Damien Rice was disillusioned. It’s a sentiment many working in the troubling music industry can relate to. After two successful and highly critically acclaimed albums – 2002’s O and 2006’s 9 – the Irish singer-songwriter lost his motivation.
“I just wasn’t happy with where the music industry had led me or where I had gone,” Rice says. “I wanted to find my connection with music once again. I think it’s very easy to lose that innocence and inspiration and love for the art once it becomes a business. I just ended up quite empty, to be honest.”
What started as a year off turned into eight, and now Rice is determined to make up for lost time. Last fall saw the release of My Favourite Faded Fantasy, a true-to-Rice-form collection of stirring vocals and emotions, an album so beautifully devastating it left fans wanting more from the singer who’s been off the radar.
And, luckily, more is what they’re getting. “My idea, now, because I’ve been away so long, is to dive back in and stay in it now,” he says. “I want to get a lot of records made in the next few years to make up for the time I’ve lost. I’m inspired and excited.” In fact, he has another album in the works tentatively slated for early next year. “It’s quite different; there’s movement in the new record. That was a desire of mine – to make a record that my head could nod along to or that my body could move to. I just had a craving to get something like that out of my system.”
Part of Rice’s inspiration is coming from getting back out on the road – particularly visiting cities like New York. “Every time I come to New York I meet some more friends of friends of friends,” he says. “For some reason the cells in my body are energized and excited when I’m there, and I want to get things done and be creative when I’m in New York.
“The main thing that I love about New York and Brooklyn … is the variety of interesting, artistic, creative things that people are doing in such a small area is very inspiring. I get an idea for something … and there are places and spaces to get together with people and fulfill a dream or see some creative idea to fruition fast and spontaneously.”
His upcoming New York stop will find him at the Prospect Park Bandshell as part of Celebrate Brooklyn on June 17. Rice, a renowned performer for his intensely intimate shows, is doing this current leg of the tour solo – just him and his guitar. Though such intimacy might seem tricky to translate to an outdoor space, Rice is assured just the opposite. “When I first started out on the big stages, the tendency is you see a sea of people and think you need to sing louder and strum louder to reach the people in the back. Once you learn you don’t need to do that you can sing really soft and let the speakers do the work. The intimacy can be held. I’ve learned to close my eyes and just not worry about how far away people are.”
Playing shows without a band also serves as its own challenge to Rice as a performer. “When you’re not feeling that strong or focused it’s easier to fall back on the strength of the band. Having to walk out by myself every night reminds me to go to that place of playing as if it’s my last show ever,” he says. “You go and do it and there’s something very rewarding about pushing yourself past the things that you’re resisting and the things that you’re fearing and just going and doing them. It’s like jumping into the cold sea. It’s challenging and you’re afraid of it, but once you do you never come out of the cold sea regretting you went for a swim.”
All of his newfound energy and inspiration is funneling into his new music and performances, an area where he has no intention of slowing down. “I need these challenges and I need this heat applied to my inner workings to keep growing,” he says of his long-awaited time back in the spotlight. “I really want to grow, and I really want to learn.”