Damien Rice: Singing Green
It's not easy being green when you're touring the country on planes and in buses, but Damien Rice is facing the challenge head-on.
By Kate Sheppard
Folk-rocker Damien Rice might sing sad tunes about lost love, but his wistful heart is in the right place when it comes to climate change. The environment is an issue that's been near his heart since his childhood in Ireland and has informed his work in many ways.
Rice puts his eco-sympathies into action every way he can. He and his band tour on a biodiesel-powered bus, and they offset the emissions of all their travel as well as the emissions created by audiences. They're also slated to play the United Kingdom leg of the Live Earth concert on July 7, 2007, and they recently joined the Virtual March at Laurie David's Web site, stopglobalwarming.org.
Though his music has become almost ubiquitous in American coffee shops since his debut album, “O,” was released in 2003, the singer is not one to make a public spectacle of his good deeds. Notoriously mum on his personal life, it's a rare opportunity to get the modest Rice to sit down for an interview. I caught up with him before an Earth Day concert put on by Seattle radio station, 103.7 The Mountain, to talk about the environment, his music and the growing movement to stop global warming.
Kate Sheppard: How did you become interested in the environment?
Damien Rice: I've always been interested in the environment since I was a kid, because I lived by a river and I used to go down there fishing. From the age of 5 or 6 I noticed a big change in the number of fish in the river, because I used to take notes when I was a kid. I'd go down there with my little book and go fishing and take a note of the time, date, water level, weather, what kind of bait I was using. I remember noticing that the water seemed dirtier and murkier as time went on. I always felt like I had a connection to nature.
KS: How does your environmental consciousness play into how you tour?
DR: I'm in terrible conflict about it, to be honest. I am responsible for more carbon emissions than any of my friends — than anybody I know, actually. And that's really weird to sit with, because I've always considered myself to be environmentally conscious. I have a real conflict even sitting here talking about the environment, saying, "Oh yeah, I'm an environmentally conscious person." I fly 20 people around the world, and we travel on two buses and two trucks, and we're driving all over the States. But we make an effort — we use biofuel whenever possible, and we offset the fuel we use for flights and buses as well as an estimation of what the audience used to come to the concerts.
KS: Can you tell us a bit about talking to Laurie David and becoming part of the Virtual March?
DR: When I was invited first to join the Virtual March, my natural reaction was, "Yeah, absolutely." And then they were like, "Can you write a piece explaining your reasons for joining?" It took me ages just to write something that I was happy with. Because I wrote this thing that was like, "Oh, global warming. We should all make an effort." And then I sat and thought about it, and I said, "Oh, my god, I'm a hypocrite. I'm flying all around the world traveling."
When I went to meet Laurie in her house in Los Angeles, I had this head full of questions, and I put them to her. I said, "What is your take on this, because I'm confused. I get information here and there. I want to believe, but I really don't know what to think." And she had a simple way of putting it that made me very comfortable with joining the march. She said that everyone she knows enjoys life, enjoys clean air. They like clean beaches, clean water, good food and a healthy lifestyle. And she said if we continue in the way that we're doing, we're going to destroy those beautiful things. But if we take the right steps and make an effort on a global level to change things, then we can preserve some of the beautiful things in life.
KS: What are some things that you do personally to fight global warming?
DR: The electricity that we use in our house now is entirely from wind power, and we want to get our own little windmill as well as solar panels. And we recycle. Myself and a group of friends have been writing songs together, and we're making a record for nature. We're making the record and we're going to release it, and all the royalties and all the money generated from the sales just go to nature, to giving back in some way. It's very weird being a musician, because people think you've got a great job, it's so magical. Whereas I sit down and I think of myself as somebody who manufactures plastic. So we're going to do that album, and I'm very excited about it. I think eventually I'm just going to get a piece of land and farm and live very simply. Who knows?
KS: You're participating in Al Gore's Live Earth concert this summer. How did you get involved with that? What do you hope will be the result of the concerts?
DR: When I heard it was going on, I expressed an interest in it. Again, it's one of these things that I have a little conflict about since people are flying in to play at the concert and flying back out after it. But I hope that it creates a massive amount of awareness among people around the world, so that when there's a push for governments to change the way we do things, the support is there among people. If people know what's going on and they're aware of the consequences of what we're doing, if that becomes spread throughout the world and throughout people's consciousness, that would be a great thing. It's in moments of change that these things are important, because if people just have a little bit more knowledge, if it's a decision for them to push for this or that, I think all the awareness helps.
Labels: climate change, Damien Rice, Live Earth, stopglobalwarming.org