Damien Rice on Writing Music for Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet

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Damien Rice, due tonight at Red Rocks, is a singer songwriter capable of many things. His latest record, My Favourite Faded Fantasy, is a vast and expansive record that starts with a traditional acoustic structure and then turns into full orchestral symphony with strings and piano bouncing around his fragile and tragic voice. Rice's musical prolificacy and ability to visually paint a scene was used in the 2004 movie Closer and will again be on display in the forthcoming film Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, which features original music that Rice wrote for the film. We sat down with Rice and asked him about writing for movies and how playing at Red Rocks makes him feel. 

Andy Thomas: You have actively been involved with writing songs for movies, including your recent work on Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. How familiar are you with these movies before you help craft the music?

Damien Rice: The Prophet is one of my favorite books and so, when Salma approached me with the idea, it was an easy yes. I was quite familiar with the book, having read it many times over the years, and I'm also very fond of some of Kahlil Gibran's other writing, so this was quite a personal project. I get the feeling that a lot of people who got involved with this film are also doing so because of the respect they have for Gibran.

When you write music that is connected with a movie, even though it is someone else's story, do you try to draw parallels between that story and your own experience or do you detach your self from it?

The music part came pretty easily because Gibran's words inspire many mind-opening feelings which in turn bring out lots of different musical expression. I could have written many different kinds of melodies, of different styles and instrumentation, all based on inspired feelings from his writing. However, when asked to write a song with new words, not using Kahlil Gibran's, that was a challenge. The Prophet is such a complete piece of work in itself that adding any other words to the mix feels unnecessary. My approach was therefore to look at the insecurities that arose in me when I thought I couldn't do it, when I thought that I was not good enough to add anything, I wrote out those insecurities. Then I sat and imagined what the Prophet character might suggest to someone with those insecurities and the lyrics then formed from that imagined discussion. I still feel that my contribution is rather mediocre compared to what Gibran writes.. I guess I just did the best I could do considering the scenario.

Speaking of themes and lyric writing, discuss some of the themes on your latest record. 

The latest record is quite a change for me compared to previous records. Although many of the songs may appear to be a continued unfolding of the confusion and misunderstanding that occurs in human relationships, the focus this time around is very different. I'm slowly learning that happiness is not found in others or seeking understanding or love from others but instead from inside. No matter how much I might have tried to understand others and my connection to others in the past, I often felt as if I was singing from a different hymn sheet and often ended up disappointed when relationships, whether romantic or otherwise, didn't have that idyllic path that I had believed was possible when I was a teenager. I've slowly learned that unless we fix the problems, insecurities or issues we have with ourselves, we will never quite be able to find that peace in someone else. So, most of the new songs are about that... looking inside, speaking or singing to the various sides of yourself that you may either like or detest, singing to the part of yourself which you might be ashamed of and might not have even noticed, and welcoming that part out of its hole so you no longer feel that emptiness... In a sense, filling yourself up so that when relating to others in the world, you are already full and have lots to give rather than looking for someone else to fill you up. Even though I might sing 'you..' in a new song, I'm very often referring to the various sides of myself that I have rejected over the years. I guess it's an album of learning how to forgive yourself for the things you punish yourself for and see the humour in human behaviour, recognizing that you can change things, if you wish.

You are playing Red Rocks on your stop in Denver. Is this a venue that carries a degree of mysticism to it for you?

I'm looking forward to playing in a place that feels closer to nature. Music is vibrating air. There's something very precious about that simplicity... I enjoy playing and sharing music when close to nature because it allows everyone permission let go a little and just be there. 

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