Damien Leith

Musician Damien Leith joined me for a Coffee Break to chat about his career as its marks ten years since he won Australian Idol and released his six times platinum album, “The Winner’s Journey“.

You’re celebrating your career with a tour around the country as its been 10 years since you won Australian Idol.  What can fans expect from the show?
It’s going to be a great night of music and I’ll be playing songs from all 8 of my studio albums. Everything from songs I played on Idol right through to my latest album “Songs From Ireland“.

Did you enjoy recording your eighth album “Songs from Ireland” because it celebrates your musical heritage?
Absolutely, It was so much fun heading back to Ireland and recording in Dublin. I grew up on Irish music so many of the songs on the album are personal favourites of mine. What made the album extra special is that my brothers and sister were also involved in the recording.


While making your album “Chapter Seven” you worked with Joe Melson, who was the Award-winning songwriter behind Roy Orbison’s biggest hits, including “Crying” and “Only The Lonely”.  What was it like working with him because you are a fan of Roy Orbison?
Joe has become a really great friend of mine, not to mention, an incredible writing mentor. Working with him for the first time was like working with one of my heroes, definitely a career highlight for me.

Roy, your tribute album to Roy Orbison, was released to coincide with what would have been Orbison’s 75th birthday.  Roy’s widow Barbara was involved in this project; can you tell me how it occurred?
Believe it or not, it actually all started five years previously when I performed “Crying” on Australian Idol. Barbara had reached out to the producers of the show to say that she enjoyed my performance. After that there was communication to and fro and eventually the album went into production with Barbara as executive producer. What I loved about recording that album was that the intention was not to impersonate or copy Roy, but instead to really pay tribute to him in my own voice – I’m very proud of the finished product.

You’re a man of many talents, Damien.   Can you tell me more about your cabaret play “The Parting Glass – An Irish Journey”?
I have always loved writing plays and I wrote “The Parting Glass” because I really fancied doing something different. Basically the story is about a Irish father who decides to have a chat with the audience about his son Daniel who had recently returned home to Ireland after many years in Australia. It’s both a comedy and a drama, mixed up with loads of great Irish songs. When we announced it as a tour last year, I was overwhelmed by the response that it got, we started with 15 shows and ended with around 40. I think that a lot of people were surprised when they arrived to the theatre and saw me acting as well as singing – it was lots of fun.

damien05In 2008, you hosted “Saving Kids” a heart-warming television series about the medical miracles of children filmed at Sydney Children’s Hospital.  Also, “Not For The Weekend”, a song from debut album “Where We Land” served as the theme song of the show.  Can you give it some further details how this came about?
That’s right, I was approached by Channel Ten initially as the host of the show and soon afterwards they heard the song that I had written for my son Jagger and decided that it was right for the show. I love doing TV presenting and that show in particular was very rewarding and also at times, quite confronting.

How was having your song “Beautiful” featured in an Estee Lauder TV commercial?
Amazing! It was incredible that they choose that song and it really opened up a lot of doors around the world as it got played in lots of countries over a two year period. I wouldn’t mind seeing more opportunities like that one!

Damien, you’re a published author of two novels.  Your first novel “One More Time” was released in 2007 and “Remember June” in 2009.  Do you have any plans for any further publications?
Yes, I have just finished my first kids novel which has the title “Birdie, Lake and The Great Escape“. It started out as a bed time story that I had been telling my kids and after some time I decided that I would write it down.  It’s loads of fun, filled with adventure, good guys and bad guys, mystery and all the things that my kids love in a story.

Can you tell me what it was like to be a subject of a portrait by Archibald Prize winner Cherry Hood?
That’s another amazing moment in the past ten years – Cherry is such a gifted artist and the portrait she made is stunning.


I know you love your AFL and barrack for Sydney Swans.  Are you looking forward to watching the Swans play in 2016 Grand Final?
Unfortunately I won’t get to see them as I have a show that night but I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for the score on the internet. Go the Swans!

Damien, you love the Christmas season, are there any plans to release an album?
I’ve written loads of Christmas songs over the years but at this stage, still no plan to do a full album – perhaps later down the line. It is my favourite time of the year though, loads of fun.

Do you have any hobbies?
I fairly much do all my hobbies – between singing, writing and recording – that’s most of my time taken up. I do love running and golf.

What is your favourite food?
I love anything with a bit of spice – or even a lot of spice!

Do you have a favourite movie?
I love movies, my favourite pass time when I’m not working. Huge Bill Murray fan – so it has to be Groundhog Day.

What is your idea of a good holiday?
Phones off, with the family, lots of exploring and some serious rest and relaxation. My new favourite holiday destination is New Zealand.


What is the last album you listened to?
The “American Beauty” soundtrack – I love movie soundtracks.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what items would you take with you?
Swiss Army knife and a guitar.

Is there anything which you don’t you leave home without?
Pretty sad I know but probably my mobile phone!

What’s next for Damien Leith?
Very busy right now editing the new novel and preparing for a new album next year – exciting times ahead.

Damien Leith will be performing at Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts on 30 September.

 Images kindly supplied by Damien Leith.


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