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Rock Club 40 chats with DAMIEN LEITH

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Many of you would know Damien Leith as the softly spoken Irishman who won viewers’ hearts (and votes) on Australian Idol in 2006. The singer has won over many more fans since then with his amazing voice and has forged a successful career in the music industry but it might come as a surprise to know that singing isn’t his only talent. Damien is also an accomplished writer, having penned two novels and numerous plays over the years. “I love writing,” he reveals during our recent interview. “I’ve always loved writing. Over the years, I’ve tried to do as much of it as possible and I’ve written two novels which are pure fiction, nothing else. I’ve written a lot of plays over the years. Playwriting has always been a big thing for me so I’ve written more plays over the years but full plays with no music but it’s great to be back acting again. I haven’t done it for many years.”  He is talking about his role in his latest self-penned play ‘The Parting Glass’ which Melbourne fans will get to see at Chapel off Chapel later this month.

“I was asked to do a show for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival a couple of years ago,” he tells me, explaining how the play came about. “All they really wanted was a couple of Irish songs linked together and I thought about it and decided that I would rather do a full cabaret show so I wrote a play about a father and a son who meet up in a bar and haven’t seen each other for five years and they’ve got a lot to catch up on and they’ve also got a big dark secret to be revealed so that kind of was the basis for the whole show.  I wrote the play and I dispersed all these Irish songs throughout the play, compliments of a rousing Irish band that’s on stage as well. It’s something totally different for me and hopefully a different kind of show in general.”

Damien has chosen familiar Irish songs for the play, including classics like ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Rattlin’ Rose’. “There are about sixteen songs in the show,” he says. “But they’re different arrangements to the originals so, while they’re familiar, we’ve added these beautiful instrumental sections and some changes here and there and we’ve incorporated all the old Irish instruments like tin whistles and bodhrans and fiddles and all that sort of stuff so it’s very much an Irish experience with a little story going on as well.”

Apart from the initial performance of the play at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Damien has also performed the show recently at the Dame Sutherland Theatre in Sydney which, he says, had a great response. “The audience really got in to it so it was a great feeling for me. People seem to really take to the characters and go with the story. It’s quite a funny play. There’s a lot of humour in there. But there is an underlying, quite difficult conversation that happens between the father and son as well and they’re avoiding this the whole way through so it’s great from an audience point of you. They’re taking a bit of a journey and gradually getting to know what’s going on but you’re not hit with it right from the start. It’s more about the characters really; the father and the son.”

Ironically, being a singer was not always on Damien’s radar. “As a kid growing up, the only thing that I was interested in was acting,” he admits. “I wasn’t interested in music or singing or anything like that. For many years, I was obsessed with acting. That’s all I wanted to do. And I was writing all these plays and then, at some point, I decided that I wanted to be in a musical and the only way I was going to get to act in that musical was if I sang so I decided to sing for the first time and that was when I was about seventeen and I got into this musical and just absolutely loved singing and that kind of took over from the acting for me entirely. I just became obsessed with music and got into various bands but I never stopped writing and I never kind of stopped that whole music side of things.”

He is also very excited about his new album due out in March which, he says, is “Something pretty special. There are some key duets in there as well. There are two duets that I think people will really love. And we’ll have a tour later in the year.”

He is also hopeful that the play will tour throughout the country later in the year. “It’s the best of two worlds,” he declares. “You’ve got the drama and the music as well.”

The singer is very humble when talking about his success. “I’ve definitely been fortunate over the last few years,” he acknowledges. “It comes down to people supporting you as well and coming along to your shows. Without that, you wouldn’t be able to do anything so full credit to everyone who’s gone along with me the whole way along. It’s brilliant.”  He is still surprised by how much he has achieved since winning Australian Idol. “Eight years ago, I never thought the opportunities that it gave me over the years would be possible. But it has been amazing and you know, it’s crazy, being on stage acting after all these years; it’s something I’ve always wanted and people come along to watch it! It is a fantastic feeling. And long may it continue.”

 

by Sharyn Hamey

Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2015.  All rights reserved

THE PARTING GLASS

Saturday 21st February 2015 | 2pm + 8pm

Chapel Off Chapel, MELBOURNE VIC

www.chapeloffchapel.com.au | (03) 8290 7000

For more information, please visit www.damienleith.com

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