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Hong Kong gigs

Damien Rice on what he loves most about Asia, ahead of Hong Kong concert

The Irish singer-songwriter, 42, a hit at the 2015 Clockenflap festival in the city, talks about his music, career and insecurities, and why sometimes we should just get naked and dance in the rain

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 May, 2016, 8:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 May, 2016, 4:29pm

After his triumphant performance on the main stage at Clockenflap last year, Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice is returning to Hong Kong for a more intimate sold-out show at The Vine Centre in Wan Chai on May 31. Ahead of the performance, Rice answered SCMP.com’s questions about his songwriting process, how he is trying to come to terms with his insecurities, and why we should all sometimes dance naked in the rain.

Is there anything you particularly like about performing in and visiting Hong Kong or Asia more generally?

I’m very drawn to certain things in Asian culture – particularly the ancient ways, the holistic approach to health with acupuncture. Also the open-minded approach to life in Taoism and Buddhism, the different approach to food – these are some of the things that are fascinating to me. Different cultures have so much to learn from each other and I love learning so Asia’s a place I love to visit.

How do you feel when you’re performing live these days? Has it got harder or easier with experience?

One day is easier, then next is harder, the next is easier. That’s the way it goes.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process and why?

I love when a song writes itself, where it takes me on a journey and shows itself to me – those are the songs that most often get recorded. When I try to write a song I usually get in the way of the flow, so it goes nowhere.

At this point in your career, is there a song or an album you feel particularly proud of? If so, why?

I don’t value pride – by that , I mean I don’t encourage pride in myself or others. I am more inclined to encourage humility and gratitude. I’m aware that music is a gift, as is life, so I like to stay in a space where I can remember that.

And is there anything you’ve produced which you wish you could go back and erase from your collection? If so, why?

I have put too much of my head or too much forcing into certain songs or projects because I felt the pressure to finish. These often end up unsatisfying in the end because they were pushed out of the flow.

It’s so easy to be busy being busy and convince myself that there’s no time for fun or healing or wildness or dance. But that’s a lie – the time is there, it’s just a choice
Damien Rice

In recent interviews you’ve described how you want to become more comfortable with your insecurities. How are you going about this and how successful do you think it’s been?

Insecurities can be terrifying or treasures, depending on how I look at them. Insecurities are like the rain. When it rains, people often hide or run from it because they don’t want to have to deal with getting wet. Likewise with insecurities, people run from them because they don’t want to deal with them. I like to take time aside to run in the rain. I was on a beach recently where it started to rain and everyone cleared off the beach. I took this as a great opportunity to take off my clothes and run in the rain, jump into the sea that was being splashed by the raindrops, and it was a gorgeous experience. Spending time with insecurities can also be a gorgeous experience. It’s just a decision to take the time to dance more with life. I really have to work at that sometimes because it’s so easy to be busy being busy and convince myself that there’s no time for fun or healing or wildness or dance. But that’s a lie – the time is there, it’s just a choice.

You’ve also spoken before about the soul-searching you did between your second and third album. Do you feel like you’ve found yourself again?

I think I, like many others, have become addicted to technology and the fallacy that technology makes our lives better, so I actually feel quite far from myself these days, even though I am more and more aware of how much I’d like to reconnect. With the phone, the computer, emails, the internet, and also music recording and editing all being computer-based, it is very easy to become addicted to sitting with a machine and lose connections with the physical world and with my body. Slowly, I am learning to tear myself away from the desire to get lost in working with some electronic device and choosing to pick up my guitar instead. So, I’m still working on that one.

What do you find most challenging about working in the music industry at the moment?

It is learning the art of scraping yourself up off the ground after a fall and transforming the broken pieces into something more creative than you’ve ever done before. Once this is achieved, everything else finds its place around that.

How did it feel in the early days of your career when you performed as a busker?

It was a lot easier to be creative because I didn’t have as much experience and so had less ammunition for comparisons, so I tended to let things flow more. Also, when no one had any expectations of me, I felt more free. Nowadays I sometimes have to wrestle with the expectations that arises and untangle myself from their grip so that I can allow creativity to have a life of its own without me interfering with its flow. I find that creativity is much more powerful when I learn to follow, rather than attempt to lead.

Damien Rice, May 31, 8pm, The Vine Centre, 29 Burrows Street, Wan Chai, sold out