Dermot Kennedy at Lollapalooza 2021, by Dan DeSlover/Variance

Dermot Kennedy didn't waste a second during the lockdowns, hunkering down in the studio and writing as many as 80 new songs.

Speaking with Variance at Lollapalooza in Chicago, Kennedy opened up about the "strange" feeling of playing live again and he recalled spending an intense amount of time this past year writing and recording.

"I was in the studio constantly," he recalls. "I refused to let momentum slip. Whatever I had worked so far, I wasn’t going to let [the pandemic] take it away from me. I wasn’t willing to take a backward step, I guess. And so the studio was where I was allowed to be, and I worked on music. And that’s what I poured myself into."

From Kennedy's perspective, despite the challenges of working in the music industry since the Covid-19 outbreak, he's grateful to be in the position he's in at this stage of his career.

"It’s been a few years of hard work. And we’re getting there," he says, adding: "But it’s just about the music. Like not in a corny way, but even if it wasn’t progressing, I’m good. I still get to have a career in music. I’m very lucky to have that. So I’m just happy to do it."

Dermot Kennedy at Lollapalooza 2021, by Dan DeSlover/Variance

For the 29-year-old Dublin-born artist, his performance at Lollapalooza just happens to coincide with his big return to the live stage, as he kicked off his tour in Nashville just days before. But he admits while he expected to feel a sense of awe after a big break off the road, it actually felt as if he had been gone for a few days.

"It was interesting," says Kennedy. "I’ve got to say, it wasn’t just total euphoria the way we planned. It was a strange feeling. It felt like we were already in the middle of a tour and had taken just two days off. It was very strange. But I’m adapting slowly to being back playing."

Before he took the stage in Nashville and Chicago, Kennedy shared his riveting new single "Better Days," which he says is about "patience and believing in something brighter." The song opens with the lyrics, "Better days are coming," a hopeful declaration in response to the uncertainty of the pandemic. As Kennedy puts it, he feels a sense of responsibility to be willing to offer music with a message, especially in these complicated times.

"I feel like that’s my job to an extent," he confesses. "It’s cool to make music for yourself, it’s cool to touch on different topics. But if you’re a singer-songwriter in current times, I feel somewhat obliged to speak on certain issues and try to offer up some amount of hope."

"Better Days" is the first glimpse into a new chapter for Kennedy following a burst of creativity, partly due to the amount of studio time he's put in over the past year-plus. This fall marks two years since the release of his debut album Without Fear, and he's already eyeing the followup.

"I’ve got a shortlist now for the album. We had like 70, 80 songs," he says without a shudder. "And now it’s got to come down to—I don’t know, I like the number 10. Mostly, I feel like shorter albums are more enjoyable to me lately. So I might do that."

As for a timeline, it will likely be next year before fans have the full record. Kennedy will spend the months of August and September touring the U.S. and the U.K., respectively. In October, he'll return stateside to play Lolla's sister fest Austin City Limits Music Festival. But after that, you'll likely find Kennedy somehow whittling down all those dozens of songs to his magic 10.

"I’m on this tour and then I’ll tour the U.K., and then I’ll finish the album," he says with a chuckle. "And we’ll see what’s happening. Hopefully have a nice Christmas."