Declan de Barra
Declan de Barra is a guerilla troupador. Growing up beside the sea in rural Waterford he always dreamed of hitting the road and that’s just what he did. Travelling the world playing his music to new crowds in different cities every night, all made possible by word of mouth and a strong DIY ethic.
The sounds absorbed during this nomadic existence have been distilled into an even purer drop on his latest album ‘A Fire to Scare the Sun”. And it is his voice itself which has been turning heads around the world and setting him apart from the pack. A beautiful dark intensity, sweetness and power with a connection hardwired to the soul. A unique voice for the hardest of times.
Foreign press have labeled him 'indie folk noir'. Never one for labels de Barra's live shows have seen him play varied venues from the Olympia in Paris to world music festivals in Germany to hardcore punk shows in the Basque country to contemporary music festivals in Vancouver.
Returning to Ireland after years abroad touring with various bands Declan released his debut 'Song of A Thousand Birds in 2006 to critical aclaim (featuring Richie Egan [Jape], Ronan O Snodaigh, and Turlough Gunarvardhana from The Chapters). After a jaunt around Ireland with friends and appearances on Irish TV and Radio, de Barra’s spent the next two years touring from Vancouver to Warsaw building up a loyal following wherever he played.
Word of mouth and rave reviews quickly saw Declan sign to various agencies and labels around the world.
A fire to scare the Sun has already been released in Europe with both Indie and mainstream radio play, live sessions on national radio, Fou du Roi and Pont des artistes on France 1, 2 meter sessions on Holland's Spin etc, rave print reviews and packed shows to enthusiastic fans. His voice also appeared on the soundtrack to the French hit movie LOL.
Declan was invited at the last minute to play Eurosonic 2009 after the promoters caught one of his shows in the Netherlands. Other festivals EuropaVox, Oerol, etc soon followed and Declan de Barra is now a regular feature on the overseas touring circuit.
de Barra’s produces everything himself – recording, production, artwork, merchandise, websites and videos. He only works with people he respects, from indie labels to musicians “You can always practice and improve, but if you’re an arsehole it’s unlikely to change. Life is too short to work with arseholes.”
The album features the talents of Cora Venus Lunny (violin viola and voice), Mary Barnecutt from the Vyvienne long band (Cello) Brian Hogan from Kila (guitar, lapsteel) And James Dunne from the RTE Orchestra.
Irish Musicians on Declan de Barra’s ‘A Fire to Scare the Sun’
Declan de Barra – In my own words. (PR speak quotient 0%)
Mmmm biographies…are inevitably full of shite and designed to make the artist sound like they are the latest, hottest, bright new thing sweeping the charts. Life is too short to wade though shite. So I will write this myself and spare you the publicity speak.
There are no tales of rampant drug use, alcoholism or throwing TV’s out windows. It probably won’t make me sound like a rock star but there you go.
I have been a musician and artist all my life. I am lucky enough to travel around the world to meet new people and play music for them. Some times I get to play with amazing musicians who leave me feeling like I have been hit by lightning.
I was born on the southern coast of Ireland in a tiny village called Bunmahon. Lived in a caravan and then a bus for a few years. Went to school and discovered an immense disliking for pointless authority whilst developing a pure hatred for the Catholic Church who ran the ultra conservative state. The north of my country was on fire most days, we hadn’t invented the Celtic tiger yet and there was not much in the way of hope or work. And there was fuck all on the TV. At 18 I joined the tide of Irish people emigrating and moved to Australia. There I discovered I was very bored of hearing the phrase “I’m not a racist but…”
All this hatred of oppression of the weak, small mindedness and social injustice is pretty easy to find in my songs. I hope that hope itself seeps out in between the words not just bitterness. Well that’s up to you I suppose. The song and what it means belongs to you when you listen to it. That’s why I loathe deconstructing the lyrics for people. Nothing wrong with a bit of mystery.
Sometimes what I have to say gets me in trouble, not as much trouble as some other musicians I have met who have been put on death lists or have actually been locked up in jails for what they have said. And if you think I am talking about just third world dictatorships, you’d be wrong.
In Australia I studied as a painter but decided it was too elitist and slipped naturally into the world of music. It was electric form of direct artistic communication…fuck it, it was fun.
I spent years touring and playing intense music in various bands. The music went bang and so did I. Blood, torn joints, mental exhaustion and chipped teeth. I came close to having my left arm amputated once after a show supporting Kiss (Yes the guys in make up…wasn’t my idea). Buy me a cup of coffee and I’ll tell you the whole story. After years doing the band thing (start a group, record, tour, argue, break up) I decided to go it alone and picked up a guitar. I would have preferred piano couldn’t carry one on my back. I wanted to be mobile, a guerilla troubadour. And it’s pretty much worked out that way.
As a side note
people often ask how did you survive for so many years without a “Real
Job”. Well since I was 16 I have worked on and off as a bouncer,
a goon, a meat-head. I am a big fucker and have been doing martial arts
since age 9 so it was a natural progression. Short hours, flexible time,
disappear for months on end, plus it gave me loads of time to think and
write. I always carried a notebook for lyrics. Poetry on the door. Plus
that absurd portion of life and the people I watched gave me lots to write
about. It was the twilight zone on crack. I always thought of it as entering
the right hand panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of earthly delights.
In 2005 I wrote, recorded and released an album called "Song of a Thousand Birds" recorded mostly in an abandoned room in Dublin with a couple of songs recorded in Melbourne. I was lucky enough to have some of my favourite musicians from Ireland play on it along with two songs written with former Australian Clann Zú band mates. People said nice things about it and word of mouth spread enabling me to tour and keep writing.
Since then I have been on the road, one minute playing a world music festival, the next an indie rock club, punk rock squat or folk festival. Sometimes staying in a plush hotel sometimes sleeping on someone’s floor arguing with the cat for space. I love looking out into the crowd and seeing old and young, punk and world music jazz head, Goth beside Folkie. I didn’t plan it like that but it makes me happy.
In 2008 I recorded
“A fire to scare the sun” in the same abandoned room I recorded
my first album. I would love to say it was an easy process but it was
like pulling teeth with rusty pliers and then shoving them back in again
after dipping them in salt. Paralysis by analysis.
I was lucky enough to have Brian Hogan from Kila on lapsteel and Gretsch goodness , James Dunne from the RTE symphony Orchestra on drums, long suffering touring buddy and cellist extraordinaire Mary Barnecutt and virtuoso Cora Venus Lunny on violin and viola. After hearing Cora sing at a concert we played together I convinced her to sing on some songs. A good move.
I enjoyed singing on this record. I enjoy singing. Truly. Voice is my main instrument of communication. I can make it do things I could never do with another instrument. I never feel as alive as when I reach that place singing where I am out of myself and not in control. It just flows. That is magic to me and that is why I keep doing this.
I always design
the art for the music, I am particularly happy with the art for “A
Fire to scare the sun”. I think it reflects visually the sounds
I hear. It’s all a cycle, I will speak a line or play a note and
a little image appears in my head, soon it’s joined by others, very
soon a little film begins to play in my head. Then I translate that into
a song, and then sometimes I translate the songs back into paintings or
Declan de Barra
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