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Posted on 26. Sep, 2003 by admin in Damien News, Interviews.


The new troubadour
By WENDY KALE Colorado Daily Music Writer

It was supposed to be Dave Matthews’ night at the Triple A Radio convention. The hot August evening at the Fox was awash with radio programmers and record-company types. After hearing Matthew’s rather inebriated performance, the conventioneers shuffled back into the bar at the Fox and started talking about the act they were really looking forward to seeing that weekend – Damien Rice.

Those lucky enough to have seen the young Irish performer play his Triple A show at Tulagi got to witness the birth of what may be the next rising star in the music industry. Rice’s voice is beautiful, and his heavenly tones carry his emotive folk-rock meanderings. Accompanied by a small band that punctuated his solid tunes, the performance left most well-seasoned music veterans with their jaws dropping in surprise and delight – a near-to-impossible feat with this crowd.

Despite that hoopla, Damien Rice prefers to take on the music industry in his own time and at his own pace. Maybe that’s why you haven’t heard about him yet. Add that to the fact that Rice prefers to march to his own drummer, and you have a performer that’s less worried about becoming an instant radio hit, and more concerned with putting on a intimate show and connecting with his loyal audiences.

The performer has already made an impact on audiences in his homeland of Ireland and headlines shows on the European continent.

Rice started his singing career at the young age of 13. His father always had a few guitars lying around the house and the young musician honed his fine singing voice by performing in school choirs.

Eventually landing in the indie rock band Juniper, the singer had moderate success with the group. Signed by Polygram Records, Juniper had two Euro radio hits in 1997 before Rice decided to leave the band. It was just the first move he made on the road to creating his own independent career.

“I was unhappy with the band and I was frustrated,” explained Rice. “I realized that I’d achieved all the things I wanted in the band – I had a major record deal and sold out venues, but I was still unhappy. The record company was trying to box me in, and I like being more random and scattered. I knew I had to change something, so I moved to Tuscany, where my only roommates were an old donkey and some chickens.”

Rice took a year off from performing before he realized that he missed the scene, and when he picked up the guitar again it was to play on the streets of Europe. Scrounging up cash to make a demo, the musician sent it off to producer/film composer David Arnold (Bjork and Paul Oakenfeld).

Arnold was impressed with Rice’s songs and set him up with a mobile recording studio to create what would become Rice’s debut record “O.”

“It was great, I was able to travel to different places and record with the mobile studio,” said Rice. “I always enjoy recording at home more, because it’s more comfortable. I also prefer to be free and record when a song comes to me and this made the process easier.”

Rice also liked the fact that this project gave him carte blanche to do whatever he wanted with the CD and the recording process. Arnold lent Rice the money, but the Irish singer/songwriter took the rest of the matter into his own hands and produced the record, mixed and mastered the songs, designed the CD’s artwork and set up the distribution of the project. Whew.

It paid off. “O’s” first single “The Blower’s Daughter” was an instant top 20 hit in the UK. Infused with extra touches like Gregorian chants and backup singer Lisa Hannigan (who sounds amazingly like Delores O’Riordan of the Cranberries) the record gradually started making inroads to America’s Triple A Radio stations.

“O” is a breathtaking project that melds Rice’s and Hannigan’s pure voices and intertwines them through lush vocal syncopation. Rice’s voice and songwriting talents have been compared to those of David Gray and Jeff Buckley, but the Irish singer’s depth of vocal and songwriting abilities seem to be surpassing the contemporary singer/songwriter pack. Rice goes the extra mile when he turns out a tune or adds a vocal flourish to each song.

“I just had a vision of what I wanted and I followed my heart. Things turned out in a way I could have never imagined, even if I tried. The one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t compromise what you do; that’s like someone making a vegetarian chicken soup – you see that the compromise isn’t real. I just want to write songs that will challenge me,” explained Rice.

The Irish singer is now taking on the challenge of winning over U.S. audiences, one fan at a time.

One of Rice’s biggest fans is L.A. radio DJ Nic Harcourt, one of the current musical soothsayers of the music industry. Radio stations around the country listen to what Harcourt and his station KCRW play, and their scorecard had been pretty impressive when it comes to picking future music stars.

Rice’s performance was also a hit at this summer’s Triple A Radio Summit and paved the way for this fall’s tour of the states.

“People are listening and things are happening,” said Rice. “I admit that I’m mystified how it all happens, but this is something that I want to grow naturally. Hopefully, people will be drawn to the music, so I’m not concerned about the size of the venue we play. I’d rather go for quality rather than quantity.”

Unfortunately, vocalist Hannigan won’t be accompanying Rice at his Friday Fox show. The actress/singer will be performing in a play in Dublin, but Rice will be bringing in a handpicked three-piece band for this show. The singer admits that he has a very free, revolving-door policy for the musicians in his band, so they can pursue other projects at their leisure.

“People stay in a band as long as they’re happy, so we keep everything simple and there are no rules. That way, the musicians can come and go as they please. I like to keep things free,” said Rice.

He may not travel the typical road map to music business success, but fans are willing to take the journey that Rice’s songs leads them on.

Article found here.

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