Nerve Entertainment spoke exclusively with 18-year-old singer/songwriter Declan McKenna about balancing education with his music career, how he broke into the music industry and his single Isombard featuring on the FIFA 17 soundtrack.
How did you find out about the Glastonbury emerging talent competition? What happened when you found out you won?
I just saw it online and thought I’d apply, much like I did for a lot of things at the time. It was mad finding out I’d won, I was in another room, had to get brought in just as they announced my name, crazy really, didn’t expect it, and the chance to play at glasto after that was beyond exciting.
What was it like working with James Ford on your debut album?
Yeh it was great, he’s a good at what he does and is a top guy.
How did you get into music?
I’ve always been into it, my family is probably the main reason, just been brought up around music and musicians, always loved listening and creating.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
David Bowie probably, just so much great stuff to choose from, and so powerful in so many ways. Taught me to never stop changing and doing what I want.
NME has always been a strong supporter of your work, how it feel to have their backing?
Yeh it’s always nice to have that support, so early on in your career it’s encouraging to see people engaged and interested.
Your songs always have deep meaning like paracetamol (about transgender representation in the media); why is it important to you to deliver these meaningful songs?
I don’t think it’s important to deliver meaningful songs, sometimes I do it, sometimes I want to talk about something I care about, or that has affected me in some way, but in the same breath, sometimes I just want to make songs because they sound nice, and for nothing else, I think both are equally valid.
When did you find out that your song ‘Isombard’ was on Fifa? Are you a fan of the game?
I guess it would have been some time last summer, I was pretty chuffed, I used to play it a lot when I was younger, everyone wants to be on it so you know, it was a big deal for me.
How do you feel being compared to the likes of Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys)?
I guess it feels alright I guess? He’s really good at what he does, I don’t see a massive similarity stylistically if I’m honest though, I find that often when I get compared to other artists, it’s strange.
What was the highlight of playing Electric Picnic?
Woah that’s a throwback, I think that was a year and a half ago when I used to play without a band. I remember watching Blur, that was incredible, my show was a shit show if I’m honest, had a load of trouble finding the stage I was playing, ended up playing a huge tent crammed full of about 20 people, half of which were my family, a good laugh though to be fair, Ireland is always a good craic and I’ve had a few more successful shows since then, would love to go back to that festival again sometime though.
What’s a weird fact about yourself?
I was a snowflake in my school play in reception.
Where do you see yourself in 3 years?
Can you give any tips on balancing school work and a career after playing Glasto and doing your GCSEs?
Well past “don’t bother it’s too much hassle”, maybe just don’t do anything more than you need to and if any industry types want to meet you, make them come to you, if someone isn’t willing to put in the effort they’re not worth working with.