Damien Rice will release a new album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy, on November 3 via Atlantic Records. His first collection of new material in eight years, the record was co-produced by Rick Rubin, with sessions taking place between Iceland and Los Angeles. Led by new single ‘I Don’t Want To Change You’, My Favourite Faded Fantasy follows the seminal ‘O’ – which sold two million copies worldwide – as well as the million selling, Brit-nominated follow-up, ‘9’.
Sometimes you have to step away from what you love, in order to learn how to love it again. If ‘O’ was the result of patience – recorded at home, initially self-released, and taking Rice from busking around Europe to a household name – ‘9’ was arguably made with frustration; the sum of three years’ touring, and the sudden addition of external expectations. Rice vowed never to let the same thing happen again and, not for the first time in his career – a break before ‘O’ saw him retreat to Tuscany, where he became a farmer – he simply stepped away. Packing everything he needed into just two suitcases and spending the eight intervening years on the move, he had achieved the success most artists dream of but emerged empty, lost and creatively dissatisfied. Whilst fans would repeatedly ask “when?”, for Damien the real question shifted to “why make an album at all?”
My Favourite Faded Fantasy suggests that the answer may have been staring right back at him all along. It’s a record which might seem to address a lover, following a career admittedly spent getting the last word in, or attempting to take it all back again. Here, however, is a selection of songs which – says Damien – are “sung straight into the metaphorical mirror”. Those reflections appear to shift and slide from the self-aware (‘It Takes A Lot To Know A Man’) to the self-critical (see the barbed humour of ‘The Greatest Bastard’) and, perhaps, to that place of moving forward (particularly the rousing uplift of ‘Trusty & True’). It’s a lyrical push-and-pull effectively based on the idea of being yourself, which can be felt in the ambitious scope of Rice’s new material (the longest track clocks in at just under ten minutes) but is also articulated into something more raw, heavy and focused (just eight final songs were selected for the record).
My Favourite Faded Fantasy itself emerged amidst the frustration of trying to complete an altogether different song. “I became unhappy with what I’d recorded that day, and felt the void. So I picked up the guitar and just kept playing something else, to make myself feel better….and I went into a whirl. I became obsessed.” As an album ‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’ is a love affair, but – this time – it’s arguably with that act of making music itself.
Keen never to stay in one place for too long, Damien Rice’s new material nonetheless found its spiritual home in Iceland, where he and co-producer Rick Rubin completed the record after an initial period in Los Angeles. Rice was drawn to Rubin by what he didn’t know about him, as opposed to what he did (he meditated, had a big beard, and some people called him a guru). Rubin, whose work spans Run DMC to Johnny Cash and Adele, first saw Rice play live around the release of ‘O’, and recalls that “he was my favourite new artist at the time. A lot of our work together was to help him see what was so clear to everyone else in the room.” Encouraged by Rick to open up and have faith in the songs he kept starting, criticizing and scrapping, Damien relocated from Los Angeles to the fittingly volcanic energy of Iceland, where he assembled a cast of friends and local musicians to complete My Favourite Faded Fantasy against the stunning backdrop of Reykjavik (which can be seen in the album’s stunning accompanying videos).
Sometimes, then, you have to step away from what you love, in order to learn how to love it again. “I sat for a minute,” says Damien, “and imagined myself with one more hour on the planet. And I noticed that I didn’t care about whether I had sold more records, or less records. What was most important to me was wanting to shed whatever mask I’d been wearing so that I could at least be myself in the world, instead of some version of myself that I thought was appropriate.” Intimate, frank and revitalised in the love of music which first kickstarted his career, My Favourite Faded Fantasy is a record which accepts one’s faults but also begins, perhaps, to appreciate one’s abilities. Damien Rice is in equal possession of both.