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Posted on 20. Dec, 2002 by admin in Damien News, Interviews.


After what was at times a stressful year, Damien Rice is on the verge of a major international breakthrough. Fiona Reid gets the inside story from the hungover but happy singer.

It’s early afternoon in the cosy environs of Whelan’s, the bar bedecked with tinsel and lights and Mic Christopher’s new solo album playing softly in the background. Damien Rice’s still feeling the effects of the session of epic proportions which followed the previous night’s celebration of Mic’s music in Vicar Street. He describes the atmosphere at the gig as “very happy, with so many people wanting to play and everybody backstage trying to work out what they were going to do. I didn’t know Mic very long but we spent some time together in Prague and kind of bonded, the way you do when you’re far from home. Those kind of small moments can be fairly intense.”

It’s been quite a year for Damien Rice – a glowing reception for his debut album, a series of sell-out shows and a recent appearance on BBC2’s prestigious “Later with Jools Holland”. “I was on with Moby and Badly Drawn Boy, just enjoying watching the other acts. They all had full bands, but when Jools announced me, I was standing alone in the middle of the room, singing ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ – it was a really big contrast, but it felt gorgeous.”

But the real highlight of Damien’s year has been the release of his album O and he expresses sheer surprise at its success. “I felt that I had made a record that I loved, but I wasn’t expecting many people to like it. I thought it was too raw and rough at the edges, not shiny enough, with too many slow songs. But I also thought if it’s the only album I made in the world then at least I’d love it. I was genuinely taken aback that it got such a good reaction.”

Does he feel part of some kind of resurgence of alternative Irish music, based around the focus of the Frames and their extended gang of musician mates?

“I definitely feel part of something, yeah, and I didn’t a few years ago. There’s this huge warm, encouraging group thing going on. Over the last two years there’s just been this whoosh (miming explosion) in the number of people doing amazingly well.”

There was a downside to his newfound success earlier this year. “Before the album, I was living a hippy artist lifestyle, recording a song every once in a while, doing everything myself, from organising gigs to putting up posters. After O, things went mad – I had to get a loan to release the album, then got into major debt printing more copies when the first run sold out. I was musician, manager, everything, and I was a ball of stress. And that stress started leaking its way into the band, there were a lot of rows and we actually split up for a little while.”

Luckily, Damien’s band, including co-vocalist Lisa Hannigan, soon reformed, helped along by Mr Hansard playing agony uncle. “At a gig in Cork (where we were supposed to play the next night) I pulled Glen aside and told him. He said “fuck it, it’s not about you, it’s not about the band and what you all want, it’s about the people out there. All the other stuff doesn’t matter, so I rang the band and asked ‘Can we please do the gig? It would be great.’ And it was.”

So is Glen Hansard some kind of Godfather to a Dublin indie mafia then?

“Glen is – well, I wouldn’t say the ‘Godfather’, cause he’s not that old, ‘though he’s been doing it a long time. The thing about the Frames is they know everybody and everybody knows them, so they provide this link. I met David Kitt through them and I met Mundy through Mic, who I met through Glen. I don’t know if it’s because of all they’ve been through, ’cause things have changed since they started out. I think it was a lot more bitchy and competitive ten years ago. But The Frames have been great for so many musicians, always inviting everyone up on stage, and it brings people closer while introducing new artists to an audience.”

Damien is working on new songs, but isn’t planning a second album for next year. “I’m releasing O in Europe and America, so I’ll be touring. I don’t think I’d put out a second album over here if I wasn’t around. My hope for next year is that I can fully let go of the organisational side, as I’ve got management now, an agent and someone running the record company. So my main wish for 2003 is that I’ll get to experience enjoying what I’m doing. I really want to chill out and just be the hippy artist again.”

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