Leith’s time to shine

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DAMIEN Leith is used to be­ing judged on TV. The judges picked on ev­ery­thing from his voice to his teeth.

Now the singer-song­writer is putting it on the line again as a con­tes­tant on this year’s se­ries of

‘‘ In one sense it’s eas­ier to take be­cause you’re not as per­son­ally at­tached to it; it’s not what I nor­mally do,’’ Leith says.

‘‘ But you spend so many hours work­ing on this show that when they knock you it’s hard.

‘‘ In fair­ness they’ve been pretty much bang on, so I take it on the chin.’’

Leith is al­ready down to the fi­nal five, last week scor­ing the

equiv­a­lent of a

As well as ful­fill­ing a long-held de­sire to learn to dance, he knows the power of a na­tional tele­vi­sion show for a mu­si­cian’s pro­file.

‘‘ There can be long gaps be­tween al­bums and you can dis­ap­pear,’’ he says. ‘‘ It’s good to be seen, to let peo­ple get to know you a bit bet­ter again.’’

Leith launched his Roy Or­bi­son tribute al­bum, around the show.

A No. 2 hit for Mother’s Day, it’s still in the Top 20 with­out the lux­ury of FM ra­dio play.

Leith says an Or­bi­son al­bum was in­evitable – ever since he sang The Big O’s on

‘‘ It was al­ways on the cards, it’s come up ev­ery year since My fans have been ask­ing for it as well. But when Bar­bara [ Or­bi­son] came on board that took it to the next level,’’ he says.

Or­bi­son’s widow Bar­bara con­trols her late hus­band’s es­tate. Leith sent her his re­worked ver­sion of Or­bi­son’s

which she loved. She also ap­proved a hip-hop in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Dream com­plete with un­ex­pected rap.

‘‘ She was the in­sti­ga­tor be­hind a lot of that,’’ Leith says.

‘‘ She wanted some tracks to be dif­fer­ent to the orig­i­nals, that was im­por­tant to her. I can’t see there will be much more rap­ping on my al­bums in the fu­ture, but it was fun this time.’’

Post-, Leith has played the game clev­erly; al­ter­nat­ing al­bums of cov­ers and orig­i­nals. But 2009’ s Re­mem­ber

was a step too far for many fans. De­spite a nod to cur­rent acts such as Muse, Ra­dio­head and Keane, com­mer­cial ra­dio didn’t sup­port the al­bum.

‘‘ It’s still hard to know where ex­actly it didn’t work, not that it was a to­tal fail­ure,’’ Leith says.

‘‘ I still lis­ten to it and love the songs, but at the end of the day it wasn’t be­ing true to my au­di­ence.’’

He’ll start work on his next orig­i­nal al­bum af­ter tour­ing for the rest of the year.

‘‘ I have a few new songs that pick up where we left off with the al­bum, we’ve kept some of those el­e­ments,’’ he says.

‘‘ With Re­mem­ber we tried to keep ra­dio in the back of our minds. We gen­uinely thought we had the sound that would suit.

‘‘ We won’t have that as the fo­cus next time – ra­dio might not get be­hind it, but we want to make sure the au­di­ence do.

‘‘ I’ll stay true to my­self but I have to keep in mind what my au­di­ence like and what they want to hear me do.’’

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