Tea + a Chat with Pat Dam Smyth

Pat Dam Smyth, who plays Tea + a Gig on Tuesday 7th March, chats to us about being holed up in the studio with a broken heel,  the reverb in The Old Church and what an accolade from the BBC means. Book in advance here to see the Pat bring songs from his forthcoming record (due late 2017) to the daytime audience in the beautiful surroundings of London’s only remaining Elizabethan church.

Pat Dam Smyth

Tell us about yourself

Irish and Greek. 

What can we expect from your new album?  

The new album is the first collaborationwith drummer/producer Chris McComish.. We met in Stoke Newington, London 4 years ago. We were playing nomadically for a long time and then decided to record an album . We funded it by a pledge campaign which gave us a lot more options on how and where to record. The songs were written after I broke my heel and we could not play live. I sat in the practice room for a month with my foot up and we just played new songs. They are all born from this time. The album has a whole narrative running through it. Based on things that happened to me growing up near a rural town in Northern Ireland and discovering Punk Rock for the first time. Its not a rose tinted album though. I tried to be true the stories that happened. Writing with Chris who is also from Northern Ireland was great as we could bounce experiences off each other. Trying to come to terms with how humans can have a great times and experiences even when the social backdrop is so very grim.  How we adapt.  

Congratulations on acoustic song Running being recently featured as Across the Line’s Track for the Day on BBC – how important are accolades like that for musicians?

Always high standards with the BBC so it means a great deal. Always love going to the BBC to play sessions, has such good gear and they always have a real piano. so yes it means a lot, its a recognition and another push to keep going. 

You left Belfast in the late 90s and have travelled lots, living and working in places including LA, Liverpool, London, but you’re very much associated with the Northern Irish music scene – what is special about the scene, and how has it changed in recent years?

Northern Ireland music scene like the country is pretty unrecognisable from when I first left in 1999.. They were dark days and the scene really suffered from that. A lot of bands did not come to play NI so it was very isolated. The music was either heavy metal or singer songwriter stuff. The left field did not really exist or had no form of exposure - it was an era of suppression. Now we have a younger generation that have been born after the Troubles- they’re outlook seems so much more positive and you can hear that the music is liberated. Check out Jealous of the Birds - beautiful bold and colourful,  a sign that things have changed.  

 I returned there in 2010 to record the first album “the Great Divide”. It changed my life. Rediscovering home is an adventure in itself. 

You’re often compared to some pretty heavyweight artists – Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, John Grant. Is that an honour or a burden? 

Well its very nice to be compared with these artists, but I don’t really tend to think about it too much. You have to be ‘you’. I have a tendency to stop listening to all music when writing or recording.. I don’t do it intentionally - just my brain trying to dig a little deeper without anything influencing me too much. 

How did you come to know about SoundsCreative Projects? 

All through the great work of Tara- . We did a full band headline show at the old churcha couple of years back which she helped put together… such an amazing venue , actually finished writing a song in there the night before the show-  hard to find reverb like that. Tara asked me to play and I said of course. 

What do you think of the Tea + a Gig concept?

Looks brilliant and am really looking forward to it.  Im gonna have to be good though as babies are a lot more honest critics than adults. 

At SCP we believe in connections. Can you connect us to 3 great artists we should know about?

Yes 3 great artists right now are Bill Callahan, Timber Timbre , Aldous Harding