Dermot Kennedy: ‘I Was At A Point Where No Song Was Good Enough’

18 November 2022 | 1:48 pm | Michael Prebeg

“It was the very last day making the album and it just felt like all life was going out of the song…”

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Dermot Kennedy announced his new album with a social media post and a description of the name Sonder, “The realisation that each random passerby is living life as vivid and complex as your own.” 

The Irish singer-songwriter feels such a strong relation to this word and its meaning that he used it to name is record. He explains that it will define his life, make him a more open person and dictate who he’s going to be for the next few years. 

“We are living in a time where, despite social media connecting everybody and being more connected, we’ve been more individualistic than ever,” Kennedy begins.

“It now almost makes sense to be selfish and not think too much about people outside your own circle. I think it's important that music is a great kind of catalyst to change that and to just care more about other people.”

Kennedy describes himself as a quiet person and reveals that ever since he was a kid has never been someone who's loved being the centre of attention, which makes him somewhat of a reluctant celebrity. Through his music he’s been able to meet with so many people and connect with them all over the world. This ties into the meaning of Sonder because it lets him be who he wants to be. 

“I want this album to be huge,” he tells. “I want my career to be huge, but I don't just want it to be about the music. I want it to be a real thing. Where like yes, I wrote the songs, I'm playing the songs and it’s me in the middle of all of this, but it’s a genuine shared experience. It's nice as an artist when you get to create a world and it feels like it might actually grow legs and it work out.”

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He didn't know what to expect with this second album but when COVID-19 hit, it was a weird mix of emotions for him. Firstly, because there was a silver lining of being at home after touring so much and he got to stop for a bit. Secondly, it was scary because he was worried live music might never come back. “I was trying to be creative at the same time and so it was this real weird mix of everything and then strangely, like immediately after everything stopped, there was this flurry of creativity and it was really easy,” he explains.

It’s been a long journey to get to this release. Kennedy began sharing his new chapter in mid-2021 with his lead single Better Days – a song he describes is about perseverance and pushing through life’s troubles and knowing that something better is waiting for us on the other side. He then paused further releases and continued writing and recording through the pandemic until he was ready to release Something To Someone, gearing him up to the eventual album release. 

“This album is about me trying to stay true to every part of myself,” Kennedy tells. “There are songs where I wanted to have loads of drums and others with huge arrangements and massive instrumentation everywhere. There are songs where I wanted it to just be piano and vocal with the most bare-bones thing that can exist. So, for me, it's about getting all that done and not making an album that sounds like it goes up and down too much.”

One song, titled Innocence & Sadness, is a heartfelt piano-ballad that he explains was recorded in a single take. “In terms of the writing it came about just me at the piano, but the recording that wasn't the plan at all and was a bit stressful,” he reveals. “It was the very last day making the album and it just felt like all life was going out of the song with the setup and all the fancy gear so the only way to do it was to just play it and sing at the same time, so that’s what I did.” He’s proud of how it turned out with its movement and flow, despite taking some time to make it happen. 

Kennedy kept a bunch of really important songs that were written quickly and then found the last 10-20% challenging because he was trying to push for one or two more songs with some kind of flavour he didn’t have yet. There's a song on the album called One Life, which he says is really special. 

“I was worried about this album not really showing my love for hip hop at all and that song kind of has this production that's a bit heavier, a bit darker and more beats-driven.” The reason he’s so proud of it is because it was a song that came at the very end of a six-week trip to London in the middle of COVID-19. “I wasn't seeing anybody, and I was just in an Airbnb everyday by myself. I was at a point where no song was good enough and I was longing to be back home but after persevering, it made it all worthwhile just for this song.”

Kennedy wants his music to belong to all of us, to find our own stories and solace in the songs of Sonder. “It's beautiful to me if just one droplet of it touches whoever listens to it,” he says.

Sonder is out now.