Interview with Declan Welsh.
Just off the back of supporting The Proclaimers on three dates, and indeed sharing a manager with the twins, the 21 year old singer songwriter takes a visit to the Highlands for the second time this month.
Declan has an unnerving ability to relate to audiences and he is certainly not going unnoticed having supported Ocean Colour Scene, Squeeze, Glasvegas and the aforementioned Proclaimers. Following a set at XpoNorth, Declan returns to Inverness for a couple of gigs (Mad Hatters (fullband) and Starbucks (3 song acoustic set)). We asked Declan a few questions before the gigs;
With support slots for the likes The Proclaimers, Ocean Colour Scene and Glasvegas under your belt, how difficult is it to prepare for such prestigious gigs?
It’s really just a lot more exciting. With that many people there it’s so much fun to do. I prepare by just trying to pick the most relevant of my tunes – I’ve written about 150 or so now – to the act i’m supporting. Like for the Procs I went for the stories and some love songs, cos if you’re at a Proclaimers gig you’re gonna be into that.
A lot of reviewers pick up on the similarities with Alex Turner, is that something you have been conscious of when you were writing? and who would you quote as your (other) influences?
He’s probably the best songwriter of his generation, and a complete inspiration to me, so it’s always a nice thing to hear. I like how he does his own thing: when he was a 20 year old in Sheffield he wrote about that, now he’s in LA he’s writing about that. The worst thing you can be is inauthentic.
In terms of other influences: Billy Bragg is a huge one. He probably changed the way I looked at songwriting and started me off on the path that I’m on today. Jarvis Cocker is another. The Proclaimers, too. More recently, Courtney Barnett is an unbelievable storyteller. I just love people who speak in their own voice, and can find significance in the ordinary.
Did I spot a line influenced by The Proclaimers in one of your songs, or just a coincidence?
It was indeed a tongue in cheek reference to The Proclaimers
“I’d take the bus, I’d take the train, I’d take the car/I couldn’t walk 500 miles but you know I’d still walk very far”
You are being managed by Kenny Macdonald who also manages The Proclaimers, how did that come about and what are the plans for your musical career?
We met up a wee while ago now and there were a few folk I was talking to but Kenny and Tam (Coyle, my other manager) just were so enthusiastic and decent that I knew they were the right choice. My plans are to release an EP on June 27th (in Broadcast, Glasgow), play as many gigs and festivals over the summer, keep writing and see where it takes me.
I’ll be writing songs as long as I live, it makes me happy: so in order to eat and live in a world which commodifies art I guess that means my happiness depends on enough very nice people buying my CDs. No pressure, readers of this article.
With themes that range from feminism to nights out with the lads, how do you find the creative process from initial idea to getting a tune together?
I’m always listening and reading, and I find the different perspectives you get from that allow you to appreciate your own experiences. Things feel important, so I’ll write about them. Sometimes that means women’s issues, racism or societal change; and sometimes that means getting drunk, being in love or a guy being sick on the Glasgow subway (I have actually written a song about that).
Your passionate support of the Yes Campaign is well documented, how do you view that time now?
It was an amazing experience. I met some lifelong friends and I got to talk to people from all over Scotland about ways to improve society. I struggle with the situation now, because there’s no correct answer in terms of Scotland. I don’t know if nationalism is ever positive, but it is probably the most effective vehicle for giving people a simple alternative to work towards.
The SNP are not my answer, but the people who support them are so optimistic. That’s really something. We search for belonging every single day of our lives, and a lot of people are being given that by the SNP side of the Yes movement right now. My only worry is that it simplifies the incredibly multi faceted discussion around how to improve society and allows for rhetoric to go unchecked.
You’re a man with many many talents, what drew you to pursuing a career in music and how difficult a decision was it to invest in that choice?
Music, in my opinion, is the most effective communicative tool in the world today. Art and literature are as important, if no more so, than essays and speeches in allowing people to understand the world around them and how to change it. First and foremost, I like writing songs, it makes me happy and that’s got to be your aim hasn’t it? But as I learn more, and become more and more anxious to be part of the very necessary change in society, I think that a songwriter can help the cause as much as a politician, lawyer or sociologist.
Even aside from the strictly political songs; songs about the beauty of the ordinary- things people can relate to, friendship, dignity, hope, compassion, love, depression, heartbreak, failure: they remind people that they aren’t isolated and alone in the world. Human beings are currently being offered a system which isolates them: you see that with most music. It’s all either very vague and meaningless, or a glimpse into excess, a life a million miles away from home.
Music (as the most accessible and least pretentious form of artistic expression) is the most important tool that can be used to comfort and inspire folk. If I can do that to single person, I’ll be pretty chuffed
Declan will be playing a short set at Starbucks (6pm) then Mad Hatters (from 8pm), Inverness on the 18th of June.