Joins us here at
Electric Music Magazine
to discuss his life and career.
When did you decide that a career in music was for you and can you explain who you are and for our readers where the name Damh The Bard come from?
Music has always been my first love and I remember when I didn’t do as well academically I just told my teachers, “Don’t worry about me, I’m going to be a musician”. Well it took my until my 30s, but I finally did it. I guess it was when I saw Sweet on Top of the Pops playing Blockbuster. Brian Connolly was my hero back then. So I loved rock, but was taught Irish folk guitar, and although I went through a number of rock and metal bands, I found my musical home in acoustic music. The wheel turns.
I am a Pagan and my music is best described as Pagan Folk. Again, I thought that might be a little too weird for some people, but then I read the wonderful book Electric Eden by Rob Young about the development of Folk Music in the 60s and I realised that what the likes of Robin Williamson, Donovan, Nick Drake, Fairport and Steeleye Span were searching for - a connection to the field and furrow, to pre-industrial rural Britain, with it’s myths and folklore, well, that was what I was writing about. So it wasn’t so ‘out there’ as I thought.
My name ‘Damh’ means stag in Gaelic and I’ve had a connection to the deer for decades. Probably since I saw the figure of Herne in the 70s series Robin of Sherwood. I’ve always thought that series just have planted the seed into many a Pagan heart. My given name is Dave, so I took the Bardic name Damh as a spelling of Dave (mh in Gaelic is pronounced V).
Who are your musical inspirations and why?
From the folk world I would have to say Dougie Maclean, John Denver, Fairport Convention and Show of Hands. Dougie and Show of Hands not only because of their music, but because they have never signed record deals, and thus have kept complete control over their music. So I took that as inspiration, and have also never signed a record deal. I also love rock and a good chorus hook so AC/DC and the songs of Ronnie James Dio and Black Sabbath have always been in my heart.
Can you tell me 3 things about yourself that people might not already know?
I had my own agricultural machinery manufacturing business with a joint venture company in Poland. I play golf, and played drums on the comeback single by Scott Walker of The Walker Brothers. Sadly it flopped and he never came back…
What song of yours best describes you and why?
Crikey. Probably the opening song from The Cauldron Born album Land, Sky and Sea. It says everything about how I feel about my music and my Path.
What has been the best gig you have done to date and why?
I have memorable moments but not a favourite gig. I had a stage diver and crowd surfer when I played in Prague. You don’t see that often at folk concerts. As I watched this bloke dive off the stage I remember thinking “Beat that Dylan!” Haha.
If you could perform a gig at any venue where would it be and why?
Oh, that’s easy. I has to be a gig at the Royal Albert Hall. That would be my dream.
What do you like best about being a musician and why?
Living the dream baby, living the dream. And it really is. I get to earn a living from what I love, I (before COVID) travelled the world. When I stood in front of Sydney Opera House and the Statue of Liberty on a tour of Australia and the USA I took a moment to think about my decision to learn to play the guitar when I was 8 years old. I only rarely took my eye off the prize, and now it’d come to that moment. What’s not to like!
If you were not in the job you are now what would you be doing?
I’m not sure. Maybe I might have taken my school work more seriously and became a lawyer for those in need.
What has been the best gig you have been too as a fan and can you tell us about it?
AC/DC Highway to Hell tour 1979 at the Brighton Centre. My favourite band at the time, playing my favourite album and I was down the front rocking out all night. The energy was incredible.
What would your ideal festival line up be and why?
Probably bands I would have loved to have seen by never got the chance. So on the bill would be Jimi Hendrix, Fairport Convention with Sandy Denny, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and headlining would be Pink Floyd with Roger Waters.
What would you say is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
I originally wanted to learn to play the bass, but my Dad said “Learn the 6 string. You’ll never be without friends, and you’ll never be without an income”. He was right.
What things make you happy and what things annoy you?
I love sunshine, Spring and Summer, the sound of the ocean and gulls, the landscapes of Albion. What upsets me? Nationalism.
What things do you like to do when you are away from music?
Be out in nature, read, be with Cerri and my dawg.
Do you think social media and the internet are a good thing in the music industry?
Absolutely. If it wasn’t for Facebook Live I would be in serious financial trouble right now, but my monthly live streams with donations have helped to keep the wolf from the door. The internet has put the power back with the musician instead of the record labels, so now it’s down to good old personal hard work and tenacity.
Talk to us about your Live streaming shows you have been doing, how it feels to do them and the pros and cons about them.
As I said above they have been a life-safer since Covid. When all of my gigs disappeared I wondered what I could do. I knew that live streaming couldn’t replace the feeling of being in front of an audience, and I really didn’t think people were ready to buy tickets so an online show. And that online show couldn’t replicate a live show in person. So what to do? Some years back I did a tour of house concerts. People got their friends over and I played in their living rooms, very informally and intimately, so I thought maybe that would work? A streamed ‘House Concert’. So that’s what I tried and I’ve been overwhelmed by the response. At the first show I had over 1000 people watching from all over the world. Now it’s anywhere between 1400 and 750 people for a show and I think offering them free for donations has worked for both me and the viewers. Did I think I’d still be doing them nearly a year later? No, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity Facebook and YouTube have given to allow this kind of thing to happen.
If you run the country for a day what would you change about it and why?
I have no wish to run the country. No amount of pay could tempt me become Prime Minister. No thanks.
What has been your experience during the Covid 19 situations. Can you tell us how this has affected you personally, how it has affected you professionally and maybe a story from this time or a message for people out there?
I may come across as an extrovert on stage, but I’m not really elsewhere. I like peace and solitude, so not much has changed for me on a day to day basis. Songwriting and recording are solitary things, as is blog writing and recording podcasts. I really miss my two sons and my parents, I really miss just being able to go out for a meal or a drink. Like everybody else these things get me down. But when the first Covid lockdown was announced I made a decision. It was obvious that there was now something out there that could quite possibly kill me. I’m asthmatic so it could be complicated. If that’s the case I decided I would not spend what might be my last months in fear or depressed. I would make them as best as they could be. That decision is still active. I admit it’s not always been the case, and there have been many times I have cried and tumbled emotionally, but then I pick myself back up and get on.
If you could say one thing to your fans what would it be and why?
Thank you. You made that 8 year old’s dreams come true.
How would you answer the question Who is Damh The Bard and what are the differences between you as a music artist and you away from music ?
My songs are about my spiritual path and my spiritual path is inextricably linked to my music and life, so there really is not much difference.
What was the first record or song you purchased and why?
The single Rat Trap by the Boomtown Rats. Because it’s still an awesome song.
What would say to someone thinking about becoming a musician and getting into the music industry?
Do it. Don’t just think about it, have a real, consistent go, and keep trying. I made that decision back in 2006. I realised I’d rather have given it 100% and failed, than have that regret and always wonder ‘might it have happened?’
If you could collaborate with any other band/singer or musician who would you choose and why?
If he was still alive I would have loved to have written and performed a song with John Denver. His songs and lyrics still speak to me, and he holds that same love and reverence for the natural world.
If you could have written one song from history which would it have been and why?
Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd. Why? Because it is the perfect song. Utter perfection, musically and lyrically.
What things make you uncomfortable?
What has the rest of the year got in store for you?
Right now I still have no live shows booked. When I get back to live gigging I want people to be able to come to the show and sit close, sing along, dance, be free. So I’ll just have to watch the space and see how that goes. The lack of live shows gives some space for songwriting. It’s actually really hard to look ahead and plan right now, so I’m still living very much in the moment and day to day, not really looking too far into the future.