Gary Hannon DJs a music show on AtlanticRadio.ie. He plays with the Clonakilty Jazz Collective every Monday night in the Emmet Hotel and once per month on Sunday afternoons in De Barra’s, both in Clonakilty.
Skibbereen man Brian Deady is a soul singer who released his first album, Interview in 2009. His third album, Black Diamond was released in September and it’s a cracker (see my album review). I caught up with Brian over the phone from Spain.
I asked him firstly about his memories of growing up in Skibb? “Good times, discovering music, making friends, being a kid running around the place. I was born in Dublin and moved to West Cork when I was seven or eight, so that was my first taste of rural life.”
He’s now in Spain. “I came over here to North Andalucía in the mountains about four months ago to write the album. I love the space and the peace and the vastness of the countryside here. I found it to be a big inspiration for me.”
What’s the song Black Diamond about? “I put this as the title track because of the significance of it. A black diamond is easily overlooked if you’re digging for it. That became a significant representation of me and my recent relationship with [music] labels. And also the journey of this album has been about having to find your sense of value again. I see a character that has to come out of the ground. The video hints at that as well. This guy covered in mud who has to unearth himself and start to find himself again.”
Last year he was dropped by his record company, Decca. “I was floored, but at the same time I was relieved as well, because at least I knew where I stood. It wasn’t right for me, so the sooner that ended the better. I don’t feel burnt or hard-done by the music label. I see it as a learning experience – it’s been a hard lesson, but I’m not embittered. I’ve learnt to battle the storm.”
In the trailer for the video for ‘Fire in the Woods’ you talk about suffering from anxiety. What’s good for your mental health? “Currently, I suppose the idea of freedom. Feeling like you’re in a position where you can make decisions to benefit you on a personal level. You have to feel free and happy in yourself. And only then you can branch out and help other people. It’s just about getting you right and that’s the priority for me now.”
You’ve appeared more in your recent music videos. Has your confidence grown? “Being in the videos was about just letting what’s in there out. Just not caring, being more fearless, having fun, allowing myself to be seen and not f***ing minding about who thinks what about you. Because if you have that you don’t have freedom. Freedom is a priority, you know? I mean how long are we going to live for?”
Describing the album, he says, “The arc of the album is that it starts with Black Diamond. There is a certain amount of struggle, determination, labour – digging – and the sentiment moves to a more joyous one. It’s about acknowledging the different struggles you’ve had. But also about highlighting the good things that are in your life.”
He produced and mixed the whole album himself, and played all the instruments, (apart from some live drums and keys on ‘Eloise’ and ‘Say When’). What’s the creative process? “I think writing songs is about … one way of describing it would be like hunting. You’re moving up on the idea. And if you try and rush it, you’ll scare it away. You have to allow it to reveal itself a bit more. Try and stay connected with what’s true.”
How hard is it to be a fulltime musician these days? “F***ing really hard! How undulating it is. How many ups and downs there are. If you can weather the bad parts you can enjoy the good parts. There’s a whole psychological part to it as well. You’re not selling just a product, you’re marketing part of yourself. A lot of that is based on approval – you need stuff to come back. You need to have that balance, and that is really hard in music. If someone says something good about you, or a good review, these are nice, but then you have to try to turn that into something monetary to pay the bills.
“There’s an emotional, psychological, and a financial aspect. You have to find that balance. First of all you’ve got to find out, ‘Ok, how much of ‘me’ can I in invest in this, so that if it doesn’t work out that I won’t be absolutely destroyed?’ I remember before I had recognition, the struggling I was doing back then. It was tough, man. Really tough! And that can really get into your psyche. The scarcity, that fear, that anxiety over not being able to pay your bills basically. Nowadays some money comes in from royalties, radio play, streaming—although nowhere near as much as you’d want it to be. But without doubt, gigs and CD sales are the main thing.”
How do punters support artists like you? “Come to the gig and buy the CD. You hope that people are enthusiastic enough to bring a friend. That’s as good as it gets really. This is where the difference is made. The live thing is growing and growing for me. I absolutely love it! And the relationship I have with the band. It’s just a brilliant experience! It’s a really special one. We all see the value in it and we love it. Everyone knows their role. There’s almost a telepathy within the band. It’s really magic. I’m really grateful that I have this band.”
What is success for you? “I’m doing everything I want to do now. I’d just like to back it up with a bit more financial security. And that would be success. I want to move onto the next thing. To have dreams in your mind and to be able to go off and do them. To be able to bring what’s in your imagination to life. And to have someone else listen to it, it’s amazing, like! To turn that craft into something, where you get something back as well and you can make a living out of it. That’s just fantastic!”
What are the plans for the future? “Get some traction for this album. Then do a really great tour. In November I’m gonna come back over to Spain and kind of plan things…The festival season next year. In the meantime, continuing to be creative.” None of this you feel will be hard for him.
Upcoming gigs: see his website BrianDeady.com
Black Diamond is out now.
My gig of the month for October is Secret Song in Levis’s in Ballydehob on Sunday, October 7.