Flogging Molly's Dave King Bets on Detroit
Flogging Molly's Dave King Bets on Detroit

Clint Eastwood isn't the only one thumping the drum for Detroit's changing fortunes. So is Flogging Molly's Dave King, who lives part of the year in the Motor City environs with his wife and bandmate Bridget Regan and who based the Celtic rock group's latest album, "Speed of Darkness," on the city's economic challenges.

"You're beginning to feel the energy coming back to the city," King tells Billboard.com. "Even just walking the dog around the neighborhood, a lot of the houses that were foreclosed, there's people in them now. Things seem to be picking up. Maybe I'm being too optimistic here, but there's that fighting spirit. That's what I've always connected with the Irish and people that live in Detroit. That's why I like here. It has that same energy...as when I was growing up in Ireland."

King is also happy that Flogging Molly incorporated the spirit of resilience into "Speed of Darkness," the group's first album for its own Borstal Beat Records label, which debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 in June. "The songs are really connecting with people, I think because everyone around the world is facing the same issues in some way," King explains. "I don't know what it is about this album, or us as musicians, but for some reason by the end of this tour we'll have played every song off the album, which is something we've never done before. It still has that energy for us, musically, that we really love, and the reaction to the songs has been incredible. Lyrically it's about Detroit, but musically it's been a very adventurous album for us. It's great to get a chance to play all the songs live."

After taking a break from the road, Flogging Molly started playing again when it kicked off its annual Green 17 tour on Feb. 17 in Detroit. King says the group is also planning to play Japan, South America, South Africa and Europe this year, while plans for "Speed of Darkness' " follow-up are being formulated -- but slowly.

"To me it'll be when we have a chance to sit down and write it," King says. "There's definitely ideas floating around, but for me writing when you're on the road is like two sides of the brain. I can't concentrate, so I like to wait til I get back home. And I've learned over the last couple of albums it's got a lot to do with soaking up your environment, so we'll do these tours and then hopefully get some chunks of time to be off the road and start (writing)."

Flogging Molly did add one song to its repertoire this year -- a version of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" for the "Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International" collection. "We approached it pretty much like we approached the songs on ('Speed of Darkness')," King says. "That's the reason we picked 'The Times They Are A-Changin';' after the album we'd just written, it seemed like the perfect Dylan song to do for us. I think it's a song that still resonates to this day. We did it in our own fashion, our own way, which is the only way we know. It really took on a life unto itself, and we're actually talking about doing it on this tour. It would certainly fit."