Damien Leith

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Damien Leith is hitting the road with an alluring irish experience, the parting glass. focus catches up with damien to find out what the show is all about …

Most people will know you from your amazing vocals and from taking out Australian Idol in 2006. With many awards won and albums released since, tell us about your newest release.
Well, the new one is Songs from Ireland; it’s got 15 classic Irish songs – very much all the songs that I listened to and sang with my family over all the years growing up. It’s kind of like a trip down memory lane for me to do the whole album; it’s something very special and means a lot to my family as well.

What inspired you to do a purely “Irish” album?
You know, it actually came from this show I’m touring; The Parting Glass was what started the whole thing off. I wrote the play about four years ago and the setting for the play is in a pub in Ireland. Because it’s set there, I put a band in the pub and as part of the script I put in a whole bunch of Irish songs. We first performed it four years ago; it was just fantastic – especially with the Irish music. The Irish really got into it, and it kind of sent my feelings towards releasing an album like that. It’s been four years in the making really, from that script.

It’s great to see you coming back to Port Macquarie. What are you looking forward to the most this time round?
The last time was fantastic. We did a fantastic show and we got to hang about, which was pretty cool as well. We had an extra couple of hours the next day, so we roamed around the town and just took it in, which we don’t always get to do. This time around, because it’s a different show, I’m just excited to return with something different. Sometimes when you’re still touring the same show and you return to a crowd you want to spice it up, but you’re limited; at least with this show I get to come along with something completely different.

The show is a little out of left field for you. I know you said that the inspiration for the album came from the show, but where did the inspiration and the concept behind The Parting Glass come from?
It was actually Steven Campbell and his wife, Lisa … They were looking after the Adelaide Cabaret Festival a couple of years ago and they were picking all the acts and putting the whole thing together, and he got in touch with me and said, “Would you fancy doing an Irish open and putting something together for it?” And I just jumped at the opportunity of writing something, rather than just doing music. I’ve always loved drama; when I was a kid the only thing I ever did was act. I had no interest in music back then at all. The only thing I ever did was act and write; I used to write stories and plays and all sorts of things, so when he asked me that I just thought, “Yeah, you know, I’m going to write a play – I’m going to do something totally different. So that’s how it all came about.”

What kind of vibe can we expect from the show?
The whole idea of the show is to give an Irish experience … It’s like an Irish night out and it’s delivered through the music and also the script. The storyline is a father and a son who are meeting in a pub in Ireland; they haven’t seen each other for five years, ‘cause the son went over to Australia and vanished and he didn’t get in touch, and suddenly he’s arrived back. So, they’ve got a lot to catch up on! It’s quite funny; it’s very humorous for a lot of the play, because the dad, he has a lot of opinions about everything – he’s like the grumpy guy that you like. He’s grumpy, but he’s actually very funny … He notices everything; he’ll comment on the audience, he’ll comment on the band, he’ll comment about everything.

So, as the audience is sitting there watching it, they really become part of it – it’s almost like you’re sitting there and listening in on this conversation. It’s like you’re around a table – they’re the ones talking, but you’re sitting there listening. It’s a funny play, but it’s also emotional, ‘cause obviously there’s a five year gap, and there are things that have happened in the last five years. It’s like an Irish song – it can start off light and breezy and then tragedy strikes somewhere else in the middle of the song; the show is kind of like that.

Is the band you’re bringing along with you your usual band, or have you carefully selected musicians to help reflect the story?
It’s five musicians who have arrived at a bar in Ireland and just took out whatever instruments they had and started playing; this is the vibe we’re going with. So, we have the Irish drum, and the spoons, we’ve got the Irish whistle, which has got a sort of haunting sound, we’ve also got the fiddle, the mandolin, a lot of acoustic guitar and things like that – so it’s a very acoustic show … You’ve got some ballads and then you’ve got some real up tempo jigs, which is a lot of fun.

What are your plans after the tour for The Parting Glass is completed?
At this stage, I’m not too sure. The tour started out quite small and it’s just kind of gotten bigger and bigger, which is really cool. You never know – it might extend on beyond. We’ve also had a really interesting contact from someone in America about the same show, which has kind of surprised as all, so the show could get on the road outside Australia as well. There’s that going on, obviously the album and I’ve got a lot of studio stuff that I’m doing. I do a lot of mentoring for younger acts who are recording their stuff at my little studio in Sydney, so I’ve got a lot of that coming up – it’s been a busy year.

Thanks Damien.

This article was from issue 116 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus.

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