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Dermot Kennedy is a self-taught superstar

The past two years have been something of a whirlwind for Irish musician, Dermot Kennedy. 

He racked up millions of Spotify streams for his track ‘After Rain’ back in 2016, gaining him popularity across the globe and sparking the start of a hectic touring schedule.

Constantly crossing time zones, jumping on planes, and performing nightly might sound like a taxing life to live, but Kennedy is nothing but grateful for where he’s ended up. 

“I genuinely can’t like, flag a part that’s bad at all,” says the Dublin-native after a moment of thought. “Everything’s been so good. I kind of have to pinch myself sometimes and realise I shouldn’t take it for granted.”  

It hasn’t been a quick and easy rise to the top though. Kennedy has been ruthlessly pursuing a career in music since he was about ten years old, after watching a cousin play Thin Lizzy’s ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ at a family party. 

“I started because my cousin David played,” he explains. “He was playing the guitar at like two in the morning or something, and he was so good.

“Just the lyrics and the way the song was put together and the way he was delivering it, I was just like ‘that’s just like what I want to do.’ It just seemed really magic to me, and I knew I wanted to be able to do that.” 

Kennedy spent about twelve years getting to where he is now; teaching himself guitar, learning covers, busking on the streets of Dublin, penning his own songs, and graduating college with a classical music degree. While his hard work and dedication to his craft has paid off immensely, he still struggles to wrap his head around just how popular his music has become. 

“When I was younger I kind of dreamed of doing things like playing in big rooms for like a couple of thousand people, and then I did that last week in New York,” he says in wonder. “Then if the crowd of two thousand becomes a crowd of ten thousand then that’s amazing, like I want to take it as far as possible.

“But I also have to stay true to what I’m doing. If what I create and what I produce never sees that level of people, then that’s OK. My job is just to worry about the music.” 

It wouldn’t be surprising if Kennedy does hit that number soon though, especially when his work is as beautiful as it is. With poetic lyrical prose, acoustic melodies and strong, sweeping vocals, his music is both emotional and empowering. The tracks are raw and unwaveringly honest, something which he feels is important to embrace, particularly when playing live shows. 

“I really do believe that we spend so much time kind of hiding emotions and keeping that stuff locked away, so I kind of love that part of the set,” he explains. “I just play it totally acoustically and I kind of embrace how vulnerable I am at that moment.

“It’s funny, because like a lot of times at my shows there’s like groups of guys and it’s real groups of lads who really come and sing their heart out, and I feel like they don’t really talk about it after. So, for me to be able to stand there and be super exposed and sing those words, it’s a really powerful feeling, and I think I’d be doing myself and everyone else a disservice if I kind of shied away from it.” 

It’s this openness that Kennedy will be bringing Down Under during the next month, before taking some time off the road to get back into the studio. 

“I think once I’ve done the shows in Australia, I’m going to basically take the first chunk of next year just to work on my album,” he says. “I’ve got like a hundred something songs to go through, so I need to figure out what’s the best way for those to exist.” 

Dermot Kennedy plays Falls Festival in Lorne from Friday December 28 until Monday December 31. He will also play The Croxton Bandroom on Tuesday January 8 and Wednesday January 9. Tickets via festival and venue websites respectively.