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Changing Times - The Allenwood Conversations Logo


Mary McAleese and Mary Kennedy

A former President of Ireland, a broadcasting icon and an array of guests with an incredible story to tell.

Produced by Enda Grace at Dundara Television and Media.

Dermot Kennedy at at Dundara Television & Media

Singer Songwriter Dermot Kennedy

A revealing and insightful conversation with music superstar Dermot Kennedy.

Dermot delves deep into his life, offering perspectives on various aspects including the music industry, what he would like to be if he wasn't a singer and his candid thoughts on social media.


Jarlath Burns


Eimear Noone


Keith Barry


Anne Doyle


Damian Browne


Stefanie Preissner


Phil Coulter


Roz Purcell


Daniel O'Donnell


Rory O'Connor


Eileen Dunne


Sean Boylan


Seán Ó Fearghaíl


Noel Cunningham







Select to Listen and for Transcription

Podcasting at at Dundara Television & Media

Dermot Kennedy Transcription

Dermot Kennedy: [00:00:00] The cliche thing of people trying to make money from you, it's really like, you know, I'm lucky I haven't been exposed to it too much, but of course it's true. Do you know what I mean? Like if I have a song and I'm a product technically for the record label and I have a song that goes and does X, it's good for them.

Do you know what I mean? Like these record labels owned by shareholders, they don't care about me. Do you know? Like truly. So it's just you have to, you have to be mindful of that sometimes.

Mary Kennedy: Hello and welcome to Changing Times, the Allenwood Conversations, our podcast that embraces the winds of change blowing through our lives and the world around us.

I'm Mary Kennedy and I'm absolutely delighted to be here in the charming little village of Allenwood in County Kildare and I'm honoured and humbled to be sharing the mic this week and every week with the ever inspiring former President of Ireland, Mary [00:01:00] McAleese. How are you, Mary?

Mary McAleese: I'm doing well today and humbled and inspired to be in your company too, Mary.

It's a pleasure to be here in lovely Allenwood at Dundara Television and Media with our producer Enda Grace and to be part of, um, I think of what I hope will be a really exciting new series.

Mary Kennedy: Yeah, I think so. And for you now, Being an academic and having been in the world of politics, um, and being president of our country, how does it feel to be swapping that for, uh, for this podcast, Mike?

Mary McAleese: Well, it's a while since I was involved in those worlds. No, not academia, I presume, but, um, yeah, I like the change of pace, to be honest. I really liked that. Like, I just like the idea of doing something different. Uh, in particular, I'm looking forward to sharing, uh, Um, sort of a more personal side, uh, engaging in conversations with really, really interesting people.

Uh, you know, without any, if you like diplomatic protocol in the way, but, uh, with you by my side, Mary, I'm, I'm pretty sure there's never going to be a dull [00:02:00] moment.

Mary Kennedy: Well now, um, every week we'll be welcoming a new guest. Some faces you'll recognize from the worlds of entertainment, sport and politics, and others you'll be eager to get to know.

They all have one thing in common, a unique story of change, resilience and transformation. And I'm really, really excited about the diversity of perspectives that we'll be bringing to you, our listeners.

Mary McAleese: Well, at the end of the day, of course, the most important part of all this, um, is indeed our dear listeners.

Um, we want our listeners, um, hopefully to be part of the journey that we are on with our guests. So you can expect hopefully a bit of laughter, maybe even a few tears, plenty of moments that'll make you pause and reflect. So whether you're listening from the bustling streets of Dublin or the lovely, quiet, serene countryside of Allenwood, anywhere in between, maybe we invite you to join us.

And hopefully be entertained and also perhaps be inspired. Well, speaking of [00:03:00] inspiration, Mary, I think our very first guest is someone very special to you, very well known to you, certainly very well known in the field of music, a beloved figure in the field of music. And I'm going to let you do the honors.

Mary Kennedy: Okay. With great pleasure. And it's not a bit awkward. No, not a bit. Our very first guest is the talented. Dermot Kennedy, a music artist whose soulful melodies have captured hearts worldwide. And yes, he also happens to be my nephew. But family bias aside, Dermot's journey is a true reflection of embracing change and pursuing your passion with all of your heart.

And Dermot, we're delighted, and maybe I'm just a little bit proud, to have you as our first guest. I think guest and you're very, very welcome. Thanks for having me.

Mary McAleese: So welcome. Who's your favourite auntie? No, seriously. Yeah, this is the most important question you'll ever be asked or answer. Well, OK. [00:04:00]

Mary Kennedy: Moving

Mary McAleese: quickly.

Can we move on? Okay. So, um, we'll leave that question aside and I will note just that it has not been answered. Mary, just, you know, um, have you made it now, Dermot? I'm noting, noting that you're taking a, you know, you're, you're really enjoying life at the moment, a quiet, tranquil countryside life away from the freneticism of the frenzy of touring.

Um, but In the music world, do you feel inside yourself you've made it now?

Dermot Kennedy: I don't think it's, to some degree, I think I'm thinking a lot lately about, um, what I sort of want to get from it, you know, I think because in terms of achievements and stuff, say having done some things that I would have dreamed of doing, like say last year playing Madison Square Garden, there was a few venues you dream of playing, there's things you dream of achieving, When you get there, you don't necessarily kind of think like, Oh, grand, I feel this way.

Now, having done that, I [00:05:00] feel fulfilled because I've done this. It feels fantastic, but I, you feel a long way off kind of feeling settled around things, you know what I mean? And so, um, I think I'm at a point now having gone far beyond what I thought my dreams were in terms of live music and achievements in the charts, whatever it is.

Um, I think I'm realizing that, uh, it's going to take some sort of like inner contentment and that's what I need to get from it. I think, uh, I think when I write music, I feel if I write a lyric that I'm proud of some of that, that's my favorite feeling. And so I've realized that the only way you say going into third album for me, the only way I'll be entirely proud and happy.

I think I kind of need to. detach from whatever kind of race music is a little bit, you know what I mean? I think I need to, um, just figure out what I want from music, you know, but it's tricky for me to some degree as well, because I guess all my true fulfillment from the music and from seeing what it [00:06:00] means to people, right?

But then that's grand, but also I'm a very competitive person. And so if I have played this venue in some town, it was. I'm not very good at dealing with if next time around it's say 2000 people smaller, you know, I'm not good at that either. So I do, it does kind of, it messes with me a little bit because it's hard.

It's two very different sides of my brain, I think.

Mary McAleese: But you're, you're a performer, you're an entertainer. Fundamentally, you're also a writer. You write your material. Presumably, you have to have time to do that. You

Dermot Kennedy: do, but You can't do that on

Mary McAleese: the road, so Yeah. Are you taking time at the moment to do that?

Dermot Kennedy: Yes, I am, yeah. Yeah, because I don't do it on the road. Some people do, and I don't know how they do it. But I, uh, but, yeah, it, say, like you said, Mary, it's ambition, but also you can't That can't be in the room with you when you're trying to write music. Do you know what I mean? Because sometimes you could write a song and you might think like, Oh, this song could be a hit.

Right. But then it's, it's a weird kind of, um, motivation. Like you don't want it to [00:07:00] sort of affect how you make music. You don't. And, but then it's hard to separate the two. It's tricky. I won't lie. Like I don't, I don't feel like I've got control over it.

Mary Kennedy: Well, now having known you all your life, um,

Dermot Kennedy: literally, yeah,

Mary Kennedy: and you know, we were a close family.

So we spent a lot of time together, the two families, but you know, you were always quiet and shy. And I know that you've said that, for instance, when you were in secondary school, you'd take all the books you needed for the whole day, so you wouldn't have to go back to the locker and maybe meet people.

And now you've just mentioned, you know, Madison square gardens and huge venues. How do you make the change within yourself to cope with all of that as a shy, quiet person?

Dermot Kennedy: Yeah. I, I, I dunno, I dunno. I feel like I haven't had to overcome anything in that sense. I feel like the music is this. It's a blanket.

It's a safety net. Like say in Australia, a couple of months ago, I had to present an award at an award ceremony for a teacher of the year, which was amazing. And I thought it was great, but it, uh, Oh, I was shaking like I can't to [00:08:00] walk out and read and in my head, you know, you guys know it's just sort of pop the envelope.

I was just, there's so many things that can go wrong. I hated it. Like I can't. If I'm not singing, I hate it. Yeah.

Mary Kennedy: And with the attention that you get, do you find it hard to preserve your privacy, you know, or are there lines that you just won't cross? And then if, if, if that doesn't satisfy them, well, that's tough luck for them.

Yeah. Like there's

Dermot Kennedy: certain ways. I see sometimes this, I know for a fact, there's certain things I could say about songs and tell people certain things about lyrics and all that would potentially help my career because it would let people in, but I just don't, I feel, I feel really lucky in a sense because I have this career where we play these venues and I've sort of achieved certain things, but my life hasn't changed at all, you know?

And I, I feel like that's just, um, I'm very lucky to say that. I think, say for example, like I could play [00:09:00] the O2 in London, but I could walk around London all day, all day. And I do. And that's a huge part of touring for me as I explore places and I get time by myself and stuff. And I'm at a point where say, if I'm in the States, any city I'm in, if someone recognizes me, it's usually really nice.

It's like just a conversation and we talk as opposed to people kind of following me down the street and stuff. Yeah. Touch wood. I feel very lucky in that sense.

Mary McAleese: So what has been the biggest change then in your life since fame for you as a musician has come your way?

Dermot Kennedy: Um, I guess it's trying to hold on to that stuff, you know, the stuff that I had before the career, like relationships, all that, trying to just, um, Just trying to stay the same.

Like, I know for, like, I'm meeting my friends this evening, um, just to go for a pint and it'll just, like, it's the same, you know, they, they, nothing has changed. And, and I know, um, like I've seen Ed Sheeran talk about that as well, how he goes home and it's the same. And, uh, yeah, if I lost that, I think I'd be sort of at sea, I'd be struggling.[00:10:00]

Mary McAleese: You have a fantastic work ethic. I know you're a really, really hard worker cause your auntie told me and I believe everything she tells me. Where'd that come from? Did that come from your auntie, from your dad, from your mom?

Dermot Kennedy: Probably from my mom and my dad to some degree. And then I think as well, you know, sports was huge for me growing up.

Massive. What sport? Football, soccer. It was massive. I was, I sort of, until whatever age, I kind of genuinely believed I would be a footballer. That's what I wanted to do. And so anyone I admired was in football until I was like 15 and music became a thing. Um, and so that's where it comes from. I think it's very interesting.

I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Say like, for example, if you We're playing a football match and you're injured, 60 minutes gone and you carry on for the last half hour, no matter how much it hurts. It's this real kind of pat on the back, like, isn't that brilliant kind of thing. But in music, say for me, I get quite confused sometimes because I did a tour last year and we had [00:11:00] multiple sort of four nights in a row, really grueling kind of thing.

But in music, it's really kind of like, you shouldn't do that. Are you okay? And which is great. I'm glad there's an awareness in terms of checking on each other, but I just, I am surprised sometimes because in my mind I do treat it like a sport to some degree. And so. Um, I guess that's where it comes from.

It comes from kind of, I think if I was in a purely creative environment since I was 10 with no, uh, exposure to sports and teams and stuff, I wouldn't be able to tour the way I do. Yeah. I don't think so.

Mary Kennedy: And yet, um, you know, you do have that work ethic and it has brought success and it has brought fame, but you don't seem to have been kind of.

blindsided by fame. You know, remember that time when, uh, Britain's Got Talent came calling and you actually made the decision, no, I'm not going to go there. Oh, that, that's, that takes courage.

Dermot Kennedy: I guess. Yeah. It's just, I guess you gotta know. And obviously this is, I can, I'd be completely lying if at 17, I said like, I know exactly what I want.

Like I had no [00:12:00] idea, even having, Gotten into the industry now, it surprises me constantly, you know, like you have this vision of what it'll be like to have a career in music. And then it's just not in, I wouldn't say it's disappointing, but it's different, you know? And, um, and, but I think, yeah, I just, you know, all I cared about when I first got into music was how lyrics made me feel.

That's all I cared about. And so I think if you think about like a competition on TV and stuff. people playing songs they didn't write. It just, it ticked none of my boxes, you know. But just

Mary Kennedy: Simon Cowell was just such a, you know. Oh yeah, of course. A god in those days. Right. So somebody who was getting into the music business.


Dermot Kennedy: yeah, yeah, yeah, true. And if you kind of, if you were blindsided and you kind of thought, oh, look down the road here and success, but ultimately. It's just, what does it mean to you? You know, it's like, say if you had this huge successful career, blah, blah, blah, pop star, Simon Cowell, et cetera, it's money really, isn't it?

Do you know like that, that would be the motivating factor in that sense. Cause it's not [00:13:00] like nourishment for the soul. It's not. And so, uh, It just was quite clear to me, I didn't want to do it.

Mary Kennedy: And what about people giving you advice? Was there somebody that gave you, um, an important piece of advice at any point?

Dermot Kennedy: Uh, I always, anytime I see this question on anything else, I realize that I don't, I don't have a nugget that I kind of refer to that I heard that kind of changed my life. I do, um, No, I don't. I, I, I, like, I'm lucky enough and the people that are around me and stuff that are constantly been kind of steered in the right direction.

I do remember, uh, at Vicar Street once Glen Hanser gave me a shot on stage when I was, nobody knew who I was. And, uh, I played to 1200 people and I was just, it was. It's huge for me. And, uh, and I was talking to him afterwards and he had had Damien Dempsey up and Declan O'Rourke and it was a, but it was a Glen Hansard show.

And he kind of said afterwards, he said, the moment you think your name being on the marquee outside is important, he was like, it's just gone. And, uh, and I thought that was [00:14:00] great. Yeah. That kind of stuck with me. So staying grounded. Totally. And I think, I dunno, is it an Irishness as well? Like I feel like I'm lucky to take that out into the world a bit.

Um, but yeah, I thought that was important to hear that.

Mary McAleese: You're putting together an album like Sondra. First of all, how'd you come across the name and what does it mean? And second of all, um, and then how do you do that?

Dermot Kennedy: Yeah. You know, like with streaming all these different changes in music, it's kind of, it's changed.

And so you're kind of like, I've got songs that I made in LA, songs I made in New York, songs at home in London. So I think the battle as an artist these days is to make a piece of work that's cohesive, right? Because you're grabbing all these songs and kind of sticking them together and hoping it works.

So to be honest, third album, I think what you were talking about, like having gotten to a certain point and earning some kind of space, I think that's what I'll do. I'll go somewhere and it takes as long as it takes. And that's the luxury of having worked [00:15:00] very hard to get here. Um, but yeah, Sondra, basically Sondra is the idea that And I love this idea is that everybody in the world that you pass in the street, et cetera, et cetera, is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

Um, which I loved because as I've been talking about, it's just, I think this is a very funny career in the sense that it's quite selfish. It's very, um, you spend an awful lot of time thinking about yourself. Do you know what I mean? You're kind of like, what do you think of this photo of yourself? What do you think of this song about your life?

I just, it's overwhelmingly selfish, I think. And, and for me, And I never talk about this too much because I think it's very easy for it to sound kind of trite or corny or whatever. But when I'm playing a gig in Detroit or Atlanta or something, and I look at somebody and I see them singing the words back to me, and there's this weird, you know, like there's a disconnect because I'm there and I'll never speak to them and I'll be gone on the bus and they'll go home and whatever.

And so I always, I, [00:16:00] I, I, I. Can't get across how much I appreciate that. You know what I mean? And not even appreciation is like, I'm genuinely curious. I'm like, why do the words mean that to you? Why do you connect? Like, and so I liked the idea of Sonder because I felt like it shared the spotlight a bit. Do you know what I mean?

It kind of, it highlights the fact that I might write the words, but we're all feeling it. Do you know what I mean? And, and so I liked that at a point in my career where I could have been like, look at this album. That's. purely about me. I like the idea of being like, don't we all have these feelings?

Mary McAleese: Do you have another word at the moment?

Is there a kind of another word?

Dermot Kennedy: But

Mary Kennedy: words are very important. And I'm, I'm just visualizing you on that stage in Denver and looking out and seeing somebody, um, that's impact, isn't it? And that's influence. And you know, how, how does that resonate with you? Uh, deep down that you, you are kind of, I suppose, reaching out, even though, as you said, you won't speak to that person, uh, and influencing [00:17:00] and kind of uplifting people.

Dermot Kennedy: And, and I think to be honest, it's potentially a longer conversation, but I do think in terms of the music industry, where it's at. I, I do cling to the hope that they feel it, you know, cause I believe it. I really do. I think, I think, um, even though I wish there was a conversation to be had and there wasn't that disconnect, I do believe that the crowd can feel that I feel that way, you know,

Mary Kennedy: because ultimately all

Dermot Kennedy: these things come into play with the way you sing your song.

And I think if someone gets up and phones it in and goes through the motions and just thinks they're in another city, blah, blah, blah. That comes across too, you know,

Mary Kennedy: I know there are people who, who really cling on to some of the songs and they're kind of anthems. And there's, there's one in particular, the, the, you know, from the song without fear, the, the, um, uh, the reference to, uh, a beauty and being broken.

Yeah. That's a gorgeous phrase.

Mary McAleese: Beautiful. That's a gorgeous [00:18:00] phrase.

Dermot Kennedy: That was the last, uh, that was the last. Lyric I sang for that album, it was funny actually, you know, like I don't have many sort of dramatic things, but when I sang that in the studio, my voice, like my voice kind of collapsed, like I wasn't, I was on my way towards vocal injury, singing all over that album, I shouldn't have been singing the way I was singing on that album, and, uh, and then I had to take time away to relearn how I sang and all that kind of stuff, but I said that was a lot, those were the last sort of words I sang for that album.

Yeah. And I was sort of, was that

Mary Kennedy: a scary moment when it went? Yeah,

Dermot Kennedy: definitely. Yeah. It was bad. I kind of, I went to a lady called Judith Mock. Um, she is an opera singer, lives in Dublin and, uh, yeah, it's a whole podcast. She's incredible. Uh, she, she is amazing. And just heard me. I couldn't sing above like, eee, like I couldn't get above, it was so scary, my whole range was gone, and uh, she just immediately told me I was fine, and, and, it was all got to do with the [00:19:00] breath, and I had to, uh, I had to, I had watched people for years, like Glen Hansard, Bruce Springsteen, all these singers, like, You know, like with so much conviction and you see the veins in your neck.

And I wanted to be like that, but then I realized these people have technique that allows 'em to do that. And I, I, my whole life I was just breathing completely incorrectly and, uh, singing with zero technique. And so my voice there was just, there was, it was sort of like a ticking time bomb in a sense.

Yeah. It was mad that I lasted as long as I did, to be honest, because, you know, the, the fear is that your vocal chords are in trouble. Yes. But they weren't the, I literally, I was. It's so tense when I sang that I had gotten to a point that my neck was kind of choking itself while I sang, you know, like the, I just couldn't, my body was sort of betraying me.

And, uh, but underneath everything, my vocal cords were actually fairly healthy. They were fine. So that's why it was confusing. Cause you couldn't look at them and be like, they're so damaged, dah, dah, dah, they were grand. How long did it take you to

Mary McAleese: get that sorted out? I mean, presumably you had to do, you had to learn how to sing.

Yeah. Properly.

Dermot Kennedy: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. [00:20:00] When I was canceling festivals every weekend, um, and then retrospectively found out that it would have been fine. It wouldn't have been good, but it would, I, like, I could have gone, I wasn't in trouble, you know, it was just, it was a muscular thing as opposed to my vocal cords.

Mary McAleese: And have there been other really tough times that you had to pull yourself out of?

Dermot Kennedy: No, for me, it's kind of, it's not a stamina thing. It's not a kind of, um, it's not that, I think for me, it's about kind of, It's hugely kind of, it's, you're trying to figure out what kind of career you want, you know, cause there's all these different routes available to you.

You know, you could be in a studio and a certain song happens and you think that this is, you know, I could have 10 people saying, this is a great idea. You have to do this. And I was like, I really don't, you know, like I have to be careful because it's under my name. I'm the one doing this, not you, you know, like that, the cliche thing of people trying to make money from, it's really like.

I'm lucky I haven't been exposed to it too much, but of course it's true. Do you know what I mean? Like if I have a song and I'm a product technically for the record label [00:21:00] and I have a song that goes and does X, it's good for them. Do you know what I mean? Like these record labels, they're owned by shareholders.

You don't care about me. Do you know like truly? So it's just, you have to, you have to be mindful of that sometimes. I do think being an artist from Ireland, trying to be global, like you just, you, you, you You don't play the game, but you have to be smart to some degree. Do you know, like you have to, if you kind of sort of aggressively are like, I never want to change that.

I don't want a successful song. It's a weird idea. I think you should, Jay Cole has a great lyric where it says play the game to change the game, you know? So, which he has done, do you know what I mean? He had a hit record and now he's. This, this artist that like does whatever he wants and, and so you have to, you have to just be willing to adapt to some degree and you never do something you're not proud of.

You don't, you don't sort of adapt to the point that you've lost all sight of what you're trying to achieve and who you're trying to be. But um, but I mean like. I, I think, uh, you have to sort of, [00:22:00] if you want to have a platform where people will listen to the stuff you're proud of, you got to earn it, you know,

Mary McAleese: I know you've just reminded me there of, um, years back, do you remember the song by Billy Joel called the entertainer?

And it's just, it's telling the story of the entertainer, the singer, but who is caught in a web of deceit and being used and abused by agents and by. influencers and even at times by audiences. Um, have you come up against any of that kind of cynicism? I mean, the, the, the, the, the song is cynical from beginning to end, but have you come across that kind of experience?

Dermot Kennedy: No, no. Again, I feel quite lucky. I feel, I feel like I've escaped a lot of the weirdness. I do. And, uh, but it took a long time, you know, like I've had songs that might have, we could have been having this chat five years ago and I'd be. say playing stadiums, et cetera, but I could be miserable, you know, it's real.

It [00:23:00] really is. I get to, I think the reason it takes longer for me is because you're trying to do it in such a way, because you're not trying to, I'm not willing to kind of be like, okay, well, Dermot, if you want to be like that and creatively this way, then there's a, Cap on what you can do in terms of your shows, right?

There won't be stadiums, there won't be dah, dah, dah. I just, I don't, I'm trying to do both, if that makes sense. You know, I'm trying to take it to that level without kind of sacrificing the art. I hope that's achievable. Yeah.

Mary Kennedy: And when you do, um, achieve that, can you think of particular moments that stand out, ones that are really, really special and I suppose, inspirational?


Dermot Kennedy: mean, shows are funny for me because, you know, sometimes you see artists kind of like, the crowd will be cheering and they'll kind of be in tears on stage, you know, and it's their kind of, I made it moment. I like, I've never had that because for me, it would be kind of [00:24:00] like, I could start a cry when I'm in, in bed on the bus.

Do you know what I mean? That's when it hits me. I feel like I have this weird kind of, um, barrier or something. Uh, and it doesn't mean it's lost on me, but moments like, I don't know. Yeah. Like it's really, really small stuff. Uh, say for example, I always think about this. We did a gig in Denver once the night before playing Red Rocks.

And so Red Rocks being the biggest show on the tour, all that kind of stuff. The night before we played a place called Mishawaka, which is up in the mountains. It's 200 people. Everybody who goes to the show is brought there on a bus. It's the back of a pub basically. And it's outside. And I played there.

And during the sound check, it would, like things were hitting me because I was kind of like, how is this? you know, this is so small. I was like, how is this small? We're in Denver. We're all from Ireland in the UK. Like, how are we doing this? Or sometimes after a show, I'll watch the trucks leave, you know? [00:25:00] Um, and we played a show in Chicago and the trucks were going to Nashville and just like, I don't know.

It's all the small stuff, you know? Like when I see, the fact that there's a truck with my gear in it for my gig in Nashville tomorrow, you know, it's wild.

Mary Kennedy: It's been quite the journey from even before the busking, there were the open mic sessions and then the, you know, then the, um, the, the busking, uh, and your dad bringing your, your, um, your gear up to Steven's green and then Red Rock, as you say.

My God. Yeah. Yeah.

Dermot Kennedy: But I think, like, I think the key to it is, sometimes I'll talk to Songwriters who are say 17, 18, kind of taught, do you have any advice to sort of, what do you think I should do? And I find it quite, I feel quite helpless, you know, because it's kind of like, what do you say? Do you know what I mean?

Like, don't give up. I was just happy to be playing music. Do you know what I mean? It wasn't kind of like, Oh, this doesn't look the way I want it to right now, but maybe if I keep, it wasn't like that. It was just. [00:26:00] If I got a gig playing in Beaulieu's, I was delighted. If I got a gig, like supporting somebody in Whelan's, I was really happy about that.

Mary McAleese: Was there music in your house when you were growing up? Careful how you answer this, Thomas. Yeah,

Dermot Kennedy: there was. Yeah. Was there? Yeah. My other auntie Deirdre is a very good singer. She's a child. Oh, right. Tom, my sister Clara is a fantastic pianist. Yeah. This is loaded. There's nothing I can say.

Mary Kennedy: No, but Deirdre made it quite clear to me.

I was on the phone to her this morning as I was driving in here and she said, make sure that I get a mention for being a musical

Dermot Kennedy: interest. She's not joking either.

Mary Kennedy: No, she's not joking. I know Deirdre too. I know

Mary McAleese: she's not joking for sure. Whoa.

Dermot Kennedy: Yeah.

Mary McAleese: So there was music in the house. Oh yeah.

Dermot Kennedy: Yeah. Yeah. Um, there was.

And it, it just, you know, the first time I ever sang was cause my sister Clara was playing the piano. So it just kind of went from there.

Mary McAleese: Yeah. I remember your dad saying that when he was a young fella and he was upstairs in bed, he knew which of the two sisters, Mary or Derenda was playing the piano. Yeah.

Dermot Kennedy: Yeah. Yeah.

Mary McAleese: Cause one of them played [00:27:00] it like, um, she was playing it, you know, with, yeah, with, yeah, with concrete blocks. And, um, one of them wasn't. So tell me about your Auntie Deirdre in the music then. Yeah.

Dermot Kennedy: But just always, you know, like I was on Inishmore with Deirdre last weekend and it's like, it's, you know, we can joke, but it is important.

Like I go, she really kind of. And just in terms of conversation and stuff, like the stuff we've been talking about in terms of staying in the right place creatively and all that kind of stuff. She just, she, you know, she just, she's so all in on the music and the emotion. And so, um, it's just important for me to hear that every now and then I think.

Mary McAleese: And that deep spiritual side, the deep. you've got a principled side inside yourself. She's big into all that too. Absolutely. And I can hear that in you. Do you think? Oh yeah, I can hear that. I can hear that in you. Yes. Can hear the

Mary Kennedy: anti deirdre's influence. Yes. Joe, there's a lovely moment that I remember, um, when you were saying that Clare, uh, played the piano and you sang and you decided, uh, this is years [00:28:00] ago when you were only kids to do, um, a concert for John and Eileen for your mom and dad.

And you had this little, uh, you said to Clare beforehand now. What was it? This should be good. No, we want this

Dermot Kennedy: to be good. We want this to

Mary Kennedy: be good. Yeah. And you have that now as a kind of a strap on your guitar, don't you? It's a bit of a motto, yeah. It's a mantra. It's fabulous. Sorry, a mantra,

Dermot Kennedy: yeah. Uh, yeah, yeah.

And it's, you know, it's so incredibly simple, but it is, you know, it can, and I wouldn't say I kind of have it ringing around in my head all the time, but it is a good one in terms of. everything. Do you know what I mean? Like it's quite, I think I can think myself to death sometimes, but ultimately it's quite simple.

You know, like I'm just trying to make good music. There's a guy I work with in London called Carrie, who's a similar kind of like grounding thing in terms of my creative brain. And, um, it's just like, he'd be, in scenarios where they're kind of like, Carrie, we need this type of song and we need it. And he's just like, it's so like, he's like, if I liked the way it sounds, it's good.

He's like, it's just, it's just taste, you know? And I think, [00:29:00] I think sometimes, uh, that's where I'm coming back to with where I'm at in my career. It's just like, I just, I need to make the album. I would like to hear, and if it's well received, fantastic. And, you know, if it's not, at least I'll be happy. That's the thing, you know, like.

If you go chasing these songs that feel a certain way and you're like, hopefully this is successful, da da da. If it's not, it's very disappointing. And not only that, there's a second kicker where you're kind of, you're left with something you aren't necessarily dying to stand behind anyway. So if you can make the music you're definitely proud of, then.

Yeah, kind of one already, you know, definitely.

Mary McAleese: You've been hugely successful in music there, you know, on the national stage, the international stage, your, your career just took off. Um, If it hadn't, what would you be doing?

Dermot Kennedy: Like, I could not say there's nothing I was doing previously that I might've pursued.

There's nothing.

Mary McAleese: But you like the football. So yeah, I adore

Dermot Kennedy: it. And I don't get to do it now. Would you have

Mary McAleese: wished to be a professional footballer? Oh yeah.

Dermot Kennedy: If I could swap, I always say if I could [00:30:00] swap, I don't know, I don't know. But like, uh, I, if I'm playing music on stage, most of the time my mind is quite active and I'm, and I'm very sort of, uh, What's the word?

I'm very like in my body. When I play football, my mind is empty. Like entirely. I, I don't, it's just like the most peaceful thing in the world.

Mary McAleese: It's not stressed, you're not stressed playing football. No,

Dermot Kennedy: I love it so much. I, uh, it. clears my brain to the point that like I, in Australia on the last tour, I kind of made a point of getting out and playing football a bit.

And it changes who I am as a person. Definitely.

Mary McAleese: Why do you think that is?

Dermot Kennedy: Uh, I don't know. Yeah. Just since I was a kid, I like, it's a magic thing. I really is. And I know like, Say for example, that's my sport, but just sport in general, it's just huge. I think it kind of, it can really, um, it helps me a lot.

Yeah. And, and it's funny, like say I played football in Crumlin and, um, like just [00:31:00] friends that I still haven't lost contact with, um, and just a sense of camaraderie that to be honest, sometimes in music I find is missing, you know, I think music is funny, like so many people are kind of. You know, everybody's kind of thinking about themselves and, and me included.

It's just, it's very solitary and in sport, you know, like if you're not trying to be part of a team, you just won't last. And so I just, I love that. I love that kind of togetherness. And like, if you're struggling, I'll lift this part of it and all that kind of stuff. I like that a lot.

Mary Kennedy: When you hear one of your songs on radio, I'm wondering how it makes you feel.

I remember a number of years ago, um, Your mom and dad and myself and other friends, we were on holidays and John and I went into McDonald's to get food and whatever song was very early was on the, the, uh, was being played in McDonald's and we put the, the, the phone up to the, the, the microphone. And, uh, taped it and then played it to you when we got back into the car because we were so proud.

Yeah. And it was the early days. So you were [00:32:00] chuffed as well. Oh yeah. What's that like now?

Dermot Kennedy: Uh, Oh, it's brilliant. Like I had a good one last week where I was driving in the car and I, this is very sort of, uh, this is, I sound like a, Dork, but I was going between the radio set and I did four and five and I was on both of them.

And I was like, that's, I like when I'm on, when it's on multiple, I think I'm doing all right. But no, it is. It's great. Um, and especially it's nice for songs that came out four years ago that you still hear them getting played because I think nowadays. That's, that's the battle is like surviving beyond two or three years.

I think that's very, you see artists like say Jay Z, people like that who are here for 10, 20, 30 years. It's like, that's the tricky thing these days because people don't care. People hear songs nowadays, songs get so famous, they'll be on the radio in your car and no one cares who made it. And I think that's the, uh, that's the battle.

Mary Kennedy: Yeah. What kind of things, uh, make you laugh, bring you joy, Dermot?

Dermot Kennedy: Oh, everything. I feel like I'm not a serious person, you know, like beyond kind of, um, beyond what I do, I feel like I'm [00:33:00] dead serious about doing it and what it can mean to people and what it means to me. It's, Life or death kind of thing in that sense.

But I feel like in my life, I'm, I feel like I get it all out in songs. I don't feel like a very serious person at all. Like sort of, um, what makes me laugh, say like I'll be with my friends this evening and I know I'll laugh a lot and I need that, you know, um, because, but the certain thing, yeah, I dunno, there's the normal things, you know, hanging out with your friends, kind of.

Stupid, but a very dopey sense of humor, like Owen, for example, like, yeah, that type of stuff. My

Mary Kennedy: son. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. How would you like to be remembered?

Dermot Kennedy: Um, I'd like to be remembered as somebody who just, if I have any kind of platform, use it for the right reasons, you know, like trying to, I think sometimes, say do gigs for charity and stuff, and it can be, deflating is definitely not the word, but it's hard because, you know, like it's so hard to make any kind of a change.

because there's just so much going on, but, uh, [00:34:00] just that you kind of tried, you know, and I, and I hope I, I'd like to be remembered as somebody who never got caught up in that sort of idea of themselves, you know, like, I just don't, I have no time for it. Like I was saying, I was kind of, I am very lucky to play big shows all over the world and wander around.

downtown of that place all day. Uh, and no one even spots me. It's lovely. Um, and so I think that's because maybe cause I made certain creative decisions, certain career decisions and stuff. And, uh, I think I'm in a kind of a sweet spot. And so I would like to, I I'd like to just always be remembered as kind of making the right decisions to, for your music to mean the most it can and to make the biggest kind of impact you can.

Yeah. Yeah. Very long winded.

Mary McAleese: So you have no notions. You don't do notions.

Dermot Kennedy: No, but like, it's also weird. I think it's weird sometimes to be like, just so you know, I have no, I like, it's like, of course, I, it's just bizarre to me. Like, I think, and again, I think sports, the [00:35:00] thing, it's, That's the thing that changed it for like, I've been in some rooms with artists and it's just like, I've got some artists who I think are incredible people.

And for the most part, to be honest, but every now and then when you come across somebody who's lost in that idea themselves, it's mad to me. It's just in a dressing room, but it'd just be called out so quickly, you know? So it's crazy. in a football dressing room, I'm saying. No, no, no. I mean, in like, in a team, it just, it can't exist, you know, they can't, it's so toxic.

And so, but I think sometimes in music, there's like, if, if an artist is making money, there'll be a whole team who are kind of, they'd just absorb so much crap to kind of keep that train on the road, you know, but for the most part, people are lovely. But in answer to your question, I just, I don't, I'm not doing this to kind of.

be famous around.

Mary McAleese: So what is next for you then?

Dermot Kennedy: Um, I think I'll be a bit more deliberate, you know, for seven years, I've kind of signed up to everything I've said, I've seen tours on paper and I've said, yeah, let's go Europe, [00:36:00] Australia, America. I've done that on a cycle nearly for a very long time.

Obviously, even the pandemic, I was gone for a bit, but then like August. 2020, I was back, I was in Nashville. Do you know what I mean? Like Tennessee, it's like, okay, there's none here. Let's go here. Like it's, it's wild. It's just for a very long time. I've kind of said like, yeah, okay, I'll do that. And I'll do this interview in Germany at seven o'clock in the morning.

It's just been really gung ho for a very long time. So next, I would like to, I don't know, like work with a booking agent to put a tour together where I pick the venues. And I kind of said, like, I want it to be like this and I want two days off here.

Mary Kennedy: I've doing everything that was offered to you.

Dermot Kennedy: Yeah.

Mary Kennedy: Was there, um, a kind of a restlessness or a, would you have fretted if you weren't doing things?


Dermot Kennedy: Even now I feel that way. Do you? You know, Oh yeah. When you're taking

Mary Kennedy: time out.

Dermot Kennedy: 100%. Like I see the Grammys the other night is like, I see all my peers ultimately like, and stuff drives me mad, but I have to, I have to [00:37:00] work on being content, you know, I have to. There won't be a moment from a career achievement where I'm kind of like, okay, great.

I feel comfortable now. Like I, it just won't happen. So I think it needs to come from within. Um, it just has to, uh, because I do, I fret, I have to be careful. And then that's comes into like social media, everything. You just gotta be, you have to kind of remind yourself that you've done some really good things.

You will do them again. People will stick around. I really struggle with the idea of like. People being like, Oh, he doesn't exist anymore. So let's move on to the next thing. I hate that. Yeah.

Mary McAleese: It sounds like you've found your voice. You've, we know you've got your voice as a musician. You've got your voice as a creative artist, but it actually sounds that after these years you've distilled the experience into your own voice as the manager of your own life.

Dermot Kennedy: Hopefully. Yeah. I think I just like, if I bumped into somebody who signed a record label I'd just love to talk to them. Do you know what I mean? I'd kind of be like, just, but then it's [00:38:00] to some degree, it's futile, right? Because their experience is their experience. You know, it took me a long time to adapt.

I remember Warner records were trying to sign me and there was a fella in London said to me, if I sign you, you won't have a day off in five years. And I was just like, I was like, no way. And that's what happened though. I didn't. But also at that point, it was like, I was terrified. I was like, not a chance.

And then I signed to Island Records in the end. Cause they were just like, we just want your music to, you know, they had Ben Howard, Hosier, Mumford Sons, you know, it made sense. But when he said that, I was just like, Dave is over, not a chance. And that's how it transpired. I ended up not really having a day off in five years, but it's just, I couldn't hear it at that moment, you know?

So yeah.

Mary Kennedy: If there was one thing, uh, in the world that you could change either for yourself or for others. What do you think that would be?

Dermot Kennedy: I think my generation's a funny one. I think we worry a lot, you know, I, I, I'd potentially get rid of social media entirely. And I would even say, [00:39:00]

Mary McAleese: yeah, I would even say like my, it's such a pressure, isn't it?

And yet it's been good to you in some ways, you know, that's what I was

Dermot Kennedy: going to say. I like my experience. Isn't a negative one, but, um, I know people who have a really hard time. Reading comments, looking at things, getting messages, like really bad, negative stuff. And I would say mine is a very positive thing, but it's just like

Mary McAleese: It's an open sewer.

Dermot Kennedy: I hate it. It's an

Mary McAleese: addiction. Yeah, it can be an open sewer. It can be an open sewer. Sorry, I would upgrade it to saying

Dermot Kennedy: I would get rid of smartphones, that's what I'd change. I hate it. Yeah. I was in Canberra a couple of weeks ago and I'd lost my phone and it was, uh, it was brilliant. I loved it so much because I would love to have an old brick phone.

And if you want to talk to me, call me, I'll call you, whatever it is, we'll all call each other and that's grand. We'll stay in touch. But the thing of having it on you all day, um, Yeah, no good. Addicted, like to the point that I think it's, it's fascinating. And I know there's like the social dilemma, all that kind of on Netflix, all that.

So like people are aware, but I think, [00:40:00] I don't think we're aware at all. I think it's mad. I think it's so, so bad. Me included. I wouldn't say I'm kind of exempt or like a high horse at all. Like I definitely look at it, but, uh, but I would get rid of it. Yeah. Cause I think I'd be, my career would be much, being a musician, it'd be so much more fun without it.

It'd be so good. Cause it'd be like, like earlier we were talking about Van Morrison and Bob Dylan and stuff. Like I saw a video on Instagram, ironically, uh, a couple of months ago of people in an apartment in Paris, just listening to Van Morrison. It was just a record on the thing. No one was talking. They were all just listening.

It's just standing, listening to the music. And I think I, I do think it's cool technology, you know, changes and, and, and like the world is evolving. But, uh, I will, I do, I would like it to be a bit more like that.

Mary McAleese: Enjoy whatever's in front of you. Yeah. It's going to be good. We just know it's going to be good, but we really want you to enjoy it.

Dermot Kennedy: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No, I will. Of course. But also, you know, I think like talking about what I swap [00:41:00] music for football, it's like, like some of my friends who are athletes, it's full on for them as well. Do you know what I mean? Like, I'm sure when they were 16, they had a dream and it was all very like beautiful.

And then. But now it's their career, you know, and talking about like basketball, there's like 80 games a season, you know, like I'd say there's times where just the last thing you want to do is go do it. Um, and I'm not saying like, I think I'm actually lucky with music. Like I never don't want to be on stage.

I've never been on a stage where I'm kind of like, I hate this. Never. Um, And it's always a positive thing, but, uh, I think if you're going to do something at an elite level and it's a career and you're trying to be one of the best in the world, I think there's no way it's all pretty and happy, it can't be, not every day.

Mary McAleese: If you, if you've had a phone call from Manchester city offering you a trial, I just United Mary Manchester United. I deliberately use deliberately use city because I wanted the challenge [00:42:00] and they offered you a trial. Would you drop the guitar and run?

Dermot Kennedy: They wouldn't. First of all, I have this, this is a funny thing.

I, when I think about this, cause I played soccer eight and did all right and all this kind of stuff.

Mary Kennedy: Yeah. But I've had, I've had

Dermot Kennedy: like. People sort of being like, we heard, uh, it was sort of like a toss up between music and football. And I, if anyone from any team I ever played for, I can't bluff it. I, I, there was no chance, but anyway, uh, would I, yeah, yeah, yeah, I'd love it.

I'd give it a go. You know,

Mary Kennedy: Roy Keane was a big hero.

Dermot Kennedy: But then also like, I think, like I said about music, like there was no day where I was like, I wish this was my career. I wish I was making money from this. I think something like football, the odds are even. Less favorable, you know, especially being from Ireland.

You're trying to be what, like, you think about say someone like Seamus Coleman plays for Everton for like 15 years. Um, just nobody does that, you know, like you have to be that one, which is the same in music, but I never thought about it ever. I [00:43:00] never, ever thought like, Oh, the odds are really bad here.

Whereas I think in football, I would stop and be like, is this going to work? Like he's really good. What about it? Like, and I think the second you think about it, it's dead.

Mary Kennedy: Actually, what was it about Roy Keane that made, made him iconic in your eyes?

Dermot Kennedy: Well, I think like, to some degree.

Mary McAleese: A god.

Dermot Kennedy: Bearing in mind

Mary McAleese: the laws of defamation.

Dermot Kennedy: But I, I think, uh, I think he just, I always loved that thing of, um, when Ireland played against Holland, I remember that game and all that, a huge win in Dublin. And he was incredible. And he just very briefly shook hands with the manager and was gone. And I think, uh, the whole, the rest of the team was doing a parade around the pitch and he just doesn't, not that he doesn't care, but like he had done what he's meant to I mean?

And I think. Yeah. When I'm on the stage, I just, I do think I'm the one that kind of wrote the songs. I'm the one playing them, but like, uh, by no means is it like, [00:44:00] look at me kind of thing. I, it's purely the songs. I don't care about anything else, anything. And I think I get that from him in a sense. Um, I found him very inspiring.

Yeah. And just kind of a commitment, you know, like a work ethic in a sense. Um,

Mary Kennedy: And the no nonsense, the no notions and the being grounded. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I struggle with it a little

Dermot Kennedy: bit because like in TOR it's obviously, it's a team, but it's, you know, like if someone needs a day, they need a day. Whereas I think I need to check my kind of Roy Keane side and just chill out sometimes.

Mary Kennedy: Channel your inner Roy Keane.

Mary McAleese: Yeah. There's a future for you now. Yeah. Yeah. Listen, thanks a million. Thank you. It's been just brilliant talking to you and listening to you. Listening to you has been a revelation to me, complete revelation to me. So big thank you. Thank you very much. Thanks

Mary Kennedy: guys. I'm one of your proud aunties.

One of your proud aunties.[00:45:00]

Well, look at us, Mary. We have done our first podcast and we survived. I thoroughly enjoyed it. What did you think of the nephew? What struck me about

Mary McAleese: him, um, because this is something that I really wasn't expecting, um, was the depth of him. the thoughtfulness over a range of things that just didn't necessarily all have to do with music, but about life in general.

And in particular, his attitude to social media. I really liked that because for someone like him of his generation, social media is what they've grown up with. It's also how they get themselves known out there. They're more, I would have thought would have been much more comfortable with it than I am who I just don't do social media, but to listen to him, being able to articulate the problems with it.

Um, I, I was,

Mary Kennedy: I learned a lot from that now. Well, you see, he's very authentic, if you like. And you remember he was talking about that little strap that he has on his guitar. We want this to be good. Um, okay. That was for the concert that he and Claire were organizing as children for their mom and dad, [00:46:00] but he still has it as a kind of a mantra.

And I think, you know, that's a very sound value. Every time he goes out on stage, we want this to be good. And that shows respect. for the audience and for the, the, the other guys in the, in the band.

Mary McAleese: And I also thought what came across was a real respect for a quality of life that he wasn't prepared to sacrifice every aspect of life just to be famous.

Um, he's achieved so much and he has achieved a huge following, a huge audience. Uh, there's a big market out there for him, but there's also the guy who wants the quiet, the dog. walks in the country, uh, the happy family home, and who's prepared to make the space for that, no matter what, because at the end of the day, that's what fills him up with the energy for the music and inspires him.

I like that. Um, that, that sort of took me back. Also, what I really loved was the fact that my, my two, grandkids just were so bowled over by the fact that I'd spoken, [00:47:00] had been in the same room as shared the airspace. They could not believe it because, um, that's, that was really my introduction to him. Um, was with kids in the backseat of the car, uh, and Spotify on.

And we asking them, well, what do you want us to play? And they throwing his name. So we put it on and they singing. all the words to his songs. That freaked me out. I mean, there's six and seven, seven and 10, and that they knew all the words. So there's a whole audience out there that, um, he introduced me to.

Mary Kennedy: Every day is a school day, Mary. Isn't it just? And there's another point about him that I, I, um, really like and always have liked. And that is his, uh, honesty, the fact that he could talk about, okay, I want to have the quiet life and the country life. And I need that after seven years on the road, but also to admit that he can't help but fret that people will forget about him.

And I can remember that when, when I started off [00:48:00] in, uh, in television, you'd say, Oh gosh, uh, if I don't take this job. Will people not ask me again? And that's something that, you know, he struggles with as well, but it's lovely to be able to, to own it and to, to put it out

Mary McAleese: there, isn't it? And he does. Yeah.

He's very, you know what, he's just another guy who's, who's done phenomenally well right across the world and at home, and he's just the kind of person we can be proud of.

Mary Kennedy: And we've someone else that we are going to be very proud of, uh, next week, haven't we? A friend of yours. Jarlath. Yes.

Mary McAleese: Jarlath Burns, isn't he?

He is just outstanding. And of course he has just taken up the reins as, uh, Uachtarán, a common low class Gael, president of the GAA, and he'll be that for the next three years. He was elected to that post a year ago. Um, and I've known Jarlath a very long time now, even though he's an Armagh man and I'm a Down supporter.

Um, I I have to say he's a person that I have admired for a very long time.

Mary Kennedy: And so that's it for our very first episode of Changing Times from [00:49:00] Alanood here in Kildare. Well,

Mary McAleese: we survived it, Mary, and I certainly survived the onslaught of Kennedy's, that very talented family.

Mary Kennedy: Surrounded by Kennedys. Yes, indeed.

Yeah, it was, it was such fun. And now I'm really looking forward to the next episode.

Mary McAleese: Me too. Absolutely, Mary. A big thank you to the team behind the scenes here at Dundara Television and Media, including our researcher, Anne Marie Staunton.

Mary Kennedy: And our producer, Enda Grace.

Mary McAleese: Don't forget to follow Changing Times wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Mary Kennedy: And in the meantime, I suppose we should say to our listeners to subscribe. Now, that doesn't mean that you have to pay any money. I understand. Subscribe and tell your friends and everything.

Mary McAleese: And hopefully, yeah, we'll talk to you next week. Hope you've enjoyed it.

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