Nights In

Busking to the bigtime

Introducing Dublin busker Dermot Kennedy. A recent chat with the Rathcoole native found him in great form. We initially discussed his background and he explained that he started doing gigs and writing songs seriously when he was seventeen. When he turned eighteen he found himself in a band called Shadows and Dust. “That faded out,” he explained, and he consequently decided to go solo from September onwards last year.  
Dermot feels that today’s online culture has been a huge help in terms of getting people to know who he is and what he is about. He added that the first gig he did in Dublin since September was in The Unitarian Church, which was sold out. He has also been invited on stage to perform with Glen Hansard of The Frames during his December 2014 gig in Vicar Street, and he can also add gigs in Switzerland and Florida to his musical itinerary.
On asking about the Kennedy-Hansard connection and what it was like to perform with him, he explained that it was really special to perform at his gig. He first met Glen about four years ago when he was busking on Christmas Eve on Grafton Street and Hansard started playing a Bob Dylan song which Dermot knew, so they started singing it together. A friend bumped into Hansard in Whelan’s and he remembered the event and Dermot, and ever since then there was, “a text here and there”, he said. 
As the conversation progressed, Dermot said that at Christmas he invited The Frames’ founder to his gig at The Unitarian Church, but he was in Paris at the time. However Hansard was playing a gig in Vicar Street a few days later so he asked if Dermot wanted to hop up there. The rest is history.
Kennedy will perform at The Workman’s Club on Thursday, April the 23rd and he is really looking forward to it. He explained that The Unitarian is a venue with the capacity of 200 to 250 people and because there is no bar, it was such a silent room.
“The Workman’s is a bit bigger, but hopefully it’s the same kind of atmosphere, because it’s a really special vibe that the church creates,” he explains.
So does he have any imminent plans for an EP or an album? He explains that when he is busking he sells a CD that he made and recorded at home. “An official EP or album release will be the next step,” he said. 
He explained his approach to music, being that he is a lyricist and that he is very lyrical. He does not neglect bands or musicians either, so he is striving to strike a balance between lyrics that are important, while also not neglecting very good music at the same time. 
With the music for songs he finds it best to keep practicing every day for a couple of hours. “That is good for the actual skill of being a musician, to hash it out. In terms of lyrics, they come in floods, if you get one really good line you can get a really good verse in minutes through working from it,” he said.
In terms of sound, he is folky, interspersed with a soulful undertone. On sharing this description with him, he agreed, adding that he thinks that when you are at a stage like he is now and you play alone with just an instrument and if you play songs that are heartfelt, he thinks that folk music is the right genre to go to. Kennedy cites Bon Iver, Justin Vernon and The Frames as his main influences.
I next asked if he was still busking at the moment and about the recent change to busking rules and regulations and if they had any impact on him. “Not on a regular basis,” he said with a laugh. While he has not been out since Saint Patrick’s Day, he is looking forward to getting back out now as the weather is getting better. 
“There have been a couple of regulations put into place, rules in terms of how long people are allowed to busk for. To be honest, I don’t really have much of an issue with them.”
There is a rule where people are only allowed to stay in a spot for two hours; however Dermot thinks that is a good thing, “as people can stand in the same spots all day.” 
“The noise level limit has become very, very strict and it is quite harsh. It is eighty decibels and it doesn’t take much to reach that and there are bands that busk on Grafton Street and I think that it might be screwing them over a bit,” he explains.
Are there people on the street to enforce the rules, I wonder? Dermott explains that a friend who busks and has been busking since the rules came had told him there are people checking it out and enforcing the new rules.

Dermot Kennedy plays The Workman’s Club on Thursday, April the 23rd

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