"There’s so many crazy opportunities that have come up for me in the last year. I’ve been very lucky.” Declan Mckenna is a man in a hurry. The 16-year-old songwriter has had the kind of whirlwind start to his career that most artists can only dream of. Just last month he was in the middle of playing a UK tour before being whisked away for the small matter of appearing on the late night US Conan talk show. All before he’s even released his first album.
When asked what the most exciting thing happening to him right now is, the hugely exuberant and talkative kid from Hertfordshire is almost overwhelmed by choices. “There’s loads of exciting things!” he exclaims. “There’s the music video that I’ve literally just released a minute ago [for ‘Bethlehem’], Glastonbury, I’ve announced a big American tour. I’m all over the place.”
It’s this infectious enthusiasm coupled with whip smart pop nous and incisive song writing that have so many people excited about Declan McKenna. Beginning with his success in the Glastonbury emerging talent competition in 2015 and continuing through the topical earworm singles ‘Brazil’ and ‘Paracetamol’, Declan’s sky-rocketing career trajectory has been on warp speed. Nothing is too daunting for the young songwriter though.
“I’m always changing things about how I’m making music,” he says confidently. “I think that’s the thing about being so young and having a short attention span. I kind of take on any challenges that I feel might be cool.”
“Everything that I’ve released so far has been slightly different,” he continues. “It’s all been developing. I enjoy for now being able to experiment with sounds and not worrying too much about sounding like this or that because once I do I’m only just going to get compared to other acts. I’d like to eventually spend time on refining a sound but now I’m content just trying things out.”
Following his previous singles, Declan has gained a reputation as something of a social commentator. He is not afraid to tackle any subject no matter how sensitive. His latest song ‘Bethlehem’ is a perfect example. “It’s a criticism of the negatives that religion has created in the world,” he explains. “I think at the time and even more so now, there was a lot of news coverage about people using religion as a justification for hate, war and so on and restricting people’s lives.
“In music and the world in general people are scared to criticise religion because it might offend people and cut down the amount of people who will listen to their music. If you are criticising things that need to be criticised in order to change and develop for the better then it can only be a good thing.”
“I’ve never really been one to censor what I think about things and that’s the same for any topic,” he adds. It’s a brilliantly refreshing attitude.
If he can avoid the ire of religious zealots then the next pressing task on the agenda for Declan is the recording of his debut album, which will feature production by esteemed indie legend James Ford. Right now, he doesn’t quite know how it will sound but it will definitely be exciting.
“I’ve only recorded five songs and going to finish it this summer, but I’m hoping it’s going to be a quite eclectic album with a lot more psychedelic stuff and some baroque pop sounds, which will be cool. It’s going to be happy sounding but kind of sad as well. I’m probably more excited to see how it turns out than anyone else.”
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