Fame but no fortune yet for working class hero Damien

I can't get a mortgage, but I'm living the dream, soul man tells Chris Wasser

Chris Wasser

It's a miserable afternoon in Dublin, but Damien Dempsey has a smile on his face. "Me da was a panel beater and me brother is a mechanic, and the other brother was a panel beater, so if I start giving out about this ... " The Donaghmede man lets out a chuckle. "I can't really, because they're under cars, like, they're doing real work. This is a luxury, ya know what I mean?"

We're in a plush hotel. Lunch has been served and there's a bag beside us -- packed and ready to accompany Dempsey to London on the promo trail. Almighty Love is Dempsey's sixth studio album in 12 years and his first of original material since 2007's To Hell or Barbados.

That's quite a gap, but only because the man known for his fighting spirit, acoustic ballads and a "reggae-tinged Dublin accent" figured he had an upbeat, festival album in him. He didn't. And, after two years writing close to 100 songs, the 37-year-old musician wondered if he'd misplaced his groove. "I just thought I'd lost it," he explains. "The only thing I was ever good at, I thought was gone."


"I started thinking about things that meant something to me," he continues, "I could see the great community spirit -- it's still on my street in Donaghmede, you know, the neighbours still look after each other.

"So I started writing about things that maybe could help us out of this recession and give people a bit of hope. The money men, the IMF and the big bankers are tightening the screws now on us. I think if we have community, we'll survive. We survived before and we'll survive again."

Well said. The friendly giant is in chatty form on Almighty Love. The aforementioned 'money men' pop up. There are also guest appearances from Sinead O'Connor and British performance poet Kate Tempest. Indeed, Dempsey is a busy man, but that doesn't make it any easier for him to earn a living.

"It is tough now, financially," he explains. "But I'm not in this for the money. I just feel very lucky that I'm doing something I love. I'm living the dream. I couldn't get a mortgage there now, because I'd no record of savings and no record of rent because I was over in London.


"I'd love a couple of kids. I see me mates with kids now and I sometimes get a tear in me eye. But I don't know if I'd have the money," he smiles. "I'd have to start taking gigs that I didn't want to do. I'd have to start playing in aul' pubs, doing cover songs."

"It is a lonely aul' life now without a relationship and kids and a house and all. I'm just like a gypsy rover I suppose, and hopefully that will all come later on."

Almighty Love is released tomorrow. Damien Dempsey plays live at the Button Factory next Thursday