- 03 May 17
Veteran musician Eamonn Dowd on his new album Dig Into Nowhere, working with Nikki Sudden, and how rock n' roll saved him from a life of drudgery in rural Ireland.
“What the hell were we arguing about last night?” asks Eamonn Dowd, scratching his head. “We were bickering like a band midway through a really shit tour.” He sips from his drink and mutters. “I know this because I’ve done more than my fair share of shit tours.”
Hot Press can’t quite recall either, but then there was a lot of drink involved. As there is right now. It’s St. Patrick’s weekend in Oslo, and we’re nursing extortionately priced pints in a quiet bar the day after the veteran Irish troubadour held the Norwegian launch of his new solo album, Dig Into Nowhere, in the internationally famous Cappelens Forslag bookstore.
Originally from Mayo, but now based in Gothenburg for many years, Dowd – who used to front The Swinging Swine and The Racketeers back in Ireland – has released so many albums over the years that he visibly struggles to recall when asked about it. “I think this is my tenth,” he eventually says. “Im almost sure its ten. Im sure there are people out there that think Im some sort of rich kid, you know, ‘How do you get this done? I get it done because they sell. Not in big quantities because those days are gone. But my albums sell well enough to keep me going.”
As with most of Dowd’s output in recent years, it’s a self-release through his own Spellbound/Disques Fridge label. He used to be signed to German label Cannery Row Records, but eventually realised that he was far better off doing things himself.
“I was doing DIY before it was popular or profitable,” he recalls. “People used to laugh at me. I remember other musicians being a bit smart with me, ‘Oh youve got another album out? What does that mean, its out? I’d say, ‘Its out. Meaning its in a cardboard box that’s gonna be at the side of the stage on Friday night. People can buy pieces of plastic with my music on them.’”
With Dig Into Nowhere, the gravelly voiced Dowd has largely opted for a more classic folk and country style. He played most of the instruments himself and recorded the album in his own home studio. “In the old days, Id have gone into recording studios all the time,” he explains. “Now I do that on a whim as a bit of a luxury. I can do most stuff at home. Generally Im always looking for drums, you know, try and get the drum track down. Go in with some guys and whack out some tunes and just keep the drums, and then I can do most of the other stuff at home.
“I play bass on every track of this album except for one,” he continues. “And I like playing bass. Obviously there are things I have to get other guys in to do, if theres brass or anything involved. On this record I played fiddle, mandolin, organ, guitars, bass, harmonica and all that stuff. You know, its a necessity all of that.”
While most of the album is Dowd’s own original material, he’s included a blistering cover of the late Nikki Sudden’s ‘Death Is Hanging Over Me’. “I was always a big fan of his and I had the pleasure of working with him before he died,” he says. “It was in my flat in Dublin about eleven or twelve years ago. He kept nodding off in the middle of the session so it was a bit tragic in some ways. He was not in the best of shape, and he was dead within six weeks. He left my flat the following morning to go to New York, and he came back in a coffin. Sweet guy, sweet guy.”
The album also features a song written by Horslips’ Eamon Carr called ‘The Greenwood Shade’. “That was a bit of a kick having Eamon involved,” enthuses the other Eamonn. “He sent me a load of lyrics by email that were unused. I was saying to him, ‘When is this from? Stupidly none of this stuff was dated, you know, he found it in the attic or whatever. And I was thinking maybe some of these are from 1977 or something because of the lyrical content that seemed to hook. They did an album called Aliens that was all about living in exile and so on and so forth and I seemed to connect with that. He’s a great writer and a great lyricist.”
Asked about his plans for the album, Dowd smiles and shrugs. “All I ever wanted in life was to have an adventure,” he explains. “To maybe get to see places I couldnt get to see, which is whats happening now. And also to get saved. I dont mean that in any kind of Christian sense.
“I didnt sell myself out,” he continues. “I saved myself after growing up in rural west of Ireland on a farm. You dont have a lot going on. Hang around long enough to maybe inherit the farm and have to work a day job as well because you cant make enough money from being a farmer. I didnt buy into that. I bought into rock ‘n’ roll instead.”
Dig Into Nowhere is out now on Spellbound/Disques Fridge. Visit eamonndowd.comfor more.