Interview: C Duncan – 'I love touring just as much as making music'
While a Mercury nomination does no one's career any harm, C Duncan certainly isn't resting on any laurels
Four months on from his career-breaking inclusion in the 2015 Mercury Prize shortlist, Chris Duncan (or C Duncan, to credit him with the shorthand he uses professionally) picks up the phone during a recording session at his Glasgow home studio. How is the follow-up to that Mercury-nominated debut Architect coming along? ‘Oh, it’s finished,’ he says. ‘I’m now onto album three. Well, not quite, but I’ve finished the album and it’s been mastered, so we’re just trying to work out a release date. Hopefully it'll be towards the end of the year.’
It’s partly that kind of obsessive hard work which has brought him to where he is. The child of two classical musicians, Duncan was raised in Drymen on the shore of Loch Lomond, and studied at Glasgow’s Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). Before Architect, his compositions had been played on Radio 3 and TV drama Waterloo Road, while that debut record (despite its rich, breezy beat-pop harmonies) was recorded in solitude at his West End flat.
‘The second album is another bedroom record,’ confirms Duncan. ‘The same process, although I’ve upgraded my home studio. It’s a little bit more electronic than the last one, although I still do all the vocal harmonies and that kind of thing. It's perhaps a bit more coherent. Architect was a collection of songs where I was trying to find my style, so there’s some pretty varied stuff on there. This album’s definitely got a line that runs through it; slightly downtempo but not depressing; very laidback and dreamy.’
As Duncan describes it, his career has ‘upped a level’ since the Mercury. He’s getting offers to work as a producer and remixer, with one remix job already completed for old friend and tourmate Lucy Rose while talks are ongoing to produce for Tessa Rose Jackson. ‘It was strange at first,’ he says of the remix, ‘because I’m so used to writing and singing music on my own: it’s very much a one-man band kind of thing. So I need to remember these aren’t C Duncan tracks I’m working on: I can’t make them sound too much like my own music. But I’m finding my feet and it’s becoming something that I’m really into.’
He also has a round of boutique festivals across the UK this summer, and an intention to break from his ‘one-man band’ model for the third record and hopefully move into working with a full group in a studio that isn’t his spare bedroom. ‘Six months ago I was a part-time musician and a part-time barista in a café, but since the album came out I’ve managed to do music all the time. I feel very privileged to just be a musician and I’ve become so much more confident. To begin with, I was really scared about playing live because I was a bedroom musician; it goes against everything I had wanted to do. But it turns out I love touring just as much as making music, because I’ve learned to feel relaxed onstage and because now people are actually coming to see us. It’s nice to be the headline act.’
C Duncan plays Skye Live, Portree, Sat 30 Apr; Brew at the Bog, Bogbain Farm, Inverness, Fri 3 & Sat 4 Jun; Belladrum Tartan Heart, Beauly, Fri 4–Sun 6 Aug; Doune the Rabbit Hole, Cardross, Sat 20 Aug.