Damien Leith

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Damien Leith

You will remember Damien Leith as the Irish lad that burst onto the scene back in 2006 after winning the fourth season of Australian Idol. He has since had an incredible career that boasts seven studio albums and countless national tours. I spoke with Damien in the lead up to his appearance at this years National Celtic Festival in Portarlington.
“It’s actually my first time to this one. I’ve done lots and lots of Celtic events over the years but this is my first time to Portarlington, so I’m very excited as it’s a great way for meeting lots of new people and having a really great weekend,” he says.
Damien’s show, The Parting Glass – An Irish Show ,goes above and beyond a regular musical performance, as it combines elements of both play and musical performance all set in an Irish setting, Damien tells a story of intense emotion, while retaining that famous Irish sense of humour. The show has had great success at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival as well as in Sydney, Melbourne and most recently Brisbane, where he and the band received a standing ovation.
“It’s an Irish show, it’s set in an Irish pub, it’s about a father and son who haven’t seen each other in about five years and in that time a lot of things have happened: the son went to Australia, so they’ve got a lot to catch up on a lot of things they need to talk about. A lot of it is done in a very funny sort of way, but at the same time there’s a band playing great Irish songs. It’s kind of like an Irish experience rather than just an Irish concert,” Damien says.
Many of the songs in the show are taken from his latest album, Songs From Ireland. The album was his first since resigning with Sony in 2014 and debuted at #11 on the Australian charts. It’s a compilation of his all time favourite Irish tunes and picking which songs made the cut, proved to be a tough ask for the Dublin native.
“In the end, I ended up picking songs that, if someone asked me to sing Irish songs at a party or anything like that, these are the songs that I would sing. These are a collection of my really favourite songs. More classic type tunes than some of the more modern ones – it suits my style better and I got to record it in Ireland,” he says.
Most impressively Leith managed to do a duet with the legendary Bing Crosby on the track ‘Galway Bay’ an incredible feat considering Bing died back in 1997 at the age of 78. To say Damien was a huge fan of the singer would be an understatement and this song quite easily became his favourite on the album.
“It was just one of those crazy ideas where you go, ‘Wouldn’t that be amazing?’ then somebody ran with the idea and got in touch with the Bing Crosby family and estate and then it went from there. Eventually after about three months we’d got his vocal and merged it with mine – it worked out amazing. It’s one of those things you think are never going to happen, but it did and it’s just brilliant,” he says.
Damien Leith and the Black Velvet band will be performing at the National Celtic festival over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend along with the likes of Irishman Brian Kennedy, Scottish duo The Duplets and other Scottish acts Cheery Grove and Fèis Rois amongst so many other national and international artists.
When & Where: National Celtic Festival, Portarlington – June 5-8
Written by Abbey King