Interview: Daithi

Even though Daithi O’ Dronai’s musical career dates back to 2008, his new EP ‘The Embrace’ which was released in February marks his first official release. Having recently secured Gugai of Rosin Dubh fame as his manager, Daithi is poised to make a real impression at home and abroad.

His student apartment near GMIT in Galway has become the creative hub where Daithi works on his music. “Live in a student apartment and nobody complains about noise” he points out.

The apartment, on fist entry displays nothing out of the ordinary except that some of the gig posters on the wall were shows Daithi himself performed at. But then we enter “the music room” and shit gets serious. It’s more of a music junkie obstacle course than a room, you must bypass the massive amp, bisect the speakers, tread carefully to avoid the pedals, at no point allowing yourself to be distracted by the shiny buttons on the chaos pad or synthesisers. Even the bed and chairs are decorated with electronic fiddles and hard cases.

Grandson to the well-known trad musician Chris Doney, Daithi’s no stranger to the traditional sound or culture and he admits that people often automatically restrict him to that genre when they see the fiddle but he is quick to dispel that misconception.

“I had a real traditional background as a kid and I was taught traditionally. My grandfather plays concertina but he’s a real set trad musician. He sees my music the same way I do, that it’s not traditional music. There’s no real traditional turn on it but because I learned the fiddle traditionally it comes in every so often, almost by accident.”

Like so many others, it was in secondary school that Daithi’s musical appetite grew insatiable. Somewhere between playing bass with his old covers band ‘Keepsake’ and hijacking an old art room in Rockwell College with his friends to jam in, he realised that writing his own music was what he wanted to pursue.

The first traces of his current sound surfaced in the summer of 2008 when a friend introduced him to the loop station, a device which would become a cornerstone of Daithi’s performance.

“At that point I was developed enough to think, regardless of instruments, I’m looking for a tone. I guess when I was starting out I was looking for something like the Foals sound.” He says when asked about his influences, which are impossible to decipher from his eclectic blend of genres.

Words fail Daithi himself when put on the spot about classifying his sound. “We came up with something once; Post-trad-math-rock-dance…” he trails off recognising the folly of the exercise.

“I was looking for single melodies just mixed into each other. I picked up the fiddle again after years and started plucking at it to get a clear tone. So I just started with the fiddle and a loop station and it spread from there.” He gestures to the room which provides ample confirmation that it did indeed spread from there, like wildfire.

With all kinds of high-tech toys decorating the room, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of buttons, knobs and pedals. Daithi however, a self-proclaimed “Tech-nerd” is in his element and even makes a decent stab at explaining the process involved in making his music.

“Before I use anything or perform with it in front of people I learn it back to front. The art with loops stations is not to loop too much onto the one thing. Loops are always building so the hard thing is learning where to drop down and to bring it back up again.” He explains in what is clearly the most digestible rundown possible.

As well as an original sound, Daithi beats most electronic artists when it comes to an original starting point in his career. It’s doubtful that his influences J.U.S.T.I.C.E. and Daft Punk performed in front of the French equivalent of Dana and Daithi O’ Shea to get the ball rolling.

“The first time I ever played in front of people besides my friends was the first audition for the Talent Show. The aim was actually to find a singer to put vocals with my music. I didn’t even know who Daithi O’ Shea was at the time.” He says, seeing the funny side looking back. One thing he hadn’t bargained on was becoming a local celebrity.

“It just exploded. That was the weirdest time, I was eighteen and was just getting mobbed walking around Galway City.

At the end of the day it’s a disaster as a show and the system is flawed because whoever has the biggest pool of people has an unfair advantage. But if I hadn’t been in the show I wouldn’t have played Electric Picnic that year, that’s the bottom line.” He concedes with a reluctant gratitude.

Buoyed by this success Daithi embarked on a second television venture, one which sat more comfortably with the pretentious indie crowd, Sky1’s Must be the Music –“a show that tries to kick X-Factor up the arse.” He clarifies.

His performances on the series earned him a place in the final, Dizze Rascal among the judges he impressed and he reached number 11 in the UK iTunes charts. Despite this success he’s yet to return but his three thousand or so British facebook fans will be ready and waiting when he does.

The Other Voices gig unsurprisingly comes across as the feather in Daithi’s cap in terms of TV appearances.

“It was just such a good experience and literally anyone you mention it to once they hear Other Voices they’re like Oh so you’re actually a good musician.”

To have fitted so much into such a short space of time goes beyond the exuberance of youth and proves Daithi’s ambition as an artist. Having taken steps forward in his career year after year the progress shows no sign of easing but his openness retreats at the mention of future plans.

He refers to festival plans and tour plans and possible collaborations but it’s all a bit cryptic, he’s already well-drilled in how much information to impart.

One thing he maintains is that it’s going to keep growing and there are a lot of things happening in the near future.

With the career he’s had to date, you’d be inclined to believe him.

The Embrace EP is available at Daithi’s bandcamp.

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