Deady Does It

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For many years now, Brian Deady has been cook­ing up a fine batch of soul and R&B down in Cork city. Up un­til re­cently, the singer’s mu­sic was sim­mer­ing un­der the sur­face, served out at the Cork Jazz Fes­ti­val or at lo­cal gigs around the coun­try. Then fi­nally, back in July, Deady got the recog­ni­tion he de­served when he signed a con­tract with Uni­ver­sal/Decca Records. As a re­sult, the soul­sor­cerer got back in the stu­dio to re-record some mixes from his sec­ond al­bum Non-Fic­tion. I catch up with him fresh from leaving the RTE stu­dio – where he was per­form­ing to the coun­try live on air – as he gets ready for the al­bum’s re-re­lease.

“I’m get­ting to a point where I’m more com­fort­able with per­form­ing on radio,” says Brian. “I’m at that stage where it’s some­thing I can be­gin to en­joy.”

Deady is at the right stage to find all the en­joy­ment he can from his mu­sic. He has been cham­pi­oned by the likes of Nile Rodgers, who he has sup­ported sev­eral times here in Ire­land, and has been picked up in the US by Cal­i­for­nia-based KRCW radio, who have played songs from his first al­bum, In­ter­view. Later this month, he will re­lease the re­vised ver­sion of his Non-Fic­tion al­bum, which will fea­ture new mixes of old songs and one orig­i­nal, ‘Adam and Eve’.

As Deady ex­plains, he’s tried to give the re­booted al­bum the fi­nesse to do jus­tice to the ma­jor la­bel he’s signed to, but it’s also a case of find­ing the bal­ance be­tween mak­ing some­thing new and stick­ing to his roots. “I re­ally wanted to keep a lot of the orig­i­nal aes­thetic,” he ex­plains. “I think very lit­tle has changed in that re­gard. It’s kept most of its orig­i­nal form and shape, but now it’s some­thing I’m a lot hap­pier about.”

The al­bum was cre­ated deep in the Rebel County, where Deady has spent years hon­ing his mu­sic. I ask him if there is some­thing in the water in

West Cork that has made it such fer­tile ground for mu­si­cians.

“Yeah, I guess so,” he laughs. “There’s plenty of places to hide out in West Cork, which is ex­actly what I wanted for this al­bum. I needed the quiet. This al­bum comes out of a pe­riod of iso­la­tion. It’s a more re­flec­tive al­bum for that reason. It’s the re­sult of me dig­ging a bit and work­ing through some things.”

Non-Fic­tion, as the al­bum ti­tle im­plies, is very much about Deady work­ing through real, per­sonal is­sues. The singer, whose whirl­wind up­bring­ing saw his fam­ily break up when he was just 15 years old, chan­nels all his per­sonal feel­ings through a mu­si­cal lens. Songs like ‘A Dark­ness’ and ‘Dad’ are great ex­am­ples of Deady div­ing down to the pit of his soul and com­ing up with words for the mo­ment; there’s fire and emo­tion in the bluesy lines of ‘A Dark­ness’, where Deady comes to the con­clu­sion that “ev­ery­one’s a bit fucked up”. This is a real rhythm and blues singer at work.

And yet, sim­ple generic terms like ‘R&B’ or ‘soul’ can almost be re­duc­tive when it comes to talk­ing about Brian Deady. Cat­e­goris­ing him as one genre or an­other would be­lie the wealth of tal­ent that he has to of­fer. While Non-Fic­tion be­gins with the doo-wop thrum of ‘Clap Both My Hands’ (a real heart-and-soul gospel num­ber that has be­come a fan favourite), Deady shows later in the al­bum that he isn’t afraid to move in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. He em­braces disco and funk on ‘Septem­ber’ (where an Earth, Wind & Fire in­flu­ence fea­tures heav­ily), and even applies voice dis­tor­tion tech­niques to those wiz­ened, Lead Belly-es­que vo­cals to pro­duce some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent on stand­out track ‘All-Star Cast’.

That par­tic­u­lar tune is Deady’s way of look­ing at iso­la­tion by reimag­in­ing the Beauty and the Beast story.

“It was a case of see­ing the is­sue through some­one else’s eyes,” he ex­plains. “There’s a lot of pan­tomime in that song – a lot of char­ac­ter­mak­ing. It’s look­ing at Beauty and the Beast after they’ve gone home to­gether and try­ing to imag­ine them liv­ing in that big house with each other. They’re kind of un­happy, I sup­pose, or un­sat­is­fied.

“I be­gan the song by singing it in my own voice, and then I started mess­ing with the vo­cals to see where it would take me. That’s how I arrived at the voice dis­tor­tion – I wanted to make it sound mon­ster-like. When I get on stage to per­form ‘Al­lS­tar Cast’, I put on the Beast mask and ev­ery­thing. I like that vis­ual of a sad mon­ster play­ing the piano. It’s a kind of nov­elty, but there’s def­i­nitely a real story be­hind it too. We’ve all had times when we’ve felt iso­lated or felt at a loss about what to do in a re­la­tion­ship, and felt like there’s some­thing wrong with us. I’ve cer­tainly been there be­fore in my life.”

The lyrics to the song – “I took a look in the past/ It has an all-star cast” – give an in­di­ca­tion as to where Deady has sought out the in­spi­ra­tion for his al­bum. As Deady ex­plains, Non-Fic­tion was made while he was listening to artists he dug out from his record col­lec­tion.

“I went back to the likes of Roy Or­bi­son,” he notes. “Also, other artists whose al­bums I would’ve cher­ished when I was grow­ing up. I just be­gan dig­ging. I found Ben Camp­bell again, I found coun­try mu­sic. I was go­ing back through all the old artists I would have lis­tened to when I was a kid. And then I was try­ing to put an al­bum to­gether that would ref­er­ence all those in­flu­ences. I wanted to break away from sim­ply R&B and see what else is there.”

Storm­ing his way to the top of the Spo­tify UK Vi­ral Charts, and play­ing to a packed au­di­ence at the Cork Opera House for the Jazz fes­ti­val, the fu­ture looks bright for Deady. I ask him where he’ll take his mu­sic next.

“I’m go­ing to get back into writ­ing again,” he says, “which is go­ing to be great, be­cause I’m al­ways ready to ex­plore new mu­sic. Then there’s a whole host of gigs com­ing up in the next few months and next year. I can’t wait to get out with the band so we can re­ally gel as a unit. It takes a while to hit that sweet spot where we all work to­gether per­fectly, but we’ll get there.”

Non-Fic­tion is re­leased on Novem­ber 25 on Uni­ver­sal.

A supremely tal­ented song­writer who counts Nile Rodgers among his fans, Cork mu­si­cian Brian Deady dis­cusses his ex­cite­ment about the re-re­lease of his blis­ter­ing sec­ond al­bum, Non-Fic­tion. By Peter McGo­ran

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