INTERVIEW: Declan McKenna: “People who change the world, they inspire me a lot”

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By Wies van der Heyden

2016 saw the rise of Declan McKenna, just another kid with a guitar, but also a great bunch of contagious indiesongs with serious messages. After winning Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent competition in 2015, he spent last year releasing singles about corrupt FIFA-bosses (Brazil), violent policemen (Isombard) and started this year off with The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home, about younger generations trying to find hope for the future. If there’s something to say, Declan will sing it. LLUID spoke with him, about his influences, the right to vote for 17 year-olds and his first album.

You’re only eighteen years old and are already making quite a name for yourself in the music industry. When did you start making music?

“My parents have always been into music and my older brother was a musician as well. So I’ve always been surrounded by music. And I’ve always been writing songs, but when I was eleven or twelve I really started going for it. And I’ve been developing my writing and my music since then.”

How has your style in music developed over the years?

“I started playing bands that I liked and making sounds that resembled theirs. Earlier on that was a more folky type of music. And that has developed into the more mature sound that it is now. It’s more me. I’m always picking sounds up and changing myself and my music. I still am. I really like Paul Simon, I love The Beatles and Nina Simone. And Jeff Buckley is one of my favourites as well. On a personal level, there are so many people: the obvious ones like my parents and my friends, they influence me a lot. But more in the wider world; people like Martin Luther King. Civil rights activists, people who want to make a change in the world. They inspire me a lot.”

Do you want to make a change in the world?

“Yeah, I think a lot of people do at the moment.”

When you played at Jules Holland last September you wore a shirt with a statement saying that seventeen-year-olds should have the vote. What was the thought behind this?

“As a seventeen-year-old I wasn’t able to vote in recent elections that have been quite important. I feel like it’s unfair on myself and my friends because we absolutely would have voted if we were able to. So I decided, since I was on a show that I’ve been watching since I was very young, that I wanted to do something somewhat bold. And I thought this was a fun idea.”

In 2015 you won the Emerging Talent price at Glastonbury and then went on the Conan O’Brien show and toured America. That put your debut album on hold. Was it a deliberate choice to first make a name for yourself first before releasing your first album?

“Yeah, at the time I didn’t have an album at all. Back then I didn’t have songs that I really liked. It’s taken a long time to create the things that I’ve created. I obviously haven’t released the album yet, but I’ve put a lot of work in creating the album. I took my time to make the album as good as it can be. And I think that I recently have written some of my best songs, so I’d rather have those on the album, than some songs that I’ve written many months ago.”

You’ve played a lot of shows in 2016. What was the weirdest thing that happened while you were touring?

“Well we had a show in Leeds a couple of months ago and during this show I jumped down from the stage to were the audience was standing while I was singing but I didn’t realise how high up the stage actually was. So after the song I tried to get up to the stage again, but I kept falling down. And I fell flat on my face about three times before I was actually able to make it back up to the stage again.”

But you’re okay?

“Yeah I wasn’t injured, I was fine. It was kind of funny and kind of weird.”

What was you’re highlight of 2016?

“Playing at Glastonbury was definitely a highlight. The stage I was playing on was huge and playing that particular stage was something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. So that was a massive deal for me.”

If you could change one thing that happened last year, what would you change?

“2016 wasn’t a great year, was it? On a big scale I would make the wars and stuff not happen, because they were pretty bad. O wait! And David Bowie wouldn’t have died!”

Declan McKenna will play in Melkweg, Amsterdam on February 3rd, as support act for Blossoms.

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