Authenticity takes centre stage for Ireland’s singing storyteller

Damien Dempsey . . . storyteller.
Damien Dempsey . . . storyteller.

Groove Tube with Cian O’Connell 

He is renowned for his raw and emotive live performances – but Damien Dempsey is in essence as much a storyteller as he is a singer-songwriter.  In a career spanning almost twenty years, the Dubliner, who plays Monroe’s Live tonight (Thursday), has released a catalogue of successful albums, played gigs all over the world and shared stages with artists like Bruce Springsteen and Sinéad O’Connor.

His songs are influenced by a medley of themes and genres yet they seem intrinsically tied together by the authenticity of his voice and lyrics.

With an instantly recognisable vocal, Damien has felt comfortable pushing boundaries in his songwriting – his latest release Union features a host of major artists including Imelda May and Finbar Furey.

“It came about after the last album Soulsun,” Damien says of Union. “There was a track with Imelda May on it that Sony wanted to release as a single. We just said ‘Will we just do some more, make it an EP of other collaborations from the past?’ It got some legs then and we thought we’d do some new collaborations and make an album out of it.”

The new album was largely recorded in Kilburn, London. A blend of old and new material, Damien talks about the rationale for the musicians he invited onto the record.

“There’s a good bit of new stuff,” he notes. “I’ve reworked some old songs that didn’t really work [in the past]. I’ve written some new ones like ‘You’re Like the Water’ with Maverick Sabre and ‘The Keepers of the Flame’ with Lisa O’Neill.

“I wanted to work with singers who I felt sing from a very deep place inside them – soul singers I suppose, to me they’re all soul singers on the album. Lisa O’Neill, Sinéad O’Connor, Seamus Begley, Finbar Furey of course – they’re all singers that move me.

“When you work with somebody like that I think you always learn something from them and you always take some of their magic with you. It’s great to collaborate and to do something that you wouldn’t have done otherwise.

For more,  read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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