There’s a sign on the house Dermot Kennedy has called home for 25 years. “Cois Coille,” it reads: Irish for “beside the forest,” a nod to the vast mountains and huge sprawl of trees not far from his front door. “Whenever I’ve been away, eventually I need to come back and reset,” admits the fast-rising star, who grew up here in Rathcoole, a village nestled between the wilderness of County Kildare and the frantic bustle of Dublin. It’s a contrast that also exists at the heart of his music: rustic, tender singer-songwriter laments full of scenic beauty, set to urban, electronic beats. “I really like that clash,” he explains of his acclaimed mix of intimate, guitar-led storytelling and hip-hop-inspired production. “Making those two worlds collide is really exciting to me.”
With new music set for release in early 2018 and bigger, better live shows around the corner, momentum is building quickly behind Kennedy. Not that he’s really noticed: the 25-year-old is too focused on pushing his artistic boundaries on his upcoming debut album to pay attention to any hype. “Having spent a lot of time in the acoustic world, it felt really good to do something new and push myself out of my comfort zone on these recent tracks,” he says of his increasing electronic experimentation. “I’d be letting myself down if I didn’t chase that, if I just did what came easy to me.”
Just don’t expect him to abandon his roots entirely. “I don’t want to go too far. The trick is to be able to strip a song of all its production and for it to still tell a good story that makes you feel something. Certain things run through all sorts of music that appeal to me, whether that’s a hip-hop artist or a singer-songwriter: honesty and a good story.” Dermot Kennedy’s story, you get the feeling, is just beginning.