The venue is heaving the crowd consists of women, young and old, middle- aged professionals , GAA heads, Irish hard-nuts, and snobby young professionals. Essentially, people that you would never put in one room together except for some – thing exceptional. That something excep – tional is the man about to grace the stage . "DAMO, DAMO, DAMO" they shout and stomp. The lights dim and Damien Dempsey ambles onstage, meekly picks up his guitar and starts laying into his intro Your Pretty Smile , the first of many in The Kentish Town HMV/Forum on St.Patrick’s Day 2012. The atmosphere is electric and the crowd sing,swing and sway in unison. At the end of his final song he quotes Oscar Wilde and shouts out to the crowd: "We’re all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars."
It's six months later and the Irish World has been invited to meet him at the home of acclaimed record producer John Reynolds whose own CV includes producing albums for U2, Sinead O'Connor and Andrea Corr.
John and D a m i e n h a v e j u s t completed Dempsey's fifth studio album, Almighty Love many of the songs of which feature Sinead O'Connor's vocals. Sinead’s haunting whispers complement Damien’s gruff yearnings. Chris and Stevie , one of the stand-out tracks on the album has a sweet sounding haunting melody. (You can catch Damien's live recording of it at www.theirishworld.com .) The cover of the album features Damien diving out of the water in Howth (fully clothed) like a Merman.
He says it is supposed to be sym – bolic of being one with nature. It might just be a sop to his many female and male fans. It's been five years since he released his 2007 album To Hell or Barbados and he is back with a big bang with Almighty Love for which he is about to embark on a UK tour starting October 26 at Paisley Spiegelt at the Paisley Spree in Scotland and ending on November 1 at the Electric Ballroom in the Kentish town, HMV/ Forum.
Joanna Bell spoke to him just before the tour.
Why did it take you five years to produce another album? "I just wasn’t ready, the sounds weren’t good enough and we wanted ten good songs and didn’t want any filler. I went down the wrong road, tried to change my style of writing to let people have a bit of jump around music, and a bit of craic, like, I wanted to make it more for a festival but John Reynolds sat me down and said ‘Damien that’s not what people like about you, people identify with the lyrics, get them through life.’
Born Without Hate is a song that features Kate Tempest, a young rapper and poet. Does she remind you of yourself? "She’s a much better poet than I am, John came to notice her about three years ago and said she is deadly. We got this song Born Without Hate and we approached her and asked her would she perform. After I did the song Connolly people thought I was anti- English but it was actually anti–racism and about the curse of hatred and how it wrecks peoples' lives. I thought it would be a good idea to have an English poet because of those people saying that I was somehow anti- English. I AM anti-establishment but that is not hatred against the Queen or her predecessors. I’ve lived in England for years and this country has been really good to me. It’s a class thing not a people thing.’’
This album sounds more mellow than your previous album, is that a fair summation? ‘’With this recession I didn’t want to ram it down people's throats and I wanted to also appeal to a more international crowd because I have travelled extensively around the world including Australia for seven or eight months. I’d encourage Irish people to travel to broaden their horizons but there should be something at home for them to come back to but unfortunately they can’t. I suppose I said what I had to say about the Celtic Tiger and I didn’t want to reiterate what I had already said in previous albums especially when people have to read about it every day in the papers. I said what I had to say about the Catholic church and I didn’t want to ram it down people's throat again and again.’’
Are you a practicing Catholic? "I like to go into a church on my own when no one is around and say a few prayers but I don’t like being part of a congregation."