He may come from a land down under but Rory Faithfield is very much a songwriter in the Irish tradition.
In a wide and varied career Australian-born, Dublin-based, singer/songwriter Rory Faithfield has gone from being a member of a successful punk band in Sydney to being a travelling minstrel around the highway and byways of Ireland. His sophomore album Blood, Bones and Soul garnered many positive press reviews across the globe as many scribes took to his philosophical and uplifting musical meanderings. Faithfield said: “I learnt the secret of life from my dog. Her name was Sooner” He makes his way to Galway soon to play Roisin Dubh on Monday.
In his native land Faithfield has been compared to legends such as Paul Kelly and Neil Finn of Crowded House, and in Ireland his music has been ranked alongside the likes of Elvis Costello and Paul Brady. Rory first arrived in Ireland in the mid 1990s and over the past 10 years has seen a lot of changes around him.
“In Dublin, in particular, the place has just exploded outwards,” he said. “In a few short years it has gone from being just like a small town to this city of the world. The multicultural element in recent times is probably the thing I’ve noticed the most because when I arrived in Ireland first I felt like I was the multicultural element being from Australia!”
The songwriter grew up in the suburbs of Sydney and from an early age was very much drawn towards European culture, and in particular the musical culture.
“My family background, being an Australian, was all kind of mixed up,” said Faithfield. “One side of my family was part Irish and the other side was Estonian. I suppose there was a similarity between the two sides in that they both came from small European nations that had to fight to establish their identities and their sense of freedom. I think the other thing I got from my background was a sort of pioneering spirit to just go out into the world and to try and make your way or to make your mark.”
So, Rory decided to make his way to Dublin and to try and make his mark there. He had already released a debut solo album in Australia entitled Nowhere, Somewhere, Anywhere but his first release in Ireland really put him on the map. Blood, Bones and Soul was described as “invigorating and inspiring” by Peter Crawley in a glowing review in The Irish Times and gave Faithfield a valuable career boost “My first album kind of vanished without a trace because I had a licensing deal with a record company and it got lost in their release schedule,” said Rory. “With the second album it went down very well with the music press, in Ireland in particular, and that was really my introduction to the potential that was out there. It’s nice even now to get statements from IMRO saying that the album is still getting airplay and that people are continuing to listen to it.”
When Blood, Bones and Soul was released in Australia in late 2002 it was described by The Brag Magazine in Sydney as “an aural self-help book”. Indeed although singer/songwriters are traditionally seen as dour and shoe-gazing, Faithfield has been commended for his positive and inspirational lyrics.
“I didn’t intentionally set out to start writing those type of songs,” he said. “Generally the lyrics I write are quite life-affirming and it’s not that I’m a particular happy person but it’s just the place to where my songs take me. I remember Bono once said ‘I don’t write great songs, great songs write me’ I know that sounds a bit arrogant but I do like where he’s coming from with that statement. It kind of encapsulates the idea that sometimes a song can come from somewhere and you don’t really know where it has come from. I’ve had songs arrive that have taken me to a better place. My song writing process is all about listening to that muse that surrounds the writing space.”
In his many years in Dublin and surroundings Faithfield has crossed paths with U2 and other major Irish music industry figures. It was this very fact that allowed him to blag his way on to a primetime Australian chat show to talk about his ‘mate’ Bono.
“How did you hear about that? You’ve really done your research, mate!” said Faithfield in astonishment. “There is a kind of fascination with Irish music in Australia and I suppose it kind of fascinates me as well because of the fact that I’ve spent half my life in Ireland. I play shows back home quite regularly and sometimes I kind of wonder what is ‘home’ because the Australian scene seems very different to me. I suppose in my live shows I bring a mixture of a very distinctive Australian energy plus there’s a vein of Celtic flavour running through it.”
Even though Rory has been part of the Irish music scene for many moons it was only a few years ago that he toured the country extensively.
“I was kind of apprehensive about doing the circuit here,” he said. “This country has produced so many great writers and I wasn’t really willing to introduce myself until I’d done my own magical mystery tour of the country. One summer I played every little town from Calduff in Donegal to the tip of Cobh in Cork and everywhere in between. Sometimes I had great nights where lots of people turned up and then there were other nights where there was literally nobody there.”
For his latest album Circle Dance the affable Aussie has put his flavours of Ireland to good use. “To be honest the thing that kept me in Ireland and has kept me writing songs is the fact that songs can come together in an improvised manner,” he said. “The Irish tradition of just coming up with something spontaneously, either through just the voice or guitar, is something I truly love. It’s always about the story and the communication of it and that’s something I wanted to tap in to.”
Rory Fairfield plays the Roisin Dubh on August 11 and Mullarkeys Bar in Clifden on August 14. Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh, Zhivago, and Redlight Records.