IN A time of Covid, when very little can happen, especially for musicians, David Keenan has remained active, with the close of the year proving a period of great industriousness.
The Dundalk singer-songwriter - who came to attention last year when his debut album, A Beginner’s Guide To Bravery, went to Top 5 and became one of the best-selling vinyl album releases by an Irish artist in 2020 - plays the Róisín Dubh on Thursday December 9 at 8pm.
In October, Keenan released his second album, and a volume of poetry, both entitled, “What Then?”, with the album receiving high praise from critics.
Hotpress called it “emotive and sometimes noirish soundtracks for [Keenan’s] mini movies... a beguiling stew”; The Last Mixed Tape praised its “whirlwind of ideas...an album where performance, words, and sound all rush and blur into one primal expression”; while Glide magazine declared, “this is the work of a burgeoning genius”.
Keenan is a restless spirit. As a teenager he left home to busk in Liverpool, where he hoped he would meet The La’s Lee Mavers. Following the success of his first album, he left for Paris to become an artist in residence at the Centre Culturel Irlandais.
“I was so hungry to escape,” he says. “I was looking for dreams, I was looking for romanticism, looking for a way out. There is a romantic thread to it, it is kind of hard to deny that when I look at it, but it’s difficult to speak about yourself like that. I’m just trying to be as honest with myself as I can.”
True to that spirit, “What Then?” marks a noticeable shift in sound and style from the debut. “It’s dangerous to linger, creatively or physically,” he says. “It was time for something new and to be challenged.”
Reflecting on the songwriting for the album, he said: “Here I am in Paris, questioning my lack of identity. I was like, ‘Am I just a caricature of myself?’ I was disillusioned with everything, really. And the first port of call for me is to write about it. Write about myself to try to process it. That’s when the existentialism creeps in. That’s the “What Then?” in the album title is.”
Tickets are available via www.roisindubh.net