Irish veteran musician and multi-instrumentalist, David Kitt, sits down with Luke Sharkey to discuss his upcoming album and the financial difficulties of a career in music.
THERE are few Irish musicians around that have the chops David Kitt has. You could say he’s been working on it for some time. Kitt’s career spans nearly twenty years and includes six album releases, all of superb quality. His name has been built around a knack for writing a cracking tune and his intimate live performances throughout the country.
His 2002 album The Big Romance is widely considered to be one of the greatest Irish releases of all-time and 2009’s The Night Saver was heralded as a shoe-in for the Meteor Music prize.
Unfortunately, The Night Saver proved to be a commercial failure and the past 7 years has seen Kitt remain largely quiet as a solo artist. In the meantime, he’s been releasing electronic dance music under the moniker of New Jackson and has spent some time touring worldwide as part of David Gray’s band.
However, in the last third of 2016, Kitt announced the release of Yous, his seventh album, and a series of gigs around the country to promote it. I sat down with Kitt to find out how he was feeling about the project and life as a musician in Ireland.
“I’m feeling great. We already had the first show in the Sugar Club and it went brilliantly. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to play a record.” It’s the day after he’s played a sold-out gig at the Sugar Club, by all accounts a stand out affair.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to play a record.”
The musicians who join him on stage are long time collaborators: Ritchie Eagan (Jape) and Michele Stodart (The Magic Numbers). Speaking specifically on Eagan, Kitt says “It’s beyond camaraderie with the two of us, we’re kind of brothers. I feel very lucky to have grown up with the generation of musicians that I grew up with, all of these people I’m still collaborating with”.
What of the current state of Irish music? “There’s a good scene again, especially with electronic music.” He keeps a cool head when talking about it, speaking from experience he knows that, “the most amazing thing that has ever happened to Irish music could be happening right now. You never know what’s happening in some house in some suburb.”
“The most amazing thing that has ever happened to Irish music could be happening right now. You never know what’s happening in some house in some suburb.”
The impression is clear that he and Irish music are only just back on speaking terms, so to say. Kitt has certainly undergone some rough patches throughout his career, as have a lot of his friends. “I feel like a lot of people have left the country, the classic brain drain. I find it very hard to make a living from music, even with the bright start that I had with my career.”
It must be difficult to reconcile the financial difficulties with the passion to create. In the past Kitt’s “numbers have gone down and down and you kind of feel like the well is drying up in terms of the audience.” It’s both surprising and disheartening to hear. One would assume someone of Kitt’s talent and notoriety wouldn’t have any issues making rent. I grew up listening to his music and had assumed it was his steady income.
“I’m optimistic about this record, but I’m certain that at some stage on the tour I’ll be playing to a crowd of twenty people and be thinking ‘oh god here we go again.’”
So why has it become so difficult to make ends meet as a musician in Ireland? “The big difference is that maybe there was more underground music on the radio back fifteen or sixteen years ago. You had the likes of Donal Dineen playing really good new stuff on mainstream spaces. If there was a buzz about what you were doing you’d have 50,000 people around the country listening it.”
Anyone who has read the recent reports on how much time the major stations just play select Irish music would agree that “we badly need someone on the airwaves who helps promote, there’s so much amazing stuff out there right now, it really is a golden age.”
“We badly need someone on the airwaves who helps promote, there’s so much amazing stuff out there right now, it really is a golden age.”
With all of this in mind, I ask Kitt why he decided to leave the security of session work and put out a new album? Like so much of his career, it relates to playing live shows. “People were coming to the shows and listening to these 6 or 7 songs and singing along. My mind-set was just make music; pick the 10 strongest songs you have.” His approach with the new record was to “do it a more fun, loose, no pressure way.”
The album sees a departure from the synth heavy production of The Night Saver and a return to the more acoustic elements of his sound. “I wanted to strip it back a bit. It’s definitely got a bit of a more home spun feel to it”.
I ask David what his plans are for the future and the New Year. “It all depends, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve very low expectations, and that’s just what happens when you’ve the sort of run that I’ve had.”
I came away from the interview feeling disenfranchised with my country for its inability to support its premier talent. However, news soon reached me that Yous has been picked up by a big label and it’s release postponed until September 2017. Could this be the start of a fantastic artist getting the recognition and financial support he deserves? I certainly hope so, it’s people like David Kitt that have helped make Ireland’s reputation for producing fantastic art.
Yous is scheduled for release in September 2017.