Damien Rice talks about latest album, project with Selma Hayek

Damien Rice is tourin in support of his nwe album, "My Favourite Faded Fantasy." (Lilja Birgisdóttir / Courtesy photo)
Damien Rice is tourin in support of his nwe album, “My Favourite Faded Fantasy.” (Lilja Birgisdóttir / Courtesy photo)

By Quentin Young

The release this month of the Selma Hayek-produced animated adaptation of Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” will expose the celebrated 1923 book of poems to a new generation of Americans. It also will extend the reach of the Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice.

Rice contributed two songs to the movie soundtrack, including “Hypnosis,” which he wrote specifically for “The Prophet.” Rice has a talent for writing songs with lyrical heft, and “Hypnosis” brings musical poetry to a story based on literary poetry.

That’s hardly all Rice has been up to recently. The singer, who got his start in the 1990s as vocalist for the Irish rock band Juniper, is currently on a worldwide tour in support of his latest album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy. The tour includes a stop at Red Rocks on Monday, with an opening set by Iron & Wine.

The album, which features mischievous cover art by the street artist Escif and was produced by Rick Rubin, showcases Rice’s compelling voice, which combines Dublin grit and arena-sized power.

In advance of his visit to Colorado, Rice participated in an email interview with Quentin Young:

Question: How did you approach writing “Hypnosis”? Is it directly related to “The Prophet,” or did you take a more general approach to its tone and theme?

Answer: Writing a song for “The Prophet” was tricky. Kahlil Gibran’s words are poetic, inspired and feel complete. Even though I was just writing a song to accompany the film, I still felt somewhat conflicted about saying anything at all. I had a musical idea, but the words were initially blocked.

I looked at the insecurities that arose in me and initially started writing from that position as an experiment. I can’t remember exactly right now, but the initial lyric ideas might have started something like: “You don’t know what you want, you’ve so much to hide, like that arrow stuck in your side …”

Then I imagined what the “Prophet” character might respond to such judgments, and it became: “When you know who you are, and can see through your veils, your old fears become wind in your sails,” and so on. I imagined what he might respond to all these insecurities that had arisen, and those words became the lyrics of the song.

The cover of Damien Rice's latest album, "My Favourite Faded Fantasy," features art by Escif. (Sacks & Co. /  Courtesy photo)
The cover of Damien Rice’s latest album, “My Favourite Faded Fantasy,” features art by Escif. (Sacks & Co. / Courtesy photo)

Q: What can you tell us about the My Favourite Faded Fantasy cover art, and is there a story to the image beyond what meets the eye?

A: I’m not sure what the artist Escif was thinking or expressing, but what I got from the painting was a curiosity. I wanted to know why these people were swimming and climbing up a ladder onto a wall that led nowhere. Then as I looked at it more and thought about it more, I began to laugh and saw a great sense of humor in it. It was, for me, a clever and simple presentation of a classic human blunder, which is that of chasing some inane goal thinking it will bring you satisfaction, but in the end it doesn’t give you what you thought it might. I guess a clever reminder that if you’re going to do something, you might as well enjoy the journey, because focusing on the destination is often a letdown when you eventually get there.

Q: In what ways did Rick Rubin influence or affect the qualities of My Favourite Faded Fantasy?

A: Among many other influences, he had two which were rather important: He helped me get it started and then get it finished! This was invaluable to me at the time.

Q: How have you changed as a songwriter, or artist in general, since your Juniper days? And over what period were the MFFF songs written?

A: I feel as if I’m returning somewhat to my teenage years with music. I’m slowly becoming in love with music again. It’s becoming more of a passion and less of a job. I’ve started to let go of expectations, whether they be mine or my perceived expectations that others might have of me. I’m starting to have more conversations with musician friends about nonsense, experimentation and exciting things we could explore together in music that is for no other reason than for pure enjoyment. I’m coming to the end of the three-album licensing deal with the record labels, so my mind is feeling very childlike again, letting go of thoughts of the responsibilities of having to be professional or whatever. Something’s shifting, and I love it.

Most of the MFFF songs were written in the few years preceding the album’s release.

Q: What can local fans expect to hear in the Red Rocks set?

A: I don’t make set lists, so I’ll have to wait until the night to see what happens.

Q: What new projects are you working on?

A: I’m working on a new album.

Quentin Young: twitter.com/qpyoung

If you go

What: Damien Rice with Iron & Wine

When: 8 p.m., Monday, Aug. 10

Where: Red Rocks, 18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison

Tickets: $45-$65

Info: redrocksonline.com

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