Breakout Irish singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy is still very much a work in progress.
“I just learned how to sing, like, this year,” says Kennedy, who only started taking voice lessons after his debut studio LP, “Without Fear,” opened at No. 1 on the UK charts in the fall. “I basically did a whole album not knowing how to sing properly.”
The 28-year-old troubadour will put his improved vocal technique — as well as plenty of raw talent — on display at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday. Kennedy, who imbues his folk-tinged tunes with an earnest soulfulness, has certainly made a big jump up from Baby’s All Right, the small Brooklyn venue, where he played his first US show in June 2017.
“I remember being backstage at Baby’s All Right, which is literally just a corridor, with all my family and all my friends,” he says. His peeps will again be traveling from Dublin for his Radio City debut: “My mom, my dad, my auntie, my sister — there are a whole bunch of people coming over.”
Kennedy — who was nominated for best international male solo artist at the recent BRIT Awards, losing out to Tyler, the Creator — credits another Irishman with inspiring him to become a singer instead of a soccer player. “Glen Hansard was a massive influence on me,” he says of the Oscar-winning star of “Once.” “He was basically the first artist I saw where I thought, ‘I wanna do what he does. I wanna be like that.’ ”
Now Kennedy is on a tour that will keep him far from home — in Madison, Wis. — on St. Patrick’s Day. But he’s OK with missing the hometown drinkathon: “Quite honestly, Dublin can get pretty messy on St. Patrick’s Day.”
Last year, Kennedy spent it in New York, the city where he wrote his haunting single “Power Over Me.” “We went to the mayor’s house [Gracie Mansion] for breakfast. It was just this really lovely way to start the day,” he says. “And then we saw some of the parade. It was a long day — lots of drinking and lots of cool connections made.”
So do people ever think he’s related to those famous American Kennedys? “They don’t,” he says. “But my dad’s name is John, and he used to do quite a lot of work in the US, and so anytime he would, say, rent a car, the name would work wonders for him. He’d go from driving a basic car to driving some random Mercedes.”