Wednesday, 24 March 2010
After much talk from his friends Damien auditioned for the 4th series of Network Ten's Australian Idol along with some 25,000 other contestants. Damien was selected by the judges as one of the final 24 contestants. He was then chosen in the final top12 as the result of a nationwide vote. He used a beautiful falsetto technique which the judges picked up on.
In the Australian Idol 2006 the contestants were allowed to perform with real instruments. Damien played the guitar for his renditions of Isaac's "Wicked Game", Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", Alex Lloyd's "Never Meant to Fail" and Ben Harper's "Waiting On an Angel."
Damien's parents flew over for the final which was watched by over 2 million people.
His debut single Night of My Life stayed at number 1 in the Australian charts for 4 weeks. It featured in the top ten in Ireland.
Damien sold over 300,000 copies of his The Winner's Journey record. However, all was not well as many articles have suggested that Damien did not receive any royalties from the sales due to fine print on his Australian Idol contract.
1st album: Where We Land
2nd album: Catch the Wind: Songs of a Generation. - reached number 2 in Australian Album charts
3rd Album: Remembering June: out
Damien is due to tour Ireland in September - keep an eye on his website for more details. http://www.damienleith.com.au/
Welcome home - how long are you home for?
I'm home till Friday. It's a very short trip but I'll be back again in July and September.
When you first moved to Australia where were you working? How did you get involved in the music scene over there?
I was a chemist so I got a lab job when I arrived. I immediately jumped into any band I could find. I played bass guitar and then I continued to do my own original music. I took anything I could find to work the scene in Sydney.
Why did you decide to enter Australian Idol as I believe you were a little critical?
I was critical of it at first. I had been making demos for so long and had been making so many attempts and suppose I was skeptical of it. It was my friends who convinced me to go on it. It was the luckiest thing I ever did. It was also a great eye opener. I met so many talented people on that show. It was a massive learning curve.
What music did you enjoy singing or listening to? Have you kept up to date with Irish music since you left?
I am still into the folk music - I love Bob Dylan, the Beatles and then I like Muse and Radiohead. A broad mix. I love Irish music. I play a lot of it in Australia. That is going back to my own family band where we did a mix of everything.
You missed out on a lot of royalties from your album released after Idol?
Yeah, unfortunately there was an issue from the production point of view. The release of the first album the production company owned the masters. It was something that was never done in previous years or years after I entered. I suppose that was because of the fuss I kicked up as a result of it. It was good in one way for the people after me.
You remortgaged your house when you entered Idol.
We had to remortgage our house when I entered Idol. When it came along we had our first child so we had to cover our expenses. The show is great for teenagers as you do get a wage but not enough to cover family expenses.
I don't regret it at all. Even with the royalty issue I have done very well out of it. It has opened so many doors for me and has provided me with many opportunities.
I have a second novel coming out in April and I write a column for an online newspaper called The Punch. I have written about 7 articles at this stage. The website is the online newspaper for The Telegraph.
Tell me about your new album - Remember June?
It was inspired by the new novel. I wrote the novel first before the album. The second novel is set in Ireland so there is an Irish undertones to this album it is Irish from a point that it has a contemporary style. The album is a story so each song follows on to a new section. It is about a person letting go of a relationship. It has some high energy moments and then some very intimate romantic moments.
Tell me about your first single?
'To Get To You' is the first single to be released in Ireland. It's the chase song - chasing after the one thing you want.
And your book is released in Australia on April 1st.
We have just sent it to Harpers UK last week so they are keen so we have to wait to see if they publish it. The reviews have been great.
Did writing come after Idol?
No I was writing way before Idol. I was with Harper Collins a year before Idol happened. About a year. I have been writing for years and the one thing I wanted to be when I was younger was a writer. And somewhere in between I sung for the first time and I thought this was great as well. I find the two go hand in hand.
The first book has an Irish character and the second book is set in Ireland. The new novel has more of a character driven story. It was really important that I was familiar with the personalities and cultures.
Did you find it hard writing an album set in Ireland when you don't live there anymore?
It was in a way. I came back to Ireland last St Patrick's Day to touch up on things - like facts. The main thing is that it is not about Ireland it is about the characters. What I really wanted to do was just come back and chat to a lot of people. I am very proud of this book. I feel that it has a lot of uplifting moments and then some sad moments.
The deadline for the book was about the same time I had to start writing the album. Then I found songs were coming to me that were inspired by the book. It certainly isn't the books soundtrack. The second single has just been released in Australia and that is linked to the father son relationship in the book.
Any plans to tour?
I will be touring around Ireland in September. I am home now to get things rolling.
When did you become a citizen?
I became a citizen in 2007. There was a bit of controversy when I entered Idol as I was still an Irish citizen but to be honest overall it was positive. A small group were against me but that's not a big deal.
Your kids are called Jarvis and Jagger..
My kids are Jarvis and Jagger. Jarvis is a combination of the place name and Jarvis Cocker. Jagger is a direct link to Mick Jagger. Jagger is just like Jagger - he is definitely a rocker. Jagger will be 3 in May and Jarvis is 5 in September.
How did you meet your wife?
I met my wife in Dublin as we were working together. I had got a temporary record deal in New York so I was doing temporary work in Dublin and that's when we met.
We chatted for 2 months and the night before I left we knew we were mad about each other. Then we both left. We got married in Ireland and then we decided to give Australia a go.