Interview with Declan Bennet, the Singer/Songwriter Starring in the West End Production of Once

Declan Bennett accompanied by Alon Bisk

Declan Bennett accompanied by Alon Bisk

This past Friday I caught a show on Rockwood Music Hall’s Stage 3 that was a revelation. Declan Bennet, currently starring in the West End production of Once, is on a brief break, during which he played a show in New York. It was brilliant! It’s been a while since I left a concert this excited about the artist, but this guy is the real deal!

I’d only discovered his music a few weeks ago, when I read a short blurb about the live and unplugged remake of his 2011 album Record: Breakup. I didn’t know who he was, so I certainly wasn’t aware of the original, electric, studio version of Record:Breakup, but something about the blurb intrigued me. I remember jotting down the link on my phone, and finding it later that night, I was blown away. I’m a sucker for a good lyric, and these were poignant, vivid, and carefully crafted. They are clearly deeply personal, but perhaps because of the narrative thread and universal themes, they didn’t seem the least bit self-indulgent. It’s also a very accessible album musically. One might expect the songs on an album called record breakup to be moody, longs pieces, but these are quite catchy, and likely to get stuck in your head. They don’t feel the least bit formulaic though, perhaps because of the powerful arrangements and vocals.

Record:Breakup-Live and Unplugged

Record:Breakup-Live and Unplugged

I loved the Live and Unplugged recording so much I decided I had to compare it to the earlier version. (There is much to be said on the subject, but not in this post.) I also got the previous releases, which are all remarkably good. I decided this was a guy whose career I would follow. As luck would have it, I discovered he would soon be doing a concert in New York at Rockwood Music Hall, his only date in the US until after he finishes his stint in Once in the Spring, and that tickets were available.

It was a great show and a wonderfully intimate venue. I’m not sure we’ll have those kinds of opportunities with him for much longer. He played an energetic set that showcased his amazing voice and mad skills with a guitar. He was deftly accompanied by Alon Bisk on cello. His harmonizations provided resonance and depth to the performance without distracting from the songs. Ultimately this show was all about the songs.

Bennett’s informal banter and sense of humor helped to make the concert at a club seem like a gathering of family and friends. The performance also included duets with fellow Broadway actors Darius Harper and Arthur Darvill, who is playing the role of Guy in the Broadway production of Once until mid-December. Bennett also debuted a Christmas single, the “dark” but “hopeful,” Father Christmas Knows, available today on the website. If, like me, you’re a fan of offbeat, slightly dark, Christmas music, this is a good one. See the video below.

He’s got a new album coming out early in 2014 and will be touring again aftward, so keep an eye out. In an interview conducted today by phone today, I had the opportunity to talk with Bennet about the concert, the Christmas song, Record: Breakup, balancing his acting success with his music, and what’s next in his career. Check out no frills recorded interview conducted just a few hours ago, followed by a link to the new single, a concert gallery from Friday, and video from his YouTube channel.

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