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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Derek Dempsey, Singer, Songwriter and Entertainer Our Coverage Sponsored by Hallak Cleaners the Couture Cleaner

Derek Dempsey

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Derek A. Dempsey, born in Dublin Ireland, is a unique singer, songwriter and entertainer. In addition to his solo performances in the Tri-State area, Derek performs in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, and he also composes and records original music. At a typical show, Derek might beautifully cover a traditional Irish ballad or original then transition into Snoop Dogg’s “Drop it like it’s Hot.” His debut album Finally is currently available on iTunes, and his new album What’s the Color of Poverty?  was released in July of 2013. 

Born in Crumlin, County Dublin, Derek was asked by his uncle at a young age what he wanted to be when he grew up. Derek simply responded, “I’m going to be a singer.” His uncle insisted that he needed a trade job. Derek responded, “I don’t need a trade. I’m going to be a singer like Tom Jones or Elvis in Las Vegas.” After receiving his first guitar at the age of fourteen, Derek began to play and write songs with other musicians, eventually forming a band called, the Elite, to perform his early socially conscious compositions.

With this band, he appeared on Irish national television and radio, toured several times around the country and released two EPs, which caught the attention of London Records and U2's Mother Label, after opening for popular Irish rock group Thin Lizzy, ex-drummer Brian Downey pronounced Derek, “The best R n B singer in Ireland at the time” The Elite started to perform Thin Lizzy’s legendary Live and Dangerous album, first in Spain where they also had the honor of performing with superstar frontman, Joe Elliot of Def Leppard. They eventually brought their act back to Dublin to great acclaim. For two years The Elite performed Live and Dangerous at the renowned bar, Slattery's of Capel Street. Here they broke sales and attendance records previously set by the likes of Thin Lizzy, Horse Lips, Christy Moore and Phil Lynott. Derek Warfield of the Wolftones took the band under his wing and brought them to American in 1995 with a new name and sound. Mixing rock instruments and traditional Irish songs, Hedgeschool was born. Their debut album was released on the Celtic Collections alongside highly respected Irish artists, the Wolftones, the Pogues, Clannad, the Chieftains, the Dubliners, and the Fureys. After touring up and down America’s east coast with Hedeschool, Derek left the band and returned to Ireland. He recorded and released his first solo EP under the name Jesus Fever. The commercial failure of this EP was the catalyst that forced Derek decide to pack his bags and move to America. He left his parents home at 5 AM on a typical dark, wet Irish morning with $200, given to him by his father, he had holes in all his clothing and his shoes, however, he had burning ambition and a well packed "life suitcase," full of experience and hard-earned lessons.

Once settling in New York, Derek formed the Cray and Dempsey Experience in 2000 with fellow Hedgeschool musician Paul Cray, uniquely blending comedy and numerous genres of music. Within a year, the duo were mainstays on the Irish American scene. They played everywhere from bars to festivals, appearing on regional radio and TV. Derek also used his music and passion for fairness to organize and participate in many charitable causes. He organized a fundraiser to raise money for the family of the local 9/11 fallen firefighter Paul Tegtmeier. Soon after, Derek arranged another benefit, raising thousands of dollars to defray the legal cost for Malachy McAllister’s battle to prevent his deportation back to Ireland. In 2006 when the I.L.I.R. assembled to secure green cards for undocumented Irish workers, Cray and Dempsey traveled by bus with their fans to Washington, DC to perform at the rally which was also attended by Ted Kennedy, John McCain, and many other notable members of Congress. They composed the theme song for the ILIR called “We’re Irish and We’re Rockin.” 

While enjoying much success with Cray and Dempsey, including regular residencies at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, Derek began to focus more on his solo career. From 2008-2010, he composed and recorded his first full length album entitled Finally. While Finally is a work of great passion, his follow up album What's the Color of Poverty? is lyrically a more socially conscious effort, which tackles modern day problems such as the global economic collapse, the housing crisis, homophobia, continued racism, war, misogyny, and poverty, hence the title, What’s the Color of Poverty? 

After music, Derek’s greatest passion is his concern for compassion in the world. Derek is an avid supporter of all human rights, and regularly blogs about current events concerning human rights violations on his website
He is presently in the process of establishing a nonprofit organization called Six Billion Lights, whose primary mission will be to introduce mandatory “compassion class” into the education curriculum. The program will call upon universally respected past and present philosophers and teachers of compassion and basic truth to teach young children from kindergarten through the elementary grades, we can prevent rather than struggle to undo the obvious misunderstanding that the individual differences which give us our unique talents, must also place us in enervating and destructive opposition to each other. Although still in its infancy, Derek has great hope that The Six Billion Lights foundation will delve deeply into the roots of the many problems that plague the world, which he strongly feels are a result of the alarmingly exponential and growing lack of compassion. His monologue Love Letter to the World, narrated by Wesley Mann, from his new album What’s the Color of Poverty, address these issues in an unabashed and unapologetic manner:
“If you would treat the tramp in the street as you would treat the king in the castle, you would have few problems in the understanding of people and life”

Derek currently lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife Lisa, three step children Michael, Kelsey and Nicki, and their dog Layla. In addition to performing and recording, he also teaches voice for all ages.   We are thrilled to present Derek Dempsey as our latest Mover and Shaker.  Peachy Deegan interviewed Derek for Whom You Know, although he thinks of her as Charlotte York.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first musical memory?
Derek Dempsey: 
My Da was crazy about music and he sang all the time. Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra were always on around the house. I don't really have an explosive moment, it was a gradual passionate build, however, “Jailhouse Rock” stands out. I do remember getting into a little trouble when asked by a teacher what all the students favorite songs were in class one day. I said “Seattle” by Perry Como, she thought I was being smart! I was nine. Then as a 12-14 year old I would go from David Bowie to Frank Sinatra, The Human League to The Sex Pistols, Perry Como to Sammy Davis Junior, some Limbo music and eventually Opera; a lot of female singers always caught my ear.

We believe you sing and play the guitar. Do you play other musical instruments as well?
Yes, I play drums and a little piano. I played drums on my friend Mike Devoy's album in 97. I also composed one of the songs from my debut album Finally on our piano and wrote the theme for an independent Irish movie called Fortune, the latter of which won an award at the Huston Texas film festival in '96.

What makes you unique?
Visually I suppose my personal style. I'm considered flamboyant by many, however, it’s just natural to me.  
Also being Irish and not drinking alcohol, and I imagine my world view would make me appear unique.

We think Ireland is tops and it is the second country Peachy ever lived in. What should our readers know about Ireland?
It's very green! No, but really, everyone has a unique talent, from an ability to tell a riveting story, to playing a tin whistle, guitar, badhran, sketching, all the way to a playing a sport. And they all want to show it off, as they should!  
We also paint our doors bright colors and speak three kinds of English: standard British English, standard Irish English and a hybrid of all, that only we can truly understand.  
The phrase, "Ah, you're as mad as a hat" is a compliment and "get up out of that" does not require one to move, or change positions in the slightest.

Who are your favorite Irish brands and why?
Barrys and Lyons tea, and any chocolate sold in Ireland. The tea is a standing tradition everywhere you go. Tea is made for all occasions, from happiness to tragedy. Extra sugar (even if you don't normally take sugar) is applied when it's a tragedy. The chocolate is rich and addictive. Walnut Whips and Dipped Flakes are among my personal favorites. 
In terms of clothing, I favor Jimmy Hourihan’s designs for women and John Rocha. I have a Rocha wool overcoat that is over 15 years old and still looks new. My wife has a shawl from Hourihan that both my daughters crave.

Who are your favorite Irish authors and why?
Oscar Wilde is number one, and always will be for me. Many other Irish writers are just that, Irish Writers, as opposed to writers who are Irish. Wilde is very like Confucius in that his logic and observations are still applicable today, they are also universal. Wilde's short story "The Devoted Friend" is a masterpiece in story telling, combining lessons parable and warning.
Behan and Flan O"Brien, in my opinion, reply too heavily on their Irishness as story tellers. Some may find that appealing, but I would rather have read less of the Irish and more of the universal in Behan's "Borstal Boy" and "The Third Policeman" by Flan O' Brien.

Where do you love to perform most and why?
If you mean world wide, then America. Simple reason being that I find Americans, on the whole, a positive and encouraging collective spirit.

Where would you like to perform where you have not yet?
Carnige Hall, Budokan and the Lincoln centre

What should everyone know about the late great Irish bar Thady Cons? (Peachy is still in mourning)
It was one of the best places in Manhattan with a magical spirit. It had just the right balance, at the right time for the right people, Peachy being one of the most important.

What are your favorite Irish bars in America and why?
I like the ballet bar at the New York City Ballet!!
In terms of an actual pub, I would say Dermot Mahoney's in Kingston and The Ri Ra in Las Vegas. These establishments have inventive menus and excellent food. Both also have great owners who are genuinely in love with the business and treat me, as an artist with great respect.

What are your favorite Irish bars in Ireland and why?
The Covert in Multyfarnaham, Mullingar, owned and operated by two brothers with tons of personality, and are honest as honest can be.  
They sell top quality food made by the co-owner chef Darren, and “The Man” about the house is Mr Hospitality, his brother Alan.

What do you think of U2 and have you ever met?
I have met them briefly. I accidentally stood on Edges' foot in the bathroom of the rehearsal space we shared with them and other Irish bands. I met Bono outside the recording studio when I was 17, and gave Adam a demo in the summer of 92 at Dublin Airport, and he handed it right back to me! One of the songs is on my Finally album. They are an amazing success story; "The Joshua Tree" is a classic album. Politically though, I feel they could have done something in the 80's for the Irish struggle against tyrannical British imperialism.

Why do you think Peachy Deegan is like Charlotte York? Should she be Charlotte Deegan?
Well, let me tell you, she has class, style, good breeding, impeccable manners, and also knows how to wear tartan/plaid. So yes, maybe an alternative nom de plume!

What are the origins of the Alice song and what is its proper name?
"Living Next Door To Alice" was sung by a band called Smokey. It became famous again after the Dutch band Gompie recorded it with the inclusion of a favorite word of mine, coupled with the chant, "Alice, Alice who the ….. is Alice!"
I will soon be recording Alice “live” for Peachy Deegan, it’s long over due.

What would you like the world to know about your current album?
It's called "What's the color of Poverty?" and it's my best work to date. This is mainly because it’s a current affair piece, a "What's Going On?" for the times we live in. The whole album is strictly only voice and guitar, with one piece narrated. It is available now on iTunes and on amazon.

Where do you get your musical inspiration from?
Lots of places. Other artists, ordinary people, those I love, movies I watch and books I read. The past two years however, I have been increasingly influenced by global affairs. I'm inspired by the trouble I see escalating worldwide, so I write as a release.  
I have, since the age of 14, become increasingly more interested in the stream of consciousness (before William James coined the phrase) that artists have spoken about and sought for centuries. In the past 3 years I've found a door into it, starting in early spring where I seem to be able to pluck songs from out of nowhere, as if they are waiting for me or anyone to simply take and present them. I've written music in my dreams and in those moments between sleep. I had a dream last week that Sam Cooke came to me with a song he wanted me to hear, I woke up, wrote it down, and it will be on the next album.

Are your stepchildren as musically inclined as you?
Interesting that you should ask. My youngest daughter Nicki appears on my album Finally, on a duet called “Six Billion Lights (On the worlds Biggest Christmas Tree)." She has a rare gift as a singer. 
My step son Micheal has a flare for comedy, and a very natural ear for understanding rhythm. Kelsey, my oldest stepdaughter plays guitar, but her ability to capture the spirit of her subject as an artist is astounding.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My spirit, my inner voice, which has been telling me for as long as I can remember that there is a reason I do what I do. But, more “earthly” influences would be my Mother and Father, my first music teacher in my formative years, Geno McCan, and the closest thing to a guru I ever had, my cousin Colm Mcdonagh.  
Life can be excellence, so we should try to mirror it.

What are you proudest of and why?
My ability to reach people who are thought to be unreachable. Not that I understand it, but it’s there, and I am honored and delighted to have it.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
Record all my original songs (about ten full albums worth) then make a few cover albums of songs I love. I would also like to produce my first TV advert about differences between sexual orientation.  
(I can elaborate if anyone would like to hear or be involved.) Then, dedicate most of my time to The Six Billion Lights Foundation. Maybe narrate some audio books along the way.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
I am not sure that I actually see any, even if they are there, but none of the obvious Grammys or huge record sales, yet!

What one word best describes you and why?
Empathetic. For some reason I just feel, and am very aware of what others feel. It can be a burden, and so far I am unable to turn it off.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
The Metropolitan Opera House

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
Any record store, and Brooks Brothers in Autumn

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
Quincy Jones to produce me, and his finger snap count in to any song. 
Those snaps contain more musicality, than most acclaimed artists have in their entire output. I would love Eric Starr on drums, because he is simply the best.

What is your favorite drink?
Irish tea, but it has got to be with good chocolate.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
I've never been to a cocktail party, is there an invite? I could be funny!

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
Spice in Union Square

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature?
Holden Caulfield, for the most part, because he sees right through people. I feel he eventually grew into a well balanced young man who might have fought for human rights, in addition to raising strong female children and honorable male children.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
A conductor at the Met. I want to conduct a Puccini Opera

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
A school, the first that introduces mandatory “compassion” classes, because I am very passionate about education. I left school at 12 and was thrown out at 14.   
I have since become a voracious autodidact. My mother is a chain reader, in her 70’s and still sounds like she is 40, sharp as a razor, active on Facebook with her laptop and her iPhone 5, well I ask you!!!

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
Carrying my youngest daughter around Manhattan (for as long as six hours without much of a break) on our annual family Christmas movie and dinner trip when she was between about five and eight. She is too tall now, but if she asked, I suppose I would try!

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Attend Operas at the Met and then have coffee and cake in Little Italy.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
Frank Sinatra or Abraham Lincoln.  
Lincoln, so I could ask him if he said certain things about slavery and the civil war, (a time when it was dangerous to seem to have “black sympathy”)
in order to secure his reelection to a second term, so he could end the war by passing the 13th amendment. 
Sinatra, to ask could I sing Silent Night or My Way with him.
Yes, it’s an unusually long name, but an amazingly rounded personality!!

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
Some of the Irish dinner dances I performed at in Rosie O'Gradys, 
and La Bohemme, the first Opera my wife accompanied me to at the Met.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
Listen to, and encourage people intently, and with genuine interest. Give my services to lots of charities and benefits free of charge

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Underrated: I might say the rich history, political, societal, and economic.
Overrated: Times Square. 
Times Square is a rectangle of nothingness, with a mass of people looking for something where there is nothing, but unnecessary illumination.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
The Arts. As an Artist and lover of all Art, I have a compulsion to learn about, and discover new Art, as often as possible. It is my drug of no choice

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not?
I have heard of it but I am not interested in alcohol. Is there a virginal version of it?

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I'm the proud grandson of a twice shot and once poisoned war hero, Sargent Major Christopher Dempsey. I started painting again after years away from it. 
I make custom upholstered headboards. I teach the psychology of voice (I Am NOT a psychologist) and I wish to live to 150, at least.  
I love custom made clothes and classic cars.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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