ICON: Where did the interest in music come from? Your album proves how vocally gifted you are.
Dermot Kennedy: “What appealed to me most was the power of expression and how powerful that can be if you really express yourself in a really honest and passionate way. So I kind of nurtured a love for that from seeing other artists doing it.”
ICON: You first got your music out there by busking. What did that experience teach you?
DK: “With life lessons, it shows you that no matter how good you think you are you can always be at the bottom of that ladder. And also, from a musical point-of-view it taught me to project my voice and it taught me to care less about what people think…”
ICON: What was your initial reaction when you found out Taylor Swift gave you a shout out, hailing you as poetic?
DK: “I think I got tagged in it online and took a look at it – yeah, that was cool. We rehearsed a live version of one of her song in England and it was so refreshing to realise that when you strip it back to piano and vocals, how good her song actually was. It was just this timeless, beautiful song so it’s nice that she listens to my music. All I’m saying is that it’s nice to be acknowledged.”
ICON: In a recent interview you said you “really struggled when people started caring about my music.” Why was that?
DK: “Because, I think the thing people latch onto with my music – not speak on their behalf – is my lyrics. And I felt, I always knew that’s what I’m good at, that’s what I wanted to sort of be recognised for. I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep a really high standard and to write the perfect thing. That’s what I started to worry about, sitting in the studio worrying about – it can be counterproductive. All the thoughts come from the brain and your own emotions and if your brain is worrying about if they’re good enough, then you’ll never have a true thought.”
ICON: Your music is deeply rooted with emotion but there also this sense of power that comes from your voice. Where do you draw inspiration from lyrically?
DK: “I think it’s important for me to write about my personal experiences and my life and try and keep it autobiographical because I find that when you go on tour, a lot in this case – with this album I’ll be on tour for a couple of years – so I’ll play these songs hundreds of times so if I want those performances to be believable, to be impressive, powerful, I think I have to be able to relate those lyrics back to my own life.”
ICON: What themes do your debut album incorporate?
DK: “I think it’s a lot of different things. I think one of the ways in which it is most exciting for me is, in terms of its sound. Because since day one, I’ve been as a song writer messing around with different genres, different sounds so, this album and this project was that opportunity for me to try and balance everything. To have an acoustic ballad but also a mix of songs that might have trap production, so I want those two things to live on the same project and not sound like different artists. That was very massive for me. I want the album to tell a story…”
ICON: Last month you shared a health updated after cancelling several shows. You mentioned it took a mental toll as well. How do you stay positive in hard times? What other difficulties come with your industry?
DK: “There was a silver lining with that situation because it turns out that my vocal cords were completely fine but what has happened was basically, I was singing from my neck instead of my diaphragm for my whole life and so eventually my neck was so tense that I couldn’t get the notes out … but it was massively frustrating. And it’s funny because you take it for granted on the road and you’re like travelling and playing and then it can stop so suddenly, and you just realise how great of a thing it is when you can’t. It takes a mental toll for sure and I just try and stay positive on the road. I find it very lucky with the crew that I travel with … when we have a day off anywhere we’ll always gather together and do something together but I don’t think that is necessarily the norm… you know you have people that will listen to you with whatever problem you’ve got.”
ICON: You toured Australia in January and again for Splendour in the Grass. What has the reception been like from Aussies? Do we differ from overseas?
DK: “I feel like everywhere is different. I feel like being in Australia, kind of feels like being at home in a way because it feels like, when you’re playing Germany or Belgium or Denmark or wherever it is, the crowd is just super polite and what happens there is, you’re kind of kept on your toes and you feel like everything has to be perfect, people are really playing attention and very rarely do people actually talk, which I really appreciate so much. But when you play in Ireland and Australia or parts of America, it feels really exciting and it feels like there is something in the air…”
Dermot Kennedy’s debut album ‘Without Fear’ is out now. For more information, visit here.