An Interview with Damh the Bard
While looking up Celtic Myth Podshow, I ran across a Druid singer, Damh the Bard and a song, Cauldron Born. I contacted him and asked for an interview. There turned out to be a lot to know, including him hosting a podcast brought on by the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.
Christopher: How long have you known you were a singer?
Damh: I’ve been singing since I was a small child. While all of my friends were into football, I was obsessed with music. I started learning the guitar when I was eight years old, wrote my first songs when I was 11, and had my first live concerts the same year. I got sidetracked from the folk stuff when I hit my teens and early twenties, but then picked up the acoustic again in the mid ‘90s.
Christopher: So how early did you start singing in public? How did you change as you moved though your early singing career?
Damh: I was weaned on the likes of John Denver, and my guitar teacher was an Irish folk musician, and that really influenced my early development as a musician. But I was also into rock and loved AC/DC, Ramones, bands like that. Now maybe it was because I’d been taught folk, but I just couldn’t play the rock guitar, but I could play the drums. So throughout my teens and twenties I played drums in rock bands. But my song writing and guitar playing was always folk influenced, and as I moved into my 30s I picked up the old acoustic again, and here I am today.
Christopher: What are some of the musical influences in your life? How have they altered your development of style and content?
Damh: Obviously Irish folk has been a huge influence on my song writing, but I also love the big choruses of good rock songs. The chorus is the pay off, it’s the climax that the listener is waiting for, so I really try to always deliver… and satisfy! I personally feel that a song needs a hook, a melody and rhythm that dives straight to the heart – that makes the listener feel that they already know the song, that somehow it’s within them. I think it was my love of rock music that taught me that.
Christopher: So how did you come to be a Druid?
Damh: I think, like a lot of people who find Druidry, I’ve always been one. I just didn’t have a label for how I felt about the world. In the end it was as simple as sending off for an intro pack from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, and when that came through, I felt like I’d come home.
Christopher: How does this affect your singing? Did this cause any change in direction in your songs or music?
Damh: Absolutely. It gave my song writing a purpose, a real direction. Most of my songs are about myth, magic, and the natural world. It’s my passion. And there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way. We are speaking the same language, so they understand what I’m singing about.
Christopher : You have been part of groups and created groups. Why did you decide to work on your own?
Damh: I love working with other musicians, but I found that it became really hard to get four people to the same place, at the same time. People have different priorities, but mine is music, and in the end I had to make the decision to go it alone. I still have lots of musician friends, and we play together, but the song writing, and live performances, well, I just adore the freedom a solo performer has. I tend to talk and communicate to the audience a lot, maybe slow down or even stop a song to sing with the audience. I think that’s harder to do with a group. It’s also the practical portability of the solo performer. I can play plugged through a PA in a theatre, or acoustic around a campfire or in someone’s home. It’s how the ancient Bards would have been, I’m sure.
Christopher: Could you give us some sites where people could learn more?
Damh: Sure. My website is www.paganmusic.co.uk, and that really is the hub of all my other sites. From there you can get to my blog, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube channel, the lot.
Christopher: Any upcoming gigs? Do you ever get over to America?
Damh: I send out a monthly newsletter to my fans, and one of the things I keep getting asked is ‘When are you coming back to the USA!’. The answer is as soon as I can. The problem is it’s such a huge country, and I really need to know where my fans are. So I’ve asked them to tell me where they want me to play – that’s stage one, then I can book a few dates and come over. So if your readers want me to come and play in their area, drop me an email from the link on my website, and let me know where you are.
Christopher: You are also the host of a podcast, Druidcast – The Druid Podcast. Could you tell us a bit of how the podcast came to be and how long it has been on line?
Damh: The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids is fantastic at looking after its members, but wasn’t so good at communicating with those outside the Order. I’m a great fan of podcasts, and just suggested putting one together for the Order, and they liked the idea. It’s one of my highlights of the month. I’ve met some really interesting people, and been able to support some fabulous independent artists too.
Christopher: What are you plans for its future?
Damh: To keep doing what I’m doing. I’m currently recording my first traditional folk album, but with a Damh the Bard twist, and I’m thoroughly enjoying that. I’d love to get over to the USA again, and there are plans for concerts in South Australia too. It’s such an amazing ride, who’d want it to change? It just keeps getting better!
Christopher: Where could our readers find out more?
Damh: The best thing to do would be to sign up for my monthly newsletter from the front page of my website at www.paganmusic.co.uk. That’s the place where things are kept up to date with tour news, and free MP3s etc.
Christopher: I noted that you are a member of the Order by the Bards, Ovates and Druids. Would you give my readers a bit of information on this organization?
Damh: The Order is the largest Druid organization in the world, and basically offers a home study course on modern Druidry. That might sound a bit cold and detached, but it’s far more experiential than dusty academic study. My Druidic journey started with their course and, although I finished the course in 2003, I still continue to get a lot of nourishment and connection through my Druid work.
Christopher: Where could our readers learn more about the organization?
Damh: The best place would be their website at www.druidry.org