Taking a break from the recording studio, Damien Dempsey speaks with Ronan Leonard ahead of his concert in Glanmire
“YEARS ago I wrote about the Celtic Tiger and the dangers of it, and people were telling me, ‘Jaysus, will you ever get a life’; but I smelled what was happening and then when it all crashed, people were asking me, ‘why aren’t you writing about the crash?’, and I had to tell them, ‘I’ve done that, I’ve covered it’… I’m trying to give some solutions now, songs about community.”
Having released It’s All Good, a best-of compilation in 2014 which contained tracks selected from his previous six studio albums, Damien Dempsey released No Force On Earth a few months ago.
“My previous album, Almighty Love, was me trying to find solutions instead of just writing about the crash and the banks, because I think people were already sick of hearing about it every day.
“So this year I brought out a small album to mark 1916, it was about the diversity of people who were involved — the urban, the rural, the poor, the rich, the women, all the people who took part.”
The opening track on the album, ‘Aunt Jenny’, is written about one of those people, but one Damien is also directly connected to.
“My Granny’s aunty, Jenny Shanahan, was from Dublin’s inner city and was in the Irish Citizens Army with James Connolly and also fought in the War of Independence and in the Civil War.
“There were over 200 women from all over Ireland involved in the Rising and they’ve been sort of airbrushed out of history.
“I never knew about them so I wanted to write a song to commemorate them,” he said.
People who attend his concert in The Castle, Glanmire, will get to hear that material but also his classic songs such as ‘Negative Vibes’ and ‘Patience’.
“I’ll be playing some songs from No Force On Earth, and I’ll do a couple of the new songs I’m recording now.
“One new song is from the perspective of a British soldier who joins the army in England because he’s hungry and gets shipped to Ireland during the famine times.
“I’ll have the full band with me; we had a great gig there last time, we won over the crowd and got them all singing.
“We’ll try do that again because I think singing is just good for the soul. If you can get everyone singing in unison it gets everybody high.”
Damien credits being able to guide a crowd like that as a skill he honed by coming to Cork.
“I used to get the train down and have great gigs in The Lobby. I cut my teeth there, it was a real place where you had to be able to tell a story and have the chops to play there.
“It’s where I learned my stagecraft; the crowd were always great listeners. It was nice to be able to build from playing to 15 or 20 people there to selling out the Cork Opera House.”
Having got to the stage of playing the largest venues in Ireland, Damien has since made it a point to try and play outside the major cities where possible.
“It’s absolutely an important thing for me; a lot of people don’t have the money to come into the city, so sometimes you take your music to them.”
Damien Dempsey plays the Glanmire Midsummer Party with support from David Keenan on Friday, July 15, in The Castle, Glanmire. Tickets, €20, are available from tickets.ie and from the bar.