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Posted on 20. Nov, 2003 by admin in Damien News, Interviews.


From Van Morrison to Bono to David Gray, Ireland has never lacked for emotion-charged singer-songwriters. The latest to hit these shores is Damien Rice, on the heels of his soaring acoustic solo debut, “O” (Vector Recordings). While Rice is reluctant to point to the specific influence of other musicians on his work – “The main thing that influences what chords I play and the way the song comes out is what I’m going through at the time” – he has admired and learned from a large variety of artists. “I love people who write or play to find some sort of peace or solace in their lives, like Nina Simone, Jacques Brel and Leonard Cohen.”

A sweet Celtic lilt underlies most of the tunes on the album, including those featuring heavily arranged string parts. One of the most haunting originals on O, however, is “Cheers Darlin’” – a melancholy Central European-sounding tune that seems most un-Irish. “It may come from a past life,” Rice says, only half-kidding. “I once went to a clairvoyant who said that I was a cello player in my last life – a Czechoslovak-German-Jewish cello player.”

Rice taught himself to play the acoustic guitar as a teen, then switched to electric when he joined a band in school. He switched again about four years ago when he left home to wander around Europe with an acoustic. The experience changed his approach to playing.

“I think years ago I had more of a lead guitar feel in what I did, a riff-based thing that comes naturally to me,” says the Dublin native. “And now when I pick up a guitar the first thing I play is a chord.”

Rice owns and plays only one acoustic, a late-Seventies Irish-made Lowden, which he speaks of in glowing terms. “I just stumbled upon it one day,” he says. When I play live and break a string, I just sit there and talk to the audience while fixing it. People ask, ‘Why don’t you go get yourself a spare guitar?’ The answer,” explains Rice, “is that I kind of have a love affair with this one.”

- Isaiah Frost for Guitar World. Transcribed by Emmett.

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