ONE OF the hottest Irish acts on the circuit right now is soulful Cork troubadour Brian Deady, whose latest album, Non-Fiction, has met with wide critical acclaim. The Sunday Times called it "bare-knuckle and remarkable" while The Irish Times declared Deady as "a new soul star".
This weekend Deady is set to bring the curtain down on the Galway International Arts Festival in rollicking style when he plays the Róisín Dubh on Sunday at 8pm.
Non-Fiction, and its heavily air-played singles ‘A Darkness’ and ‘Clap Both My Hands’, marks Deady’s follow-up to his much-praised debut album, Interview. It was with that collection Deady found huge support at KCRW in Los Angeles and landed slots sharing the stage live with the likes of De La Soul, Janelle Monae, Candi Staton, and Chic.
Deady himself is has been described as "a master of performance" for his richly soulful, groove-packed and swinging live shows and it’s a safe bet that the Róisín will be rocking come Sunday night when he hits the stage. I caught up with Brian on Monday lunchtime, just a few days after he had performed at Longitude.
“It was brilliant, I had a great buzz,” he says of his Friday appearance at the festival. “We opened on the main stage on Friday and it went down really well. We had a lot of people come out and you could hear them singing along with the tunes which was really encouraging. I got to see the other bands that I wanted to see as well.”
Deady was nearly 30 when Interview was released in 2009. In the years beforehand there had been spells on the dole, and a variety of jobs, as well as his music. Was he always confident he would someday make it as a singer/songwriter?
“I can’t say I was always confident but it was something I was always determined to stick with,” he replies. “There were ups and downs but music was always a constant with me. I just felt it was something I was going to keep doing anyway whether or not I was going to make it.”
As well as writing, singing, and playing the material on Non-Fiction, Deady also took on much of the production duties though he admits he had not entirely planned to; “I think it was more circumstantial. For Non-Fiction I did have a vision of what I wanted it to sound like and that it had to have a bearing on the songs’ subject matter.
"I don’t know if I really intended to produce the whole thing but the point just came where I decided I was going to produce it, and luckily the skills I had learned over the years assisted me. I also had a bit of help from Ross Dowling, who mixed James Vincent McMorrow’s album, and he co-produced my record, so I had him and a few other people as well. It was good to be able to bounce things off people as I went forward with the album.”
The album’s title and even its cover artwork – an image of Deady’s own thumbprint - are a bold statement of the truthfulness and authenticity of Non-Fiction’s songs.
“Yes that was something I really wanted to uncover in that album,” Deady asserts. “Everything had to point in that direction, that there is a message. There was a sense of honesty to it and vulnerability as well, those were the elements I really prioritized. That was a big part of the lyrical drive as well. I was really happy with the shape and everything, even down to the artwork.”
'Resourcefulness is an artistic trait anyway'
That honesty and vulnerability are both especially present on the track ‘Dad’ which describes Deady’s strained relationship with his father ("I’m shaking the hand that hit me/ And my anger turns to pity" ). The lyrics include several allusions to titles of Roy Orbison songs which Deady explains thus:
“He was an artist that I would connect to my father through his music collection. That’s why those song references are there, and even the guitar sound has that old reverb-style that also references the Roy Orbison sound. I can’t say I really have a relationship with my father but if I listen to those Roy Orbison songs I find the connection there which is the power of music.”
Deady’s family broke up when he was 15. It’s the kind of setback that could have sent his life off the rails but he kept himself on track and convinced social services to set him up in a B&B.
“I guess survival skills kick in those kinds of situations,” he says. “There was a point where living at home was not an option and going to a foster home wasn’t an option either. I knew I was going to have to think of something that would work for me and I came up with the suggestion of the B&B. Thankfully, the social services went with it and I lived there for the best part of two years.”
I suggest that dealing with those difficult circumstances must have helped to give him the strength of character to overcome the obstacles that confront any up and coming young artist. “Yes, I think you’re right,” he agrees. “By the time I was 17 I had started singing and messing around with song-writing. All of those experiences fuelled that drive in one way, shape, or form and helped form the artistic temperament. Resourcefulness is an artistic trait anyway.”
'Nile Rodgers is a down to earth man'
Among the many members of Deady’s ever-growing fan club is Nile Rodgers of Chic who hailed the Corkman as one of his favourite Irish acts. Deady has played support to Rodgers several times and holds him in high esteem.
“The last time I did it he came onstage with us which is as good a kudos as any to have Nile Rodgers standing beside you grooving away,” Deady recalls. “He was really nice, I had a chat with him afterwards and he’s a lovely down to earth man with no pretence about him. It was very inspiring to meet him.”
Reviewers have said that Deady’s live performances even surpass the excellence of his albums so Galway audiences are in for a real feast of summer soulfulness come Sunday night; “You can’t beat the live experience, and to have someone say that they found the music even better than the album was a real bonus,” Deady admits. “That’s always going to be the goal anyway, to recreate the music in such a way that people have an even more vivid experience.”