IT HAS been seven years since David Kitt last released a solo album, with 2009’s The Nightsaver, but the time since then has not been seven years in the wilderness, rather it has been a time of intense productivity for the Dubliner, heralding a creative rebirth - on many fronts.
Since that last solo album, David Kitt might seemed to have dropped off the map, but not so. He has toured with David Gray, did production duties for Cavan singer-songwriter Lisa O’Neill, and, most prominently, enjoyed a new lease of life, winning public and critical acclaim as electronic musician and DJ New Jackson.
“It’s been really busy, and been a really exciting time for me musically,” he says of a period which also encouraged him to re-embrace the guitar and songwriting, and record a new solo album - Yous, to be released next year. “I’m in the middle of mixing stuff, the variety is great.”
David Kitt emerged in 1999 with his debut album Small Moments which attracted great attention in Ireland and Britain, with his popularity escalating further with 2001’s wonderful The Big Romance. His combination of introspective acoustic guitar with electronic beats and ambient soundscapes, marked him out from his contemporaries, but “coming out at the same time as a lot of singer-songwriters, I tended to get lumped in with them”, and when many of the singer-songwriters of that period faded out, Kitt’s momentum also suffered.
It was a period when the artist was also questioning his own approach. “I wondered if maybe the power of the electronic side was getting lost and maybe the power of the songs was getting watered down to try and accommodate the electronic side, and by having to set so many ideas into one production,” Kitt tells me during our Tuesday afternoon interview. “On The Nightsaver I did it one more time and felt I exhausted it. Much as I love that record, and put a lot of my money into it, it sold 850 copies. It was time to try something else.”
Kitt reinvented himself and New Jackson was born.
Since his teenage years, Kitt has been a huge fan of Detroit techno and Chicago house, electronica, and hip hop. “In my teenage years I had a fascination with certain sounds,” he says, “and now they are no longer mysterious as I know how to make them. Within these idioms there was something that felt personal, it was a response I understood.”
As New Jackson, Kitt took vintage drum modules, synths, a Russian vocoder, and MPC software, playing leading dance clubs across Europe and the Body and Soul and Electric Picnic festivals; as well as releasing music through the Permanent Vacation and Major Problems labels, remixing for Hieroglyphic Being, and a collaboration with Fort Romeau.
'It's the main thing I do'
Kitt’s vocalist/guitarist side was not abandoned, as he was asked to produce Lisa O’Neill and accompany David Gray on tour. These would be crucial experiences, also in re-igniting his creativity, and leading to the creation of Yous.
“These are jobs that pay,” Kitt says, “but I learned a lot working with David Gray, being in a supporting role, playing guitar and singing at 70 to 80 gigs, his dedication to making it right, he’s a real pro,” says David. “Similarly working with Lisa, I felt I made a contribution, and that I got what I was looking for.”
He found the experience freeing, and that freedom was the route back to his own songwriting. “The beauty of not relying on your own thing for making a living is that it becomes, not like a hobby - it's the main thing I do, and I hope there will always be songs fermenting within my head - but working with other people, you go on holiday, it brings the confidence up and you start to enjoy and relish picking up a guitar, there’s less desperation to it, and that’s when you write your best stuff.”
The fruits of that freedom will be heard when Yous is released digitally on January 1 2017. In the meantime work is still ongoing. “It’s written as of three days ago when I did the last lines,” he says. “It was seven years of a build-up of a lot of stuff, recording took place at different studios, and it’s only really solidified in the last three weeks.”
Veteran Irish producer Karl Odlum, who has collaborated with Kitt before, is also working with the Dubliner on this record. “Everything was pretty much first takes,” he says, “so it has a freshness and unlabored quality.” Some songs will be just voice, guitar, and violin. Others will feature “electronic beats and ear candy”. Says Kitt: “Some songs sounded too maudlin without a groove. To balance the rawness and the starkness, there was a need for colour and added spice. I have a good feeling about it.”
'A wink and a nod to the Irish perspective'
Kitt has strong Galway connections. His father was from Galway East and his uncle Michael represented the constituency as a TD and senator for almost 40 years. However, he himself is Dublin born and bred, and the title Yous reflects that.
“It’s very Dublin, and it alludes to that,” he agrees. “I like having a wink and a nod to the Irish perspective. It’s something I’ve done in my songs over the years, the plain words you’ll only really get if you’re from here, but also Yous conveys the notion that over a seven year period there are quite a few versions of yourself and other people.”
In advance of the album’s release, David is touring Ireland, including playing the Róisín Dubh, next week. At the shows, he will be selling a 12” poster of the album artwork that will include a pre-order download code from Bandcamp that will give one song now, followed by the rest in January.
“I want to introduce people to the concept of paying for my music,” he says. “Band camp is the best site for musicians. The MP3s and WAVs are of the highest qualities and artists get 80 per cent of the money. If there are 5,000 out there willing to pay €10 for my music, that will sustain me of the next few years. I’d like to build up that kind of community of genuine fans. That’s what’s driving me now.”
Before we conclude, Kitt shares a wonderful memory of the time he met Paul McCartney. A number of Kitt's albums have been mastered at the iconic Abbey Road Studios in London.
"The first time I was there was in 2004 and who was the first person I met? George Martin," he says. "The third time I was there I stepped outside to have a cigarette - when I used to smoke more regularly - and across the way was Paul McCartney! He was right in the middle of the whole Heather Mills debacle. Apparently he was there a lot of the time as it was a safe place for him. I gave him a wink and let him be. I will never forget that moment, it shows it doesn't matter whether you're Paul McCartney, or anyone else, if you're going through hell you wear it on your face."
David Kitt plays the Róisín Dubh on Saturday November 19 at 8pm. Tickets are available at www.roisindubh.net, the Ticket Desk at OMG Zhivago, Shop Street, and The Róisín Dubh. See also https://davidkitt.bandcamp.com