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Posted on 14. Sep, 2003 by admin in Damien News, Interviews.


His Irish Is Up

Damien Rice, embarks on a U.S. tour just wanting to make music, not promote it

By Glenn Gamboa

September 14, 2003

Damien Rice doesn’t want you to read this article. Frankly, he’s gotten far more attention than he wants, thanks.

Sure, the Irish singer- songwriter’s album “O” (Vector) was just named a finalist for the prestigious Shortlist Music Prize, and the video for his single “Volcano” is in heavy rotation on VH1. Much of his upcoming U.S. tour is already sold out. Rice, though, is quick to point out that he doesn’t have anything to do with all that or with his overwhelming success in Ireland and England. He just made the music. He is perfectly content with playing his songs for himself and however many people want to hear them. He wants people to decide for themselves whether they like him or not.

“I don’t want to be a star,” Rice says, placing both his hands flat on the table as if he were getting ready to leave. Instead, he picks up a strawberry from his lunch and pops it in his mouth. “I don’t want to be promoted. The music needs to be the foundation – not me talking about it. I don’t want people to like me because I’m supposed to be good. I don’t want to be shoved down anyone’s throat. I’m not a product. What good can come from a lot of promotion?”

Well, it introduces your music to more people. It brings more people to your concerts. It sells more copies of your album. “Yeah, I have no interest in selling records,” Rice says, matter- of-factly. “My interest is in making music.”

From some other singer, that may sound like a practiced pose. From Rice, it sounds like a vow.

After all, the 29-year-old has backed up those beliefs before. In 1997, his then-band Juniper showed promise with a hit in Ireland. However, a few months later, when it came time to record a full album – in the south of France, no less – Rice walked away from the band rather than follow the label’s plan for the band’s direction. “We compromised on the first single, and then we compromised again on the second,” Rice explains. “I was too young and stubborn to compromise again, so I left.”

Following the split, Rice headed to Tuscany, where he supported himself by working on farms, planting vegetables and literally singing for his supper.

He then busked his way across Europe for several months. When he returned to Dublin in 2000, he had some of the songs that would become “O” rattling around in his head. He wanted to get them out.

The first song that felt finished was “The Blower’s Daughter,” a gorgeous out-of-love song built over a single acoustic guitar, rich cello accompaniment and Rice’s pained delivery of the mantra-chorus “I can’t take my eyes off of you” and lines like “And so it is/The shorter story – No love, no glory, no hero in her sky.” Rice borrowed some money to record a demo of the song, which he sent to his father’s cousin, British composer David Arnold, who loved the song and provided him with the recording equipment used on “O.”

“My songs all come from feeling something and then expressing it,” Rice says, adding that he tries to stick as close to the feeling as he can. “They arrive in moments I can’t repeat. They just happen, and then there they are, like the birth of a child, I suppose.”

This method leads to the unusual nature of “O,” which will sound raw and unpolished one moment and then sweep you away in a swelling flourish of strings the next – as it does in the lovely “Amie,” conveying the hope needed to change his life.

The moving “Cheers Darlin’” works in the same way, describing the deflation Rice felt after spending an evening flirting with a woman at a pub only to have her call her boyfriend to come take her home. “I wrote that while I was drunk,” Rice says, smiling. “I came home right after it happened, banged out the chords and just started singing it. The vocal take that’s on the record is from that night. I tried to do it over, but I couldn’t really recapture the same feeling.”

The boozy sneer is evident as he sings, “Cheers darlin’, here’s to you and your lover boy” and in every spiteful “darlin’” that follows, culminating in his imagined confrontation, “What am I darlin’? A whisper in your ear? A piece of your cake? What am I, darlin’? The boy you can fear? Or your biggest mistake?” All the while, the musical accompaniment gets more exquisite. “I took the song to my friend Jean [Meunier, a French pianist] and asked him to play along,” Rice says. “I taped it, and it’s great to hear him get into the song. You can hear it, how he plays only a few notes at the beginning, and by the end, he’s playing this magnificent piece.”

Rice is big on collaboration, especially with singer Lisa Hannigan, who appears on much of “O,” lending a sweet counterpoint to Rice’s plaintive, Jeff-Buckley-meets-Chris-Martin vocals. He hopes to keep his core group – Hannigan, cellist Vyvienne Long, percussionist Tomo and bassist Shane Fitzsimons – together for the near future.

He has already finished his next two albums with the group. The first set, which he plans to call “O Part 2″ and release early next year, is more aggressive, with louder guitars and loads of angry attitude – more of a “kick them in the face” album, with songs like the raging “Woman Like a Man” that he’s been playing on recent tours, where he straps on an electric guitar to rock while spitting out lyrics like “You wanna be rich/You wanna be kitsch/You wanna be the bastard of yourself.” Rice promises the next set, which he plans to record next year, will be happier and more subtle.

First, of course, he must deal with the prospect of America’s falling for him – an amazing possibility considering Rice refuses to allow any money be spent for a marketing campaign. The 40,000-plus albums he has sold in the United States so far have basically come from word-of-mouth referrals, which will only continue to grow. That success is stunning, as Americans continue to offer the cold shoulder to other U.K. darlings, such as Robbie Williams, who received an enormous marketing push for his latest CD.

In an era when it’s not unusual for even the biggest stars to do dozens of interviews in a week, Rice is turning down all requests except for one print, radio and TV outlet each week. “I’m trying to protect myself and my music,” he says. “I don’t care about the money. I’ve lived without money. I care about my freedom.

“There are so many musicians that want you to make them into icons,” Rice continues. “But when you look inside their work, they’re just like you and me. It’s music – that’s all it is. For me, making the music is a perfect joy. I don’t want anything else. I just want to keep doing it.”

Article found here.

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