Damien Rice, one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters, has this bit in his 2006, but released in 2007, Live at Fingerprints: Warts and All album (Fingerprints is an indie music store in Long Beach, California), which I think about frequently.
He’s doing about a 73-second intro for the song, “Grey Room,” and mentions that he wasn’t sure if he was ever going to finish another record. At that point, I guess it had been three years since his last live album and four since his studio album.
For that latter album, O, he worked with, and became romantically involved with, fellow singer-songwriter, Lisa Hannigan. They would break-up in 2007. I think he was dealing with that ending relationship at the same time he wasn’t sure if he would record another studio album.
The success of the O album made him uncomfortable and had transformed music, an artform he loves, into something else, he said. (That’s also what apparently led to him sacking his band and Hannigan until resurfacing with My Favorite Faded Fantasy in 2014.
“The thing that I noticed was that the more down I am, the better what it is that I do and I’m sort of bored with being down.”
For the longest time, I thought he said, “I’m bored with being damned,” which I like better than “down,” (I blame the Irish accent) but in any event!
Here’s the song itself, which is really quite good and which he sings with Hannigan:
But I would think about that sentiment — I’m tired of being damned (or down) — when I was going through depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. In fact, at the peak of the latter, that’s exactly the reason why suicide seemed like the better option: Because I’m tired of being damned, with my added emphasis there on “tired.”
This is of course my own sort of interpretation on it because in the intro’s context, I think Rice meant it as a revelation of sorts? That he didn’t need to be down to make good music. I would come to realize this, in part, eventually, but I’m explaining the mindset of when I was down as well.
I mean, there really is a sense pervasive in our popular culture that the more damned someone is, the more addled with drugs and alcohol, the more one is manifest from a messed up situation, the better the art (whatever form it takes) is, and all of us can rattle off these examples. Another singer-songwriter comes to mind as one such example: Kurt Cobain. He was obviously dealing with his own mental hell and it would result in a suicide.
As if their fire burned so brightly and intensely, it was destined to flame-out rather than be an ever-lasting burn.
Growing up, I bought into that romantic (weird how it’s romantic, but it is romanticized) notion. That the more messed up I was in the head, that would make me a better writer. Hey, I’d have plenty of material to tap into, right? That I can only write dark and gritty. That I can only write about the messed up shadows in my head. Or rather, that I can only write about those things if I’m actually messed up, if that makes sense.
I don’t think it’s true anymore. I don’t think it’s true that art must, or often does, manifest out of tragedy and pain. And darkness. And mental instability. And addiction. And so on.
Art manifest from those who do art. Simple as that. Some do indeed engage in a plethora of deleterious actions while in the pursuit of doing art, but I don’t think that is the reason for the art being done or being great. If anything, the art happens in spite of an addiction, not because of it.
So, as I’m better now through therapy, medication, diet and exercise, I also now think about this phrase in a different context: I’m tired of being damned. I’m tired of being down. I don’t need to be like that. I don’t need that identity. And that identity isn’t a source of liberation anymore in the form of killing myself or justifying doing so, i.e., I’m so tired of being damned that it’s better to end it.
That thinking no longer applies.
One more song from this album to leave you with and it really shows off Hannigan: