THE name Damien Dempsey is synonymous with his hometown of Dublin. Born in Donaghmede on the city’s north side, his fusion of reggae, traditional Irish music, folk and rock makes him unique, and he draws on Ireland’s rich bloodline of singers from Luke Kelly to Christy Moore.
Dempsey, better known as Damo, released his debut album in 2000 and since then his reputation as a roof-raising live musician has grown worldwide. Ahead of his headline gig in London, we asked him what St Patrick’s Day means to him…
What are your plans for this St Patrick’s Day?
To play the legendary O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, blow the roof off of it and paint London green.
Are St Patrick’s Day gigs any different?
A. They’re usually a little tipsier but in great singing form, and I love a singsong.
What’s your best St Patrick’s Day memory?
When I had a first floor flat on Patrick’s Street in Dublin across from the Cathedral. I invited my family around and we watched the whole parade from my balcony.
What does St Patrick’s Day mean to you?
Irishness for me is about struggle, strength, overcoming unbelievable odds, music and singing and dancing, hospitality, humour and poetry so I think there’s plenty to celebrate. For me it’s also a day to remember all the less fortunate Irish.
What songs are on your St Patrick’s Day playlist?
Thousands Are Sailing, Viva la Quinte Brigada, The Rare Auld Times, Sweet Sixteen, Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore, Finnegans Wake, The Galway Shawl, l Wish I Was Back Home In Derry and Whiskey In The Jar.
Are you grateful to Saint Patrick that we can all live in a snake-free land?
There’s plenty of serpents in suits in Ireland!
Anything else you wish Saint Patrick had driven out of Ireland with the snakes?
What are your thoughts on green beer?
It’s grand if you’re wearing an adult nappy.
Where’s your favourite spot in Ireland?
The diving boards in Salthill, Galway with all my family in July.
Finally, if you could bring one dead Irish person back to life, who would you choose?
I know he wasn’t born in Ireland but he was one of the great Irishmen, James Connolly, we could do with him.
Damien Dempsey plays a special St Patrick’s Day show, Tuesday March 17, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Tickets £21.50, with £1.50 from each ticket going to the London Irish Centre.