- 14 Nov 16
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.
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 soul-sorcerer 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 character-making. 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 ‘All-Star 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.