While many of us are preparing for WYD using our talents, Dominic Cunliffe was busy making his debut album. Dominic is a youth worker and catechist at Holy Ghost Balham, South London and is studying for a Bachelor of Divinity with Maryvale Institute. He is also a singer-songwriter and has released his debut single You Sustain, and album Childsong online.
Jo-Anne Rowney chatted to Dominic about his songwriting and how it links to WYD.
Dominic has released Childsong, his album, to fund a trip to World Youth Day. Donations for the album will go towards funding for Take a Stand, the group Dominic is travelling with. But to understand Dominic’s motivation he tells me he needs to explain his own journey of faith, which began years ago.
“I was raised as a cradle Catholic and always saw myself as intensely spiritual. I was quite actively in the church as a teenager,” he said.
As he got older though Dominic says he ‘lost the concept of faith’ and by the end of university had left God behind.
He said: “I left God behind and ended up in a very gloomy and negative place. The joy in Christ had evaporated. I was more hippy or I suppose pagan.”
It was after university that Dominic started to make his way back. “After university I guess was the crisis point. I came back to Cardiff and I felt like I was where I was meant to be.”
Spurred on by this feeling Dominic started to get involved. “It was there I got a lot more involved in a non-Catholic Church, it was Christian though. My first morning there I sang and it completely reminded me how much I missed God and needed Him. I didn’t go back to Church, but increased the musical side of things. People started to nuture my talents. They invested their time freely in me and I re-learnt how to worship with music.”
Dominic says while there was no conversion moment as such he knew he had come home at a Youth 2000 event when he was in front of the Blessed Sacrament. “It wasn’t a bombshell or penny dropping moment, I knew that the Blessed Sacrament was real, I knew I was Catholic and it’s as simple as that.”
While Dominic had found his faith he took awhile to share it. “For the next eight months I’d call myself a ‘closet catholic’ I didn’t want to tell anyone.”
Now though Dominic shares his faith through his music. He explains how his music has changed. “The music I used to write was folk, acoustic or hippy, I played it acoustic with my guitar. With Childsong I’ve created an album I believe God gave to me. It took me out of my comfort zone as I teamed up with a Gospel rapper and he’s made me sound a bit different. More pop and RnB twist to it.”
Quite a change, I say.
“If said five years ago I’d be doing this I wouldn’t have believed it,” he said. “I thought it should all be unplugged. But He’s done a great job. It’s given it an interesting edge.”
Dominic’s album wasn’t always for WYD. “I had just written Your Child Forever and I just got the inspiration suddenly to do an album to help people who feel orphaned somehow. I never met my father and I knew God is father to us all. I wanted to write an album to help people understand that.”
The idea didn’t quite take off though. “As fun as it was I needed to be reminded its God’s project – I decided I’d take no profit from the sales. It was His inspiration. After awhile I decided to give the funding from it to Take a Stand, a group going to WYD. I’m going with them.”
Coming to the end of our conversation, Dominic tries to explain his excitement ahead of WYD. “I wasn’t anti-Catholic before I was more apathetic so I’m so excited to go to WYD – to finally go from imagining the Church alive to see the life as a visible body of people. I’ve been before but not since I’ve come back to the faith so I know it’s going to be amazing and unique.”
Listen to Dominic’s music at http://dominicjames.bandcamp.com/album/childsong