The M Interview: Damien Rice is as real as it gets
Poet. Hermit. Recluse. Iconoclast.
Irish troubadour Damien Rice has been conferred with all these labels at different points in his career.
But what comes across strongly when the 41-year-old singer-songwriter, famed for his lush melodies and intimate lyrics on hits such as Cannonball, The Blower’s Daughter and 9 Crimes, is asked for an opinion, is that he is as real as it gets.
Even in an e-mail interview, where most celebrities’ written replies tend to be overly tactful and diplomatic, Rice is remarkably candid and frank with his emotions, effusive on the topics he cares about and unapologetically curt on those he has no interest in.
Ahead of his Nov 29 headlining set at the upcoming Neon Lights Music & Arts Festival at Fort Canning Green & Gate next month, Rice talks to M about his latest project with Hollywood actress Salma Hayek and gives his take on today’s pop music...
Neon Lights will be your second time in Singapore — your last concert here was in 2006. What are your memories of our country?
I remember being surprised at how westernised Singapore appeared to me.
What can audiences expect for your upcoming performance?
I like every concert to be a surprise for myself, so I walk on stage with no set list and very few plans.
This way, if I can lose myself in the moment, spontaneity can come alive. Ideally, myself and my audience can have a moment of really engaging in something new. Being present, without expectations, is a key into the world of magic and surprise.
You recently penned and sang the songs On Children and Hypnosis for the Salma Hayek-produced animated film The Prophet. (NB: The film is adapted from Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran's 1923 best-selling book of philosophical essays). How did you get involved in the soundtrack?
The Prophet is a beautiful book. packed so densely with deep messages that it’s easy to read over the words and miss a lot. It’s one of those books I can come back to over and over and still learn something new each time. Like a great painting or a great piece of music, it has a timelessness and a hidden treasure that often needs revisiting.
Salma is a friend and when she approached me with the idea (to contribute to The Prophet’s soundtrack), I was very happy to be involved because it brought me back to the book. I really took the time to see if I could get inside the words a little more than I had in the past.
Where did the inspiration to pen On Children and Hypnosis come from?
It came from that very elusive space between consciousness and blissful absentmindedness. Somewhere in there, something happens to the body, when my mind gets out of the way and I stop trying to control something and instead fall into a flow, and the flow takes me along.
Staying in that space, while a new song is being written, is a challenge because my mind so often wants to take over the song’s direction. One of the greatest challenges of songwriting is to stay in the flow.
You are often labelled a hermit. Do you feel an innate reluctance to be constantly in the public eye?
I think everyone is a little bit of everything. I am neither a hermit nor a socialite. I have, just like everyone else, desires for company and desires for space.
Labels are just that, a word, a sticker to stick on something, but the stickers are not the something.
I do not embrace any labels. They are sticky little things that people try to put on others. I take them off. There is great freedom in not attaching to any labels.
Do you listen to pop music? Are you in touch with the latest tracks by the likes of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift?
What is your general opinion of today’s pop music and do you fancy any pop acts?
I know very little about what’s going on in the pop world.
WHAT: Neon Lights Music & Arts Festival
WHEN: Nov 28-29, 1pm onwards
WHERE: Fort Canning Green & Gate
TICKETS: Adult 1-Day and 2-Day passes ($150 to $240) and Child & Youth passes ($25 to $150) from Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg or 6348-5555)