Ten years on the music scene is a long time, and to remain relevant is a real feat. But musician, singer/songwriter, family man, husband and Irishman Damien Leith seems to have made that happen…
As he gets set to tour the nation again this April with his limited season show, Roy – A Tribute To Roy
Orbison, we got on the phone and spoke with the man of many talents to find out more about life, family, and what the next ten years looks like for the Irish crooner.
If you are going to do your first phone interview with anyone, Damien Leith is one of the best. I had been told he was lovely and lovely he was…
It was in 2006 when he first appeared on television screens and not only won the hearts of viewers with his captivatingly down to earth charm (and that accent), but also took out the crown of Australian Idol, beating Jessica Mauboy and quickly becoming a household name.
After the ‘touch downs’ (it’s a Mark Holden thing if you missed Idol) came the hit singles, albums and number ones, something that Leith had always dreamed of, but never expected. He reminisced on where he had come from saying that, “The things that have happened in the last ten years since then have just been amazing, and I could never have foreseen any of them…” Humble and genuinely thankful are the words that came to mind as Leith described his beginnings…
Having grown up loving music, being surrounded by music and always playing music, the then chemist was actually convinced to audition by one of his very close friends Alex and her husband, who both happen to be from Adelaide!
One thing was made very clear, Leith loves coming back to Adelaide. If not to catch up with the many friends that he has here, then to play to what he said are some of the best crowds in Australia. His enthusiasm for our fair city reached through the phone as he said, “The shows have always been fantastic.”
Having bought us his Roy Tour in 2011 we wanted to know what would be different in 2016. He couldn’t wait to jump in and explain how this tour would be much bigger and better!
“Audiences will get a really good selection of Roy Orbison songs, more than they got the first time around…“
His love, passion and respect for the great Roy Orbison was obvious as he eagerly explained that not only would the catalogue of the legend’s songs be larger, but the band playing the songs would also be bigger. This seemed to excite Leith as he described that the sound would have more of an impact on the audience.
It hasn’t all been music success in the ten years that we have gotten to know and watch Damien’s career take off and grow. Yes, he mentioned the high points – the ARIA chart topping hits, the esteemed albums… And when he spoke about being given the opportunity to work with his heroes, including Joe Melson who co-wrote songs such as Crying and Only the Lonely with Roy, it was obvious that this meant a whole to him. But it was sweet to hear that he got most excited when we spoke about his family, especially his kids.
The father to three wears this particular hat proudly, as he manages to balance work life with that of his family life. His children Jarvis, Jaggar and Kikki occasionally join their dad on tour but won’t be this time… He explained that, “My wife and I try to limit the amount of time that the children come on tour because it is disruptive for them.
They won’t be coming on this tour because it is such a short run. We are only doing six shows entirely, so it is just me and the band.”
Although they won’t be joining him on this tour, Damien did delve into the travel that they have done as a family. It became obvious that he sees travel, culture and discovery as an important part of growing up. Whether it be back to his homeland of Ireland or a stop off on the way, he said, “I love letting the kids see a bit of the world.”
If the whole dad come musician thing wasn’t enough, Leith is also an avid writer saying, “I do try and write every day”. He joked that sometimes it wouldn’t be very good, but it was all for the good of the art form! And well, some of it must be good… He has penned two novels and a playwright come cabaret that he toured last year, so he is certainly doing something right! He couldn’t contain his excitement as he explained the story of his current third novel that is in the works. From novels to recording, Leith then went on to tell us all about his new album…
Damien mentioned that he won’t be able to hang around in Adelaide for too long when he comes for his show on April 16 because he will have to head straight back to the studio. Which will mean none of the usual trips to some of our state’s beautiful (and delicious) wineries, much to his dismay. “You know the only thing that I’ve done a lot of over the years in South Australia is WINE.” A man after our own heart…
But back to the album. He told us that the vibe of this new album, “Is getting closer to where I’ve always preferred to be… A very acoustic, really striped back style of recording.”
“I’m very happy with how it’s going so far!”
But time won’t be the only factor stopping Leith from getting stuck into some of our wine. It turns out that he is also on a health kick and we had to ask why? Damien hurriedly and laughingly explained that he wasn’t one of those people on a gluten free/raw/sugar free/flavour free diet but was rather keeping it healthy as he and his wife prepare to run a marathon. Who is this guy? Some sort of super human! Considering our phone call was prior to the Easter long weekend it fleetingly seemed that he may have been regretting his decision but he assured me that he had never felt better and the boost in his energy levels was enough to keep him on track.
As our chat neared its end we had to find out where this talented (hello understatement of the year) jack of all trades and master of many sees himself heading. We assumed that music would play a big part and Leith explained that it would but in a different capacity. With a studio in Sydney, Damien sees a lot of up and coming acts saying that, “I find that I do a lot of mentoring, assisting people who are trying to break into the business…”
He actually sees that becoming a much bigger part of what it is that he does saying that, “Quite often I spend more time advising and teaching than I do actually recording or producing or writing with them.” Damien explained that he wanted to pass on, not only the advice that he had received as he had been coming up in the industry, but also things that he had learnt (and is still learning) through his own experiences, it was clear that this is a big part of who he is. A nurturer, a mentor…
“I think that’s going to be a bigger part [of my life] as the years go on, and the book writing, that’s a big focus for me now.”
It is no wonder that he holds the record for the most touchdowns ever (along with Australian Idol alumni Casey Donovan), this guy can do it all.
When: Saturday 16 April 2016
Where: Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre
Tickets: 132 849 | www.ticketek.com.au