Years ago, my father brought me into his sitting room to watch what he’d recorded on TV. On-screen, to cautious applause, a thirty-something musician appeared, sang his song, ‘Ghosts of Overdoses’ and tightly closed his eyes. My father closed his too. I opened mine. The show was ‘Other Voices’ and the performer was a young man called Damien Dempsey.
The years passed. The songs flowed. Dempsey’s legend grew. Living in England, I would take the trip to HMV and look in the ‘Irish Roots’ section (as they called it), purchase Damo’s latest album, leg it back to the flat, and listen to his magic. Being away from home was lonely, but the experience was softened by Dempsey’s music. Many times, as a fan, I would travel the length of the country to see him do his thing. I even got to interview him. (I would have been less nervous interviewing Bob Dylan.)
As Lady Luck would have it, one night, a mutual friend played a couple of my songs for Damo. I’ll keep his reaction to myself, but suffice to say I was blown away. Fast forward, he asks me to support him for 3 live shows. I felt like Liverpool had won the Premiership, except…I couldn’t do it. Lady-No-Luck decided to plant a few big juicy gallstones inside me. She decided that I was to become more intimate with a surgeon’s knife than Damo’s mic. With a bruised and broken-heart, and a shed tear, I texted my idle; ‘No can do, Damo’.
‘Well that’s that’, I told myself.
Dempsey being Dempsey, said ‘Don’t worry, I’ll get you again’. I thought ‘Yeah, right…it’s nice that he’d even say that, but I’m just one more pain-in-the-ass nobody trying to get a break’.
Friends said ‘You’ll get another chance’. I thought ‘You don’t get second chances like that’.
The months passed. I worked hard, trying to write new stuff – trying to figure out how to take the music to the next level. The pain of a missing gallbladder passed. The excitement of having almost supported Damien Dempsey passed. Everything seemed to pass.
The phone rang.
A voice on the other side whispered (I swear), ‘How would you like to support Damien Dempsey for three nights in December?’
I wondered was it Santy? Maybe it was. Nobody can tell me it wasn’t.
Thank you Damien Dempsey, and thank you Santy.