Interview: Declan McKenna prepares to TRNSMT at Glasgow Green

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It’s festival weather. Glasgow’s summer of music lies ahead of us, a star-studded cavalcade of musical talent from around the world, preparing to visit parks, stadiums and open spaces across our Dear Green Place. Good times. Central to the summer entertainment will be a supercharged version of TRNSMT festival across two weekends.

Headline acts The Killers, Liam Gallagher, Stereophonics, Arctic Monkeys and Queen + Adam Lambert catch the eye but there’s depth across the line up, particularly on the King Tut’s stage which will play host to exciting emerging and indie acts. There will be new talent on the main stages too.

19 year old singer songwriter Declan McKenna was here for TRNSMT last year and he will return for this year’s festival, performing on the main stage ahead of Arctic Monkeys, Interpol, Blossoms and Nothing But Thieves on 1st July.

He has already performed both weekends of Coachella in 2018 and toured the United States. His celebrated debut album has propelled him into the new music consciousness and he is ready to take things up a notch.

Glasgowist called Declan for a chat.

At this time of the year do you have your whole summer mapped out for festivals and stuff like that? Because it seems to be something you do a lot of, the festival circuit.

It’s slightly more relaxed, more than, say, last year. This summer we’ve got a month of festivals and that’s about it because I’m working on writing. So, I’m trying to take a little bit of time off in between now and whenever we start properly touring again.

We’ve got some cool festivals lined up. Some we’ve never done before, some places we’ve never been to before, which will be exciting. It’s all within Europe, fairly close by. I’ve been looking forward to enjoying it and not going overboard this year, which will be nice.

I suppose it must feel like you have to take a few moments to catch your breath because it’s been quite an interesting three years for you, quite full on.

It really has. I realised recently that I hadn’t really had a day where I’ve just not thought at all about, at least to some degree, what I was doing and what the next step was. I’m at a point where I’m taking some time to step back and think about what I want to do with things because it still feels like early days to me.

I’m still very young and just trying to figure out what I want to do next and enjoy the opportunities as much as I can while they’re here.

Something like TRNSMT in Glasgow must be quite an easy proposition because this is very much a music city. So you’ll be playing to people who, even if they don’t know your music, they’ll know where you’re coming from.

That’s what’s so great about having played TRNSMT last year and playing in Scotland, Scottish festival people are willing to embrace the music that’s put in front of them, it’s really very cool. A crowd filled with energy and filled with passion for this sort of music and just want to share in that experience without too much snobbishness. I’m really looking forward to that, actually.

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When you play a festival is it quite a regimented and self-contained experience? Or do you get the chance to meet other performers and other musicians? How does it work? What’s it like backstage?

A lot of festivals are quite interactive in that way. There are social areas and ways to interact with other artists on the bill. As you kind of do the festival circuit you bump into the same people, meet them in the queue for food in the canteen or whatever. Or you meet members of crews for different bands.

You bump into so many different kind of people from all over the place. They’re quite nice, in that respect. Rather than being in the club headline circuit, just having yourselves and the support band, you’re exposed to all sorts of different people. Along the couple of months that you have the festivals, you can actually make friends and get to know people.

Do you write lines when you’re on the road or do you kind of block out time just for creativity?

I’m trying to keep going as much as possible. I don’t ever have a time where I’m avoiding writing. It’s very difficult, especially when you’ve got this in your head like, “Oh, I’ve got to make another record. I’ve got to do this, I’ve gotta do that”.

You can’t really take your eye off the ball … I try and get influenced as much as I can to write when I’m on the road. You can think, “Oh, no. I’m going to save time when I’m at home to write”, but then you’re doing nothing and you’re at home and you’ve got nothing to write about.

Sometimes capturing the craziest, most hectic moments are actually … Is a lot more inspiring than just sitting at home trying to will it to happen, which can be really difficult.

When you’re out performing do you have a fixed band or does it tend to be just you sometimes? How does that work?

It’s generally with the same band. We’ve had a couple of changes over time just for this and that reason but we try and play with the band as much as I possibly can. I used to do a sort of solo show with a loop pedal but I much prefer having a full show with a band now, it’s really fun.

Especially in a sort of festival environment. Something you really like the fact there’s people to hang out with along the way. It’s a lively band show. I like to say, at least.

Are you glad that this has happened fairly early on? You got signed and you’re on the road and you get to see out your latter teenage years playing big shows.

It’s cool. Obviously, you always look back on these things and say you’d probably do something differently, but I’m glad a lot has happened when it has. I’ve had an opportunity to grow into what I’m doing and learn tonnes about this industry. Really, really early on and leaves a lot of things open to me for the future. I’m still learning and still really enjoying what I’m doing. It’s pretty exciting. I’m just excited to see what comes next.

What about your set for TRNSMT? Is your festival set fixed in your mind or do you drop songs in and out depending on where you are?

We try and drop things in and out and keep it as fresh as possible for us as much as the crowd. I think we’re going to play a fast-paced, upbeat, fun, festival show. We’re going to inject a lot of energy into it.

Read more about TRNSMT here.

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For full line-up and tickets visit the TRNSMT website.