Kirstie Sutherland previews Rae Morris' new tour, telling Redbrick it is not one to be missedWritten by Kirstie Sutherland on 19th March 2018
Redbrick Meets: Dermot Kennedy
Music critic Ben Johns clues us into the rising career of Irish singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy
Dermot Kennedy, an up-and-coming Irish singer-songwriter, is being touted as one of the names set to make it big over the course of 2018. He is currently embarking on his first solo UK and international tour and I caught up with him to see how he’s feeling prior to the shows, plus his anticipation for what’s to come over the coming year.
Ben: You’re about to embark on your UK tour after performing at sold out shows across Europe! How does it feel to have come this far from busking on the streets in Dublin?
Dermot: It’s quite surreal to be honest, for the shows to be selling out like this. It feels so good to find out that people are connecting with the music online, wherever they might be, and then to be able to go and visit their city to play a show and have that exchange with them, it’s a magical feeling.
TMRW magazine named you on their list of ones to watch in 2018. Are you feeling the pressure to succeed this year? Or does the pressure help you generate your best material?
I wouldn’t say pressure helps me create my best work. On the contrary, I feel like I’m at my best when I feel free from any pressure or expectations. And I’d imagine most artists feel the same way. I do put pressure on myself personally to try and do my best work every time, but I’m feeling good about the coming year. I guess it depends on your definition of success too. If I can look back on this year and be truly proud of everything I’ve released, and rest easy knowing I gave my all at every show, then I’ll consider it a successful year.
“If I can look back on this year and be truly proud of everything I’ve released, and rest easy knowing I gave my all at every show, then I’ll consider it a successful year
Have you got your eye on any artists that you think will make it big in 2018?
My favourite artist right now is a fellow Irishman and songwriter by the name of David Keenan. He’s unique, and his voice and songwriting is properly captivating. Watch out for him.
‘Glory’ has been nominated for Irish Song of the Year at the RTE Choice Music Prize. Did you expect to be nominated at such an early stage in your career? Are there any other awards that you’re striving for?
I’ve yet to give awards any substantial thought to be honest. I feel like I have no right to feel entitled to any such things. I don’t like thinking about it too much. They seem like two very separate things in my head, the idea of winning awards and being creative. And I feel like the former wouldn’t necessarily help the latter if it was a priority. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly flattered to be nominated, I just don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I feel like I have no right to feel entitled to awards at this stage, and the idea of winning them and being creative feel like very separate things
You admitted in an interview that Westlife was the first concert that you went to. Whilst I can’t hear much of their influence in your music, have any Irish artists inspired you along the way?
Yeah, I would agree that Westlife being my first concert didn’t necessarily impact how I make music! Glen Hansard is definitely the Irish artist that I was most inspired by. Whether it’s with The Frames, or The Swell Season, or his solo releases, he’s been a huge inspiration to me since day one. The way he delivers a song is like no one else in my opinion.
After finishing your dates in the UK, you’re heading off to the States. Have you got some studio sessions booked in whilst you’re in America, or are you planning on writing music whilst on the road?
Just before starting the UK dates, I was actually in Toronto and LA working on some music. I’ll be pretty flat out whilst touring America, so I’m not sure if I’ll get into a studio, but I’m always writing, and will have plenty of new stuff to get stuck into once I come off tour!
The line-ups for this year’s festivals are slowly being announced and so far you’re on the bill at TRNSMT, Parklife, and Liverpool Sound City. Which festival are you most looking forward to performing at? Are there any names that you want to see over the summer?
I would say I’m most excited to perform at SXSW this March. I’ve never been, and I’ve heard so many great things! We’ve got a good few shows to play there as well, so I can’t wait. And if there’s one act I could catch this summer, it would be Bon Iver. I have yet to see them play the latest album, so that’d be awesome to see.
It must have been really exciting to work with Nabil (who has worked with Frank Ocean, James Blake, Kanye West) on your music video for ‘Moments Passed’. Did you have him in mind when the opportunity to record a music video came knocking?
Yeah, it was so exciting to work with Nabil, especially on my first official video! It felt amazing to know that he was passionate about the song and was up for doing it. He’s definitely somebody who I had in mind, but almost didn’t even entertain the idea, given the people he’s worked with before, and the stage I was at. Considering he’s done videos for people Kanye and Bon Iver, it felt like the perfect match for my stuff.
You described your music as acoustic, but with hip-hop production. Are we going to see the hip-hop side explored further in an album with any potential collaborations or raps of your own?
We’ll see. I like to remind myself often that I am a songwriter who started doing this acoustically and was initially inspired by artists like David Gray and Ben Howard. That’s where my music has its roots. I’m having fun right now playing with the production side of things, and it’s certainly making the tour a lot of fun. I think it’s important to always push myself out of my comfort zone, but I am conscious about keeping a balance too, and I’ll never leave the acoustic stuff behind.
“I think it’s important to always push myself out of my comfort zone, but I am conscious about keeping a balance too, and I’ll never leave the acoustic stuff behind
Finally, the anticipation for new music is growing every day, as shown by your rising Spotify listeners. When can we expect more new music from you?
There’s a lot of new stuff coming really soon. I’m so excited to show people. The support so far has been incredible and I’m so grateful. I’m just excited to be able to offer up some new stuff I’m proud of and I hope people connect to it!
You can find out more about Dermot Kennedy’s Young, Wild, and Free Playlist here.