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As a child Dempsey was influenced by Christy Moore, Luke Kelly, Shane MacGowan, Bob Marley and Elvis Presley. In March 2000 his debut album, They Don’t Teach This Shit in School, established Dempsey as an exciting new talent and attracted the attention of Sinead O’Connor who took Dempsey on tour and championed him as an important new talent.
Morrissey became a passionate patron of Dempsey’s music, taking him on a full North America, British and Irish tour, releasing his second album Seize the Day in the USA on his Attack imprint and championing him tirelessly in the press. The album won two Meteor awards.
More accolades followed when his third album Shots released in 2005 topped the Irish charts and went Platinum. In 2007 he released To Hell or Barbados which debuted at number two in the Irish charts, The Guardian stated that “To Hell of Barbados confirms Dempsey’s position as one of Ireland’s great singer-songwriters.”
The live tour that followed demonstrated that Dempsey had equalled and surpassed most of his peers, The Guardian noting that Dempsey’s “musical heroes are now his admirers.” He had become the most vibrant and vital Irish live performer working today. Having played with Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, U2 and The Pogues, Dempsey’s stage craft and voice had become so powerful that it prompted Bono to say “when he opens his mouth – it’s like the end of the world.”
After returning from an extensive furlough in South East Asia and Australia where he was invited by Brian Eno to perform a sell out concert in Sydney Opera House as part of Eno’s inaugural Luminous Festival, Dempsey was asked by U2 to support them at Croke Park. He has begun his sixth album with John Reynolds and it promises to consolidate his position as one of Ireland’s greatest ever songwriters. As Shane MacGowan recently explained “It’s great music and it’s great lyrics. It’s angry and it’s luminous. He sees the beauty that is Ireland and that is Ireland’s past and that can be Ireland’s future.”