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Damien's just good friend of waitress he met in local cafe

Damien Rice has developed a close friendship with a Wicklow waitress but they're "just good friends", according to sources.

The pretty hippy chick, known only as Julia, is now a regular companion at the Cannonball singer's side as he shuns the spotlight for a more quiet lifestyle.

In the past, multi-millionaire musician Rice has been linked to Hollywood A-lister Renee Zellweger and former collaborator Lisa Hannigan.

The 38-year-old musician is said to have met the Wexford-born artist through mutual friends.

But while they spend a lot of time together, pals insist they are not an item. "They've been friends for a couple of years, Julia works in Greystones in a regular haunt of Damien's called the Happy Pear cafe. He even got her a job as a waitress there," said a source. "They hang out a lot and do things together, but both of them travel so it's not exclusive."

The Kildare performer, who recently saw one of his hit tracks Cannonball reclaim the Number One spot in the music charts thanks to X Factor champs Little Mix and their cover version, owns a home in the county Wicklow beachside town.

Damien splits his time between Los Angeles and Ireland, but it said to be a huge fan of the Happy Pear spot and can be seen there on almost a daily basis when he's home.

He was joined by Julia at a book launch for Trevor Sargent during the week.

"Many of the attendees at the launch presumed Damien and Julia were a couple because they looked extremely comfortable with one another and didn't separate even when they saw cameras.

"They arrived and left together and bought one book between them. They're obviously quite friendly with Trevor, they stayed chatting to him for ages before they were eventually interrupted by Ursula Hannigan, who wanted her book signed," an onlooker added.

Rice enjoyed a bonus last Christmas after X Factor winners Little Mix rose to the top of the charts with a version of his song Cannonball.

The song was on his debut album O which peaked at 32 in the charts when first released in 2003.