Meet David Punch, an Irish singer-songwriter with Asperger’s who moved to Malta to tour his music
David Punch, 27, is a singer-songwriter and musician from Cork, Ireland. David has had Asperger’s Syndrome since the age of four and recently moved to Malta to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time musician, singer and instrumentalist.
David first came to Malta after meeting a Maltese musician on the streets of Cork – where David used to ‘bustle’.
In Ireland, ‘Punchy’ – as he is affectionately known – worked for a local gas and electricity supply company as well as at a local supermarket. After being stuck in Ireland in miserable weather and locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic, David wanted a change of scenery.
Since moving to Malta, David has quickly found his feet and has been playing gigs across the island from Mellieħa to Sliema.
Lovin Malta spotlighted David Punch and you can read our full interview with him below…
What made you decide to move to Malta?
My friend brought me to Malta on vacation and I was only supposed to stay here for a week. But I liked it so much that I ended up staying an entire month.
I was playing on the streets of Cork, where I come from, and at the time I was living with my parents and working for a national gas and electricity supplier. I also worked for a local supermarket chain. The COVID-19 pandemic has been really hard on me and I just needed a change of scenery.
This is my first time moving abroad on my own and it has been a great stepping stone for me.
Many of my friends from Ireland had also moved abroad due to the cost of housing, which is literally exorbitant and unaffordable for many young people.
What do you enjoy about living in Malta?
I love the weather above all else, and the Maltese are so friendly. I have been truly looked after since moving here and have been cared for by the Maltese and expat communities to whom I am forever grateful.
The diversity of people here is great. Even though I have a hard time socializing, there are so many people from so many different countries – so it’s hard not to meet people – that I like. I made friends from countries as far away as Colombia, Germany and Malta. Everywhere. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to meet so many different people if I was still at home in Cork.
You were bullied when you were younger, how did that affect you?
It was really bad, I was shy in school. I had no friends and thought I was a loner. My social skills weren’t great and I couldn’t talk to anyone.
I think I’m quite shy today. Talking to girls has always been difficult for me, even more so when I was younger. At school I was bullied, abused and said the same old shit. Like, ‘okay four eyes’.
There were even people posting abusive messages on my YouTube videos that I uploaded. I hated school and went home to my parents in tears.
Some people even commented saying “go kill yourself”. I started having suicidal thoughts in school and college. That’s when I went to see a counselor and it really helped me to vent my emotions and talk to someone. I recommend it to anyone going through a rough patch.
What advice would you give to someone with ASD/Asperger’s, especially regarding moving overseas?
Do it and see how it goes. Don’t doubt yourself. I wanted to come here and decided to do so. So let’s see what happens. I started talking to people. I also met people through social media groups; like InterNations and Expats in Malta.
I want to inspire people in a similar position and would like to do more public speaking here in Malta for ASD to become more normalized rather than stigmatised. I think it’s important to talk about your own trials and tribulations, what I’ve been through and how it has shaped me as a person.
How does ASD affect your daily life?
When I was younger, my social skills were bad. I couldn’t speak to anyone. With ASD it is more of a mental disorder and affects the way people communicate and interact with people and the public.
There are also so many repetitive behaviors that I deal with. For me in particular, I have to double check the door and make sure I have it locked. People may have seen this kind of behavior in the movies. With Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism, we have different interests that we excel at or love. I’m obsessed with music and some of my friends are obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons, for example.
What do you like about concerts and what do you think of the music scene in Malta?
Well, obviously I love music. It was so important to me for so many years and helped me grow and come out of my shell as a person. As for the music scene here, it is very lively. I like that everyone supports me and gets involved: sing on any song that comes out.
Where did you perform your music in Malta?
Being Irish, I love playing in Irish bars because there is always a unique atmosphere. But I played everywhere. I played in Bugibba, Gzira, Mellieha, Mosta, Qawra, St Julian’s, Sliema and the capital Valletta.
What are your favorite places/bars in Malta?
I would say my top three bars for playing and singing music are Crafty Cat in St Julian’s, Taste of Sweden in St Julian’s and Fat Harry’s in Bugibba.
And in which venues would you like to perform that you don’t already have?
As for where I would like to do a live set or gig, I would love to play Crossroads in Spinola Bay. I hosted the Thursday open mic nights there, which are also a great way to meet like-minded people, especially those who love their music.
Other bars I would like to play in are Capital Bar in Valletta and also Thirsty Barber in Paceville and others as well. I would like to do more corporate gigs and weddings, and play some restaurants too.
Have you been bullied or abused here in Malta?
Not at all. I have heard and seen incidents of people being bullied here. Fortunately, I did not experience this in Malta.
You entered Malta’s Got Talent, how was it?
My episode will air on Sunday. I can’t get the cat out of the bag yet. So if you want to know how I got out of it, you’ll have to tune in to TVM this Sunday at 8 p.m.
It was a great experience to be on Malta’s Got Talent and I had friends from all over Ireland who did the UK version of the TV show. They said it would be a long day and recommended I grab some food and drink as there is a long wait once you arrive.
For anyone considering getting into a reality show like Malta’s Got Talent, I would say just be yourself and try to relax.
You said that – in the past – you often suffered from anxiety. What do you think is aggravating your anxiety and has it improved since you arrived in Malta?
I was initially worried about moving to Malta in case I didn’t like it here. But luckily I love this country. Since I moved here, the anxiety has improved. Music was the potion for me.
Living in another country – as I said – is a first for me. So maybe the only worry I feel now is financially. Living as a musician is hard and the salary when you first come out is not life changing. But it’s a start.
So to supplement my income doing gigs across the island. I might like to get a job in a customer support role, maybe in iGaming. I really enjoy helping others with their problems or issues they are facing and I am a very compassionate person so I think this would suit me.
At the moment I work part-time in a bar in Gżira called the Red Parrot – where I also give a few concerts.
You recently released a new song called ‘Different’ – Tell us what it’s about…
I started writing a sort of concept story album. In the last song, I talk/sing about Asperger’s syndrome and autism in general. Write different songs for different aspects and how they affect people living with ASD.
One is about education, social skills and not talking to people. Whereas other songs I’m working on deal with themes like anxiety and living alone in a different country. I really want to inspire and motivate people – and that’s what I want to communicate through my music. I hope people like me will realize that you are not alone and things will get better.