Part of the New Wave of 2017, this year Declan McKenna is going to reign supreme. Once he's finished his cuppa, anyway.
Every year is the same. as the start of another twelve-month cycle comes around, the new band tips begin. Who will shift the most units? Who is the ‘priority act’? Who has the biggest budget? But this year, this year might be a bit different. A group of young bands and artists have been gaining momentum over the past couple of years. Here is when they’re set to come of age. Prepare for something special. Prepare for... the New Wave of 2017. Over the next few days you'll be able to find out more about some of our top picks for the year ahead, or find out more in the latest issue of Dork, right here.
This has been a tumultuous year for many reasons but for Declan McKenna, it’s seen him undergo a stratospheric rise from promising indie prodigy to a genuine bona fide star in the making. As he looks forward to even greater things in 2017, the 17-year-old songwriter is in a confident and ebullient mood.
“There were so many cool things all in one year,” he excitedly proclaims about a year that has taken him gigging across the country, over to America and from US talk shows to our own Jools Holland. Declan has been making his presence felt and winning hearts worldwide. His appearance on Jools Holland in September though is one moment that stands out. “It’s still hard to believe for me because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do from when I was young,” he says. Striking in his debut UK TV performance was a newly assured stage presence and simmering bravado, backed by his newly formed band who played like demons. This was Declan making a statement. “I was just thinking that I can’t really go on Jools Holland and do nothing,” he laughs, noting his expanded performance skills.
Perhaps the main change for Declan that will shape him for the future is the evolution of his songwriting process as more opportunities come his way and his way of working develops. It’s a change that he acknowledges and relishes: “I think I’ve learned a lot about the way I write songs. I know how to do that better than I did a year ago. I think that’s a good thing. I’ve been pushed this year to write in less comfortable conditions than I normally would choose to. That’s made me better at what I do. There’s been a lot of change and it’s made me more confident.”
Unlike many new British stars, Declan started making an impact across the pond first. “Things kicked off in America quicker than it did over here,” he explains. “I was able to play headline shows to decent numbers of people over there quicker than I could here. Up until recently, I didn’t see anything like that happening in the UK. All of a sudden a load of people became interested in me.”
Despite the unusualness of breaking in America first Declan has grown accustomed to the crazy nature of the music business. “I guess it’s me learning that in the modern world of music, cool shit can just happen without much explanation.” You get the feeling that nothing could shock him or ruffle his feathers in 2017 although maybe the Christmas Number One that he longs for would do the trick.
' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen>
With an album produced by James Ford due in the spring and a European tour with Blossoms on the cards, there’s a lot for Declan to look forward to in the year ahead. At the forefront of his mind though is giving a voice to his ideas and feelings through his music. Contained within Declan McKenna’s whip-smart pop songs are some big messages and big ideas. “The album as a whole is about being frustrated as a young person, being open and talking about politics,” he says. Engagement and allowing different voices to be heard is a key theme of his music and his message. “There’s a lot of things that people need to talk about,” he proclaims. “Keeping the conversation going is the most important thing.”
As he begins to take 2017 by storm, Declan McKenna isn’t alone. There’s a simmering air of confidence and excitement brimming in British music and it’s something that the young songwriter has noticed as well. “I’m always excited about my generation and my era of music that I’m a part of,” he begins. “It’s good to be part of a wave of cool new acts who are pushing boundaries and trying something new. I’m excited about new music and young people doing stuff for themselves. It’s an important time.”
Important times call for important people, so it’s just as well that Declan McKenna is ready to answer that call.