Declan McKenna: 'I feel like we're in a phase where pop is less of a taboo'
- Henry Northmore
- 21 June 2018
Young indie pop musician has already played Glastonbury, Coachella and Lollapalooza
Declan McKenna is one of the youngest acts performing at this year's TRNSMT. However, even at the age of just 19 he has more experience than most. First coming to prominence after winning Glastonbury's Emerging Talent Competition in 2015, he played the biggest festival in the world at the age of 16.
'Glastonbury was a dream come true and the start of a lot of things for me,' he explains and you can still hear the excitement in his voice even three years later. 'I'd never played any big festivals before so it was straight in at the deep end. It was so strange and surreal. I didn't know if what was going on was going to last or where it was going, I was just having the time of my life and there's something really blissful about that.'
You could comfortably file McKenna's music next to Jake Bugg, Ben Howard or Miles Kane. Gently psychedelic indie influenced by Britpop and 60s rock. 'I would probably describe my music as pop. I think that says enough, indie rock influenced pop,' says McKenna. 'I feel like we're in a phase where pop is less of a taboo. I grew up with a weird attachment to the word as an overall bracket for all kinds of music from The Beatles to Earth Wind & Fire.'
McKenna started writing tracks in his bedroom but has gone on to appear on Conan (twice); win the BBC Introducing Artist of the Year; play Field Day, Lollapalooza and Coachella while his debut What Do You Think About the Car? was produced by James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Depeche Mode). 'It was very strange. It was a really chaotic process making the record. I went from writing songs without much aim to going into [the studio] with James Ford. It's weird going from having a laptop and my guitar to having every button you could wish to press at your fingertips and working with really interesting creative people.'
McKenna isn't afraid of tackling big issues. One of his earliest tracks, 'Brazil', was about power, money and corruption in sport; his second single ' Paracetamol' was about gender identity. 'I think a lot of art is political, I like to think that it is at least starting the conversation.'
Early gigs saw McKenna playing solo with loop pedals and effects but he's recently expanded to a full band and hopes to have new music out next year. Despite the early success speaking to McKenna you get the impression he's still grounded in the real world but enjoying every moment and experience that has opened up before him. 'It's the stuff of dreams. I have really embraced it all, I've reached much further than I ever expected to. I love creating [music] but this touring stuff has been out of this world.'