Totally addicted to live
Damien Rice, not so much a rising Irish star as one that's already risen, discusses gigging and the interest he's getting in the US.
2002 was quite a year for Damien Rice. By rigorously touring throughout Ireland, he built up a loyal and avid fan base. It also saw the release of his debut album, the cryptically titled "O", an album that featured highly in many critics end of year polls. The young Celbridge man actually spent the end of last year as he spent most of 2002, playing a show.
"New Year's Eve is always a bit mad", he says when asked how the gig went. "It's a very different show, everyone's on a high because of the time of year, so I just fed on that and went with the madness. We had some really nice moments with the fire-juggling girl and djembe players. Just around midnight, it felt like we were outdoors camping for a while. It was a blast... you should have seen the accordion man from Romania!"
At the moment he is in Los Angeles, bringing his music to a new audience, but that doesn't mean he has any idea how things are going to pan out. "I'm not really thinking about a major plan for the States or any other part of America, North or South. I'm still just following my nose, going wherever seems right for whatever reason at the time, that's all. We played New York a couple of months ago and last week did three shows in LA. They were amazing, mainly due to KCRW, a radio station that has been playing our stuff like mad, even though the record isn't coming out here until around May this year."
This attitude has served him well so far anyway, in fact, he says himself that he "doesn't like paying too much attention to how or why things happen the way they do". Instead, he just does what he does because he loves playing, going "wherever there seems to be a buzz or wherever seems like an interesting place."
At the moment, his whole life seems to revolve around touring and playing live. It's something he says he's "addicted to". Now that he's moved away from simply gigging up and down Ireland, he admits he would like to play around the Mediterranean countries. Ask him why and the answer is simple, because of the weather and the food. "While touring you spend a lot of time indoors, either in the hotel or the bus; soundchecking, eating, playing or hanging out in the dressing room after the show. And most of the food is take-outs.
"So, I enjoy playing in places where you can play outdoors, in places that you can sit in the sun when you have an hour off and in places where the culture is wrapped around food and enjoying a meal with friends... touring for me is about a quality of living, not going to the bigger markets and trying to break them. Fuck that! Break bigger markets to get more money to do what? To be able to afford to go places that are really nice and eat well? I think it makes more sense to just do that from the beginning."
You could call Damien Rice a singer-songwriter, but, like most musicians, he tends not to think about the tag that's put on him. He just happens to be a singer who writes songs and one who doesn't think about a wider audience when he's writing. As he puts it himself, he just gets "lost in the song. That's the way it seems to really work for me."
When asked about Ireland's tradition of producing singer-songwriters, his answer is scarily well thought out. "It's the rain," he explains. "We spend so much time indoors looking out that we daydream and out of that seems to come a romantic dreamy view of things. When the weather is really good, people go outside and enjoy it. I don't know how much I'd write if I spent a lot of time in LA, for example. Who knows? All I know is that writing takes me out of my shit and into a place that makes sense at the time."
He may be busy on tour at the moment, but he's already started working on the follow-up to "O". "We spent a week in a castle recently," he says, "and recorded late into the evening and early morning. We put down some songs that I'm really excited about." Lyrically the new songs are dealing with "the angrier side of those emotions that come out when things get pushed a little further than they did in the songs on 'O'."
In fact, while it's these emotions that drive him he can't really seem to understand how they've gotten him this far. "It's a funny thing," he says finally, "that just because I fucked up a number of relationships and wrote about it in music that people seem interested. Don't you think it's a little odd? What do I know about anything?" Or maybe it's just that when we're exposed to other people's misery, our own becomes a little easier to bear.
by Ken McGrath