Since venturing out on his own in 1998, Damien Rice’s solo career has been calculated and methodical. Last year, the Irish-born singer-songwriter released just the third full-length album of his career, which formally debuted with 2002’s O. With tracks like “The Blower’s Daughter,” Rice was among a group of turn-of-the-millennium songwriters that found new depths in heartbreaking ballads. My Favourite Faded Fantasy is his first album in eight years.
“Sometimes you have to deny yourself air in order to appreciate it,” Rice said. “I breathe all the time and forget all about air until I’m underwater, and after a short period of time, I start to crave oxygen. When I’m desperate for air, there’s no greater gift in that moment than coming back to the surface and receiving air. That level of appreciation is so rewarding and fills my experience of life with such richness that I might otherwise forget or miss out on. Similarly, I sometimes need to keep myself from music so that I really appreciate it.”
Since Rice released 2006’s 9, America has seen nearly the duration of Obama’s presidency and the world has seen the invention of the iPhone and a large shift in how people consume music.
“Give me the courage and vision to get rid of my computer and smartphone and I think my creativity will soar,” he said. “To me, these new technologies are about as helpful to creativity as candy is to nutrition. These computers, phones, apps and the likes make all of these promises, like corrupt politicians, but there’s very little follow through, really. In that, they supposedly exist to make our lives easier and better, yet, almost every person I know that works in creativity experiences the most amount of stress in their life due to their computers and continuous software malfunctioning, updating and so on. Hours and hours and hours spent in front of glossy screens slowly turning into robots. Slowly creativity dies at the hands of the keyboard and touch screen. I may have to check into some clinic to get myself off these new glossy screened drugs and get back to pen, paper and some analog inspiration!”
And while eight years passed, Rice collected just eight songs for Fantasy. They’re never really structured much like pop songs, with the shortest tune of the group lasting 4:27 and the longest, the song that received a lot of rotation at Birmingham Mountain Radio, “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man,” checking in at a whopping 9:33. This time around, Rice says, he vowed not to take himself too seriously, to cut anything that he couldn’t find humor in.
“I find it so easy to moan, bitch and complain in songs,” he said. “Songwriting can be a great place to release – it’s much like going to the toilet. You take in all these things into your body, keep what you need, then get rid of the waste. So, often songs ended up being these expressions of things I needed to get rid of. I was a little tired of the ease at which I used to fall into that role so I wanted to change it up a little. So on this record, I pushed myself to step out of my normal reflexive behavior and chose to have more of a sense of humor about everything, to stop taking everything so seriously and see how that opened up in both myself and the lyrics.”
And so it is, the European songwriter that influenced a generation — that can be surely be heard in the tone of Ed Sheeran’s voice — chose to stop taking himself so seriously. But he never noticed his own influence, never shifted focus for the benefit of anyone else. Damien Rice never wavered from being true to Damien Rice.
“My job as a songwriter is like a watchman on a sailboat,” Rice said. “If I lose focus and get distracted by things other people might say about me, the boat might hit a rock and sink, so I pay little attention to those things. I mostly only see ways in which I could improve or be better, so that’s my focus.”
Damien Rice comes to Iron City on Sunday, November 15. The show is presented by Birmingham Mountain Radio. My Bubba and Red Harp will open. Doors open at 7 p.m., while the show begins at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are $35, while remaining tickets can be purchased at the door for $40. For more information, visit ironcitybham.com.