Howayiz my friends. It’s Damo here, puttin the finishin touches to this long overdue album, over here in the County Kilburn, London. Sorry it’s taken so long but the songs just weren’t strong enough to put out before now.
We could have stuck out an album with one or two crackers and the rest filler but I think I'd retire from song-writing and just play folk songs in pubs rather than put out what I thought was a half arsed album.
I went down a road of trying to write upbeat festival songs to jump around to but it didn’t work. There were some good melodies and grooves but the lyrics didn’t mean anything. I felt it was my job to try and do something different with every album. It was John Reynolds who sat me down one day and explained to me the importance of lyrics in my songs, which I had kind of forgotten for a little while. I came to realise that if someone wants festival songs and music to jump around to, there’s a thousand bands out there they can listen to at the touch of a button.
I realised I needed to write something that I felt strongly about, that moved me, that I cared about. For a year or so I had forgotten what the lyrics mean to the audience and I had forgotten what they mean to me and how they got me through some horrible times. I had some nasty periods of despair over the last couple of years when I thought I'd lost the only thing I was ever good at. It’s a scary thing but gradually I started writing from the heart again and I listened to my old albums and they really picked me up. It’s good to see they still work on me. The songs still do the job I wrote them to do.
I remember feelin real low one day. I looked at the last 50 songs I wrote and none of them touched me or moved me. I was in a bit of a dip as well as I'd be prone to a bit of depression, as many creative people are apparently – nothing like the lows I used to get. But I reckon we all get them. Some go a lot lower than others. It’s just seeing it through till you climb the mountain again and look down on the view. But me head was dark and wrecked and I grabbed my guitar and sat on my bed and sang my favourite songs for an hour and no mess when I finished, I was in a totally different mindset from the previous hour. A weight had been lifted off me and I remembered how it was singing and playing that got me through the tough times when I was a kid.
I remembered the reason I done it in the first place and soon after that I heard that doctors are now prescribing singing to people with depression, anxiety and stress. They encourage them to join a choir or take singing lessons. Try it next time you’re in the horrors. Write down your favourite songs and print out the lyrics to them, if you don't know them off by heart, and go somewhere quite and sing them even for half an hour. It works!
I knew for a long time how well it works but sometimes in life we forget important lessons and wisdom and we get reminded of them lessons and revelations and that wisdom by something that happens or stumble across accidentally again. We stray off the true track but find our way back onto it again.
I was writing lots of songs about the banks and the Government, songs that were mostly just facts, like a lecture. But people are being bombarded with this negative news about banks and government corruption every day. Am I goin to write an album that’s goin to be like hearing the news and goin to preach at people because I feel it’s my duty to write about this? I thought nah. The people won't want a parallel running commentary on how were being scammed. They'll want a solution rather than someone reiterating the problem and preaching to the converted. When I listen to the songs I realized I would have been pushing things down people’s throats. Maybe I should ask questions instead of pointing the finger. The people have had this stuffed down their throat every waking hour for years now.
It’s mad when you write songs and people expect good songs every album. It’s like you have found a treasure chest full of songs and people think your being greedy when you don't pull them out and share them. If only it were that easy! I've written 90 songs for this album. You really have to push yourself. It’s not on tap and if you write a bad album you feel you'll have no friends. It’s a strange old game. All I can say is when my music moves someone – that’s why I keep writing.
Moneywise it’s not what people reckon it is. I’ve often had fellas come up to me go “Jaysus Damo how much did you get for that article?” I says you don't get paid for articles in papers or playin on the radio and you might get 100 euro for being on the Late Late show on TV. You make 80 cents an album if it’s sold for 17 Euro. HMV get around 9, Sony around 8 Euro and I get 10% of what Sony get. So you can imagine how many albums people need to sell to make money.
Only 1% of people with record deals get rich off them I reckon. But what is rich? Doin what you love doin equals being rich to me, so I'm a billionaire!
When you do a show you pay the band and tour manager, pay for fuel, the driver, per diems (everyone’s daily expenses), sound man, guitar tech, agent, manager, flights, hotels taxis (if needed), VAT and income tax. Then you get what’s left which sometimes is good and sometimes is a bill. But as I tell people I would get credit union loans, rob banks, even sell me body (I'd probably starve) to do what I do. To have a roof over the head and a full stomach and great family and great friends and to write and play music, I mean let’s face it, it don't get any better than that! Sinead O'Connor was over in Kilburn doin a few gigs and John played her a couple of tracks. She had some ideas and sang over a few of the songs like "Bustin Outa Here" (which is about standing up for yourself or breaking away from abusive relationships whether they be with partners or parents or substances or so called friends or bosses). She did some amazing singing on this one with John guiding her. There’s a part in the song about the sun rising within yourself and the singing she does is like the sun rising. It blew me mind when I heard it. And she sings on "Chris and Stevie" as well, a ballad I wrote about suicide and the experiences I've had with it. The song carries a message for people contemplating it. Sinead’s voice is like clear flowing mountain water on it. She sang on a Scottish song called "Fire in the Glen", a big hard hitter that anywhere I sing it in the world, people want to learn. So we decided to stick it on the album because of the reaction it always gets.
Them 3 songs are definitely musical orgasm songs I reckon. They'll give many people the goosebumps, fingers crossed. To sing with Sinead again is a huge thrill. I played guitar on one of the tracks on her new album that she done with John here in his house, a song called "Take off your Shoes" and lamb of devine suffering Jaysus the song would blow the roof off the Vatican.
I was over the moon to see my song "Sing all your cares away" being used in that incredible movie 'Tyrannosaur'. We were asked if they could use the song by Paddy Considine for his directorial debut around 4 years ago and of course we jumped at the chance with Paddy being such an amazing actor and I'd forgotten all about it. Paddy won a Bafta for the movie. Takes a strong stomach to watch it though, be warned, the happiest scene in the movie is actually a funeral scene and that’s when "Sing" is played, ah yeh, cheery cheerios. Me oulfella says “Jaysus would you not get your music into a happy movie no?” Beneath the veneer of the paddy cap, tracksuit, white stockings and pointy Italian shoes I reckon I'm a Goth at heart.
Doin a run for my chosen charity PREDA, the run for freedom in the Phoenix Park the 28th of April. All are welcome. You can register online or on the day at 11am. The run starts at 1pm, meeting at the Papal Cross car park. I’ve been out to the Philippines and seen where the money goes and the amazing work that Shay Cullen and the PREDA team do out there. Hunting paedophiles and breaking up paedophile rings and taking children out of brothels and out of the filthy overcrowded prison cells where they’re thrown in with murderers and rapists then rehabilitating the kids and educating them and showing them love and giving them a bright future. Shay was on an Irish documentary on RTE recently about great Irish missionaries. He was seething with the scandals in the church in Ireland and the revelations. He was quoting from the Bible, what Jesus says in the Bible about men who harm children. He says Jesus said they should have a millstone placed around their neck and be thrown into the water and Shay said “I'm of the same opinion” – tough words from a priest. But I reckon if more priests had felt the same and truly believed and followed the word of Jesus like Shay always has and not just given it lip service, a lot of the abuse in Ireland wouldn't have been permitted to continue. Many many little innocent children would have been spared the ultimate torture. Anyway the run is only 5k, or just walk it if you’re not into running. That famous Irish runner Catriona McKiernan is doing the run as well and if I can keep up with her for ten yards I'll tell everyone in years to come that I competed with the great Catriona McKiernan when I was a runner back in 2012.
Me and John were asked by Ray D’Arcy from Today FM to put together the song for the Irish soccer team’s campaign in the Euro 2012 championships, which starts in June in Poland. We had to write the song live on air on Ray’s show from lyrics that the listeners were sending in. It was a daunting task but it turned out good craic. John McLoughlin who plays guitar with us helped out on the bouzouki and with the lyrics.
The amount of lyrics and the quality of lyrics that were sent in was astounding. Ray had some very poetic listeners. The timing was tough for people because the song is a rewrite of the classic Irish ballad "Rocky Road to Dublin” which is in a very unusual time sequence, known as a slip jig which is unique to Ireland. It’s 9/8 timing. It'd make a metronome feel gargled (drunk). Me and John went to the hotel room after the show and tried to piece the song together. But we scrapped that and went to Kehoe’s pub in South Anne Street instead and it came together a bit easier then – I’ve no idea why. We needed it ironed out and finished for Windmill Lane the next day where we recorded it with the Dubliners, John McLoughlin, Eamonn de Barra, Sean McKeon, Danny O'Reilly and Niall Breslin. All proceeds go to the Irish Cancer Society. It’s a bit of craic and might get young kids into the song hopefully. Barney McKenna and John Sheahan played a lovely few tunes in the studio for the craic just to play coz they love it so much and I backed them and felt blessed. We're doing the Late Late the 11th of may so hope yizal like the song. It’s just a bit of buzz for a good cause.
Anyway hoping for a September release of the album. Sony need it the beginning of June to have it out in September. Trying to write one more good song, here’s hoping. Then I'll tour Ireland and the UK up to Xmas, hit Australia and New Zealand early 2013, then hit the States that summer and be working on album 6 in between the touring.
Other songs on the album are about the importance of a good community and looking after your family and neighbours, a song about how we need diversity to stay alive. Every tribe needed people who had different skills. We're good at different things. Everybody is limited and everyone is good at something. Variety is the spice of life. There’s a song about the billionaire bankers who roll economies, have governments in their pockets, overthrow or bump off elected leaders if said leader isn't playing ball with them, fund wars and secure the contracts to rebuild after the wars and charge big interest, push countries into wars because they own the weapon companies – basically the foulest men on this planet.
I would encourage anyone who reads this letter to read a book by John Perkins called “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” and watch a documentary called “The Money Masters – How the international bankers gained control of America” and watch a movie called “An Inside Job” about the banking crash - scary stuff.
There’s also a song about the San Patricios who are still celebrated down in Mexico but mostly unheard of in Ireland and a song about racism and the wars in the Middle East. In other words it’s another light hearted offering from mister happy the magical man from happy land who lives in a marshmallow house at the bottom of gumdrop lane :-)
So see youz all along the road my friends. We're doin a few festivals around Ireland this summer.
I’m just after getting the news of Barney McKenna passing. Jaysus that’s a smack in the face. When I heard half an hour ago I sat down on the bed and sang “Fiddlers Green” and “Three Score and Ten” with tears in my eyes. There goes a musical high king into the hollow of the great spirit’s hand. I had the huge privilege of performing with Barney on many occasions. He was such a deep and highly intelligent man, who genuinely cared about what was going on in the world and the people of the world. I remember we were talking about Iraq and I could have been at a lecture by a famous professor in Trinity College. He was so informed and caring about it, Mesopatamia, the cradle of civilization he called it. He was one of the best singers I ever heard. Songs like “Three Score and Ten,” “ South Australia,” “Fiddlers Green” and the beautiful “I wish I had someone to love me.” No one could touch him on them songs. Check them out. He could play that banjo with balls the size of melons. He could make that banjo sound as tough as a Donnycarney hardchaw, or as sweet and sublime as Howth’s east pier on a fine August day – an absolute legend. He'll be playing at a mighty session tonight with Luke and Ronnie and Ciaran and the slaggin will be fierce. Barney forever X. I’m away now to book a flight back to Dublin for Barney’s funeral Mass my friends, until we meet again, may the great spirit hold you all in the hollow of its hand.
Big Love, Damo.