With 9, Damien Rice scored his first Number One in his home country, topping the Irish album chart in the fall of 2006. The singer-songwriter followed with a world tour and a pair of live albums but put off returning to the studio in order to spend some time in self-reflection. “When I was a teenager, I thought I’d know more when I was a man,” he says. “But now that I’m a man, I’m working on unlearning most of the things I learned as a teenager.”
Two years ago, Rice and producer Rick Rubin began recording the tracks that would form My Favourite Faded Fantasy, a raw return that document the musician’s long period of soul-searching. Between European tour dates (he comes to North America next spring) Rice opened up about his spiritual journey and invigorating new LP.
Does writing come easily or is it more of a difficult process? What were you doing during those years in between records?
I did a lot of writing during those years. It comes when it comes, and when it comes it tends to come easily. However, just because it comes doesn’t mean it’s any good. So I dumped a lot of stuff during those years because I was waiting for the lyrics to feel right. I was more interested in singing about where I wanted to go, socially or emotionally, as opposed to where I’d already been.
It’s hard to say when the work began because one song leads to another in a stream-like way. However, I suppose the formal start was when I went to the studio with Rick in January 2013.
What made you decide to work with him?
It was less of a decision and more of a feeling. It just felt right. I knew very little about Rick, so it wasn’t really based on information. It was more the mystery of Rick that drew me to him. I came away with a deep love for him and a new fire in my belly to make records.
Besides Rick, are there any particular artists that have influenced this record?
If I catch myself doing something that reminds me of someone else, I tend to want to change course. I like finding new paths into the woods.
That said, I was in Iceland for a long time, and they don’t have many woods over there. I think the landscape has scarred the songs on this album with a little of the same “fire meeting ice” flavor of some Sigur Ros songs. However, I blame Alex Somers for that: He has mixed various Sigur Ros songs and various songs on this album, and he poured his magic dust onto the songs in a way that I just couldn’t say no.
I’ve read that you spent much of the past few years self-reflecting and learning more about who you are.
I have spent some time learning, but learning does not imply understanding. I am more a student now than I was 10 years ago. I do not want to be a robot, a cog in society who answers yes because yes is considered the appropriate answer. Neither do I want to be a protestor. I just want to seek out what lies underneath the veils of politeness and programming that I’ve been given as a person in this society. I want to get comfortable with my insecurities until I am no longer insecure. I want to be comfortable in my skin so that I do not need to dump any of my discomfort onto someone else in the form of judgment.
Which track on the album are you most proud of?
I’ve torn the word “pride” out from my dictionary because I prefer not to use it. To me, pride is the thing that is at the root of most of the wars in the world. I’ve seen it while growing up in Ireland. Whether it’s religious, national or personal pride, people often tend to fight much more easily over things that are attached to their pride. I’ve done enough fighting, I’m ready for something else now, so I’ve dropped my pride and find no fights.
The musical outro to “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man” is probably the part of the album I love the most at the moment.
Like a lot of your tracks, “It Takes a Lot” has a few big crescendos. What draws you to that sound?
Each song is a small universe to me. Each song has a story of its own. Each has a full life to express in order to be complete, so it often happens that the building to a big crescendo feels right in the recording or writing process. I also love listening to music on really good speakers, really loudly, and songs with great dynamics often give me massive chills when they reach their climax.