this hands-on life was initially a bit of a culture shock to a famed musician who had been traveling the world and enjoying a lavish New York City apartment and wealthier lifestyle, relocating to France renewed his childhood memories of becoming a veterinarian. “I grew up loving fishing and the countryside,” says Curnin, who spent his childhood in the Wimbledon area of London, England. “It just took time to rediscover.”
However, Curnin admits that at times living ‘green’ can be overwhelming. “I wanted to give up at one point, wondering how much money it took to live like this,” he says. “You’re thinking of saving the planet, but you’re not saving any money. It’s a lot of man hours and a lot of heavy work. It seems quicker to bring in the team or just go to the supermarket and buy a pork chop.”
In tough times, such as last year when all the sheep got sick and half of them died, he would often remember what his mother told him: “It’s better to tend to your own garden than worry about news from afar because if you don’t tend to your own garden, news from afar will swallow you. Take care of yourself and you’ll be in fitter shape, basically to take care of whatever comes at you.”
As for the sheep, “those who survived came back stronger, and so did I,” he says.
The farm keeps Curnin physically stronger, too. The 50-year-old Curnin says that being a farmhand does keep him fit, but he finds time to still work on music and perform. “I used to spend a couple hours rehearsing and plenty of time sitting around,” he says. “Now, I still spend a couple hours a day noodling and writing, but then I’m working on the farm every day, which keeps me in great shape.”
The Fixx are currently recording music for their new album scheduled to be released in 2009. They were recently part of the Rockin’ the Colonies tour and will be performing in Las Vegas later this year. Curnin’s most recent solo project is The Returning Sun, a self-released CD that is available on his Web site.
In October 2007, Curnin performed in a concert called Everest Rocks at the base camp of Mount Everest, setting a world record as the highest gig on land, as part of a 13-day trek through Nepal with the Love Hope Strength Foundation (LHSF), a charity that raises funds and awareness for international cancer centers and networks through music-related events and promotions.
“I believe [my wife and I are] kind of smiling at ourselves,” says Curnin. “We arrived at this place without really planning it, but it happened.”
Credit: Renovate Your World