Damien Dempsey has been a busy man. Goldenplec caught up with him on a media day in Dublin recently not long after he returned from a tour in Australia. Despite being visibly shattered, he is the consummate professional answering questions with complete honesty and interest. It is a trait that we have come to expect from the Dub in the thirteen years since he arrived on the scene with his first album.
With the interview underway and time ticking by talk turns to his latest album ‘Almighty Love’ and the extensive tour that accompanied it. Having covered Ireland, Great Britain and most recently Australia since its release, his passion for his music is as obvious as ever. Playing in countries where he may not be a household name has no ill effect on him, “If people are enjoying the gig then it doesn’t matter how many are there.” Whether it’s playing to 1400 people in a sold out Olympia or to a handful of locals on one of Ireland’s most beautiful islands Inishbofin the effect is still the same. “It puts you on a high for 3 days. It’s like a musical orgasm!”
After 6 weeks in Australia which saw him in “15 different beds and on 12 different flights” he is fully entitled to pause for a yawn or two. Despite being away from home for this long Dempsey still doesn’t see his lifestyle as a “job”. Instead musing, “I have a job to do yeah. I have a job to give people hope and help them through the darkness.” When it gets to a point where he can count the flights and the beds he has stayed in surely it takes its toll? “It does yeah, but I played the Sydney Opera House on Paddy’s Day.” It sounds like it balances itself out!
In the lead up to releasing ‘Almighty Love’ a very open letter was published on his personal website. In it the subject of writers block is mentioned. Surely it is a horrible problem for anyone that has had to endure it? “Yeah its hard. It’s all garbage. Nothing sounds right. Nothing has any feeling to it. There were over 90 songs written in around 4 years for ‘Almighty Love’ and they will never see the light of day.“
In the same letter the Dub was also very open about his battle with depression. A subject that is still very much a taboo in Ireland. To overcome these dark days he sat down and played his guitar for hours on end. “I sat down to play ballads and the likes of Bob Marley and Thin Lizzy. Thin Lizzy made me want to get a guitar in the first place. Listening to Marley gave me the reggae tinge that you hear in my music now. A lot of the songs I’ve written wouldn’t be possible without what I went through.’
Dealing with negativity is something that a musician, or anyone successful in Ireland, has to deal with. How do you deal with this and prevent it from affecting you? ‘The person that is giving you this negativity doesn’t care about you. They wouldn’t help you if you were in trouble. So why would you care about them? The way I look at it if they are attacking you they are leaving someone else alone. What are they doing with their own lives that give them the right to pass comment?’
As the interview winds down the conversation moves towards acting and Dempsey’s recent roll in the Irish film Between The Canals which was well received by critics and the public. “I’m actually doing another movie now in Darndale (County Dublin) called Cardboard Gangsters. A friend of mine John Connors, who is in the new film King Of The Travellers and Love/Hate wrote the script. He wants me to be in it. It’s going to portray what happens to kids that become gangsters without any of the gloss on it. It’s going to be gritty”
Throughout the interview the kindness and sincerity of one of Dublin’s most prominent musicians shines through. As GP leaves Dempsey is settling in for another interview. A true professional. His latest album ‘Almighty Love’ is out now. You can catch Damien this summer at the Westport Festival, Groove Festival, The Iveagh Gardens before he heads off to the U.S. for a tour.