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Q&A: we have a chat with songwriter David Lyttle

By Simon Fallaha

Published 01/05/2015

Jazzed up: David Lyttle is performing at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival this Sunday
Jazzed up: David Lyttle is performing at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival this Sunday

Ahead of his live shows this weekend, the Waringstown-born songwriter and producer talks about his appointment as musician-in-residence at Londonderry's Nerve Centre.

How did your upbringing shape you into becoming the musician that you are today?

It created the surroundings that set me up for a musical career. Music wasn't something I truly thought about enjoying, it just felt natural and logical to me. I played all kinds of folk and bluegrass with the Lyttle Family from a very early age, my parents got me a drum kit as a hobby and I studied classical cello. All of this gave me a very open musical mind.

When did you decide to become a jazz drummer?

I actually didn't get into jazz until I was 18. I remember watching and enjoying the piano trio in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, and then, around the same time, I went to Jordanstown and learnt all about jazz.

Do you find that there's a big gap between what people perceive jazz to be and the music itself?

Yes. People have said they don't like jazz, and then said they like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Dean Martin. But more people ought to be aware of jazz as a musical style, because it's so rich and rewarding.

2012's Interlude was something of a breakthrough album for you. How happy were you with its reception, and how do you feel new album Faces compares?

Both have been received superbly (Faces was described by Rolling Stone as "one of the best, robust listening experiences you're likely to have all year"), and I'm absolutely thrilled. But while Interlude has a jazzy, hip hop and above all urban feel to it, with Faces you're listening to a broader spectrum of music. It's a more personal project, too; the songs are all written or co-written by me.

How would you describe the songwriting process?

When I work with someone best known for their lyrics, I handle the chords and they handle the words. It's a case of retaining my identity without restricting myself to a solitary genre.

How does it feel to have been named Musician-in-Residence at Derry's Nerve Centre, and what will you bring to the position?

It's a terrific honour. Derry is such a great music city, where people truly respect what you play and what you do. What I'll be doing during the year is working with established musicians and up-and-coming artists. I'll be recording and co-writing a series of collaborations with the former, to be released as an album on my label, Lyte Records. Meanwhile, the latter will set up their own label under my supervision, and release a record from that.

Finally, you've been described as a "one-man industry", but with your mother, Anne, and sister, Rhea, performing on both Interlude and Faces, your success seems a family affair. Would you like to keep it that way?

Of course. Performing, for me, is a big "people" experience. I love it when I play as part of a group of seven diverse musicians and the music comes to life. I've played with jazz stars, but nowadays I'm more focused on creating a family vibe, with a working band that tries to bring everything full circle. It's great for my mother to be involved in a way that she never would have imagined. My late father would be proud.

  • David Lyttle will be performing in Londonderry's Playhouse Theatre as part of the City Of Derry Jazz And Big Band Festival tomorrow and at Aether & Echo as part of Belfast's Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival on Sunday, May 3. For more information, visit and

Belfast Telegraph

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