Graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, C Duncan in an accomplished musician despite the fact his debut LP Architect, released on FatCat, only came into being earlier this year. The album’s delicate folk-pop is both complex, intricate and breathtakingly light. It’s a sprawling, somewhat wintery beauty with a hint of sadness at its core.
Expecting Architect to grace quite a few ‘best of’ end-of-year lists, we ventured to meet the man behind the music to talk about his classical training, his festival highlights and what lies ahead.
Have you done many festivals this summer?
We’ve done a few: Latitude, Wickerman, and after Green Man we’re doing a little festival up in York.
What’s been your favourite so far?
Probably Latitude for the weather. (pauses) Actually, Green Man. It’s our first time in Wales, so this is special.
So this is your first time at Green Man?
At the festival and in Wales itself!
Is this your first time as a performer at festivals?
This year is the first time we’re doing gigs at all. I got a band together only at the very end of last year.
How do you feel festival audiences differ from your normal gigs?
Festivals are more fun. Everyone comes to festivals to have a good time. We’re still quite new. We’ve only just started doing headline shows, which were great fun. Up until that we only played support shows, which were really good, but everyone is there to see someone else. Whereas at festivals everyone just stumbles across all sorts of things. When I go to festivals I just blindly point at stuff and go to see it. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I don’t.
It seemed when you were playing this morning there were many fans of yours in the crowd. You’re getting a reputation
We recognised a few familiar faces, which was nice. It’s nice to be playing Green Man. It’s nice being outside of your comfort zone.
So with you recording your debut album all by yourself, how did the band come together?
Basically, I recorded the album and was wondering how on earth I was going to do it live. Then some friends got together and decided to get involved.
How does your classical training affect your writing and listening to music?
I think, in a typical composer fashion, I write stuff that can’t really be done live. On the album it’s hundreds of voices, guitars are layered as many times as I can get away with. I guess when I was writing it I didn’t want to think how I was going to do it live. The stuff I’m writing now is still as big, so I’ve not learnt. (smiling)
So how do you go about writing your music?
My approach is still the same now as it was when I started the album. Basically, I start with the melody, then I harmonise it, add different instruments and see how they come out. But really it’s very much melody-driven. When I studied classical composition it used to really frustrate me that you write all this music but you never hear it until someone else plays it. So, for example, you’ve been writing a string quartet but you would never hear it, except in your head or if you play it on the piano. But this is very satisfying: coming up with ideas, going into your bedroom, bringing out a microphone, singing and recording. You instantly have your material ready. You can start improving straight away. I write it and then go back, go over and over it until I’ve heard the sound I want.
So should we expect a classical album from you at some point?
I hope so. I’d like to do some more classical music. I’m quite keen to mix pop and classical together. On my next album I’m using a string quartet, tuba, percussion and trying to incorporate them together. And I love doing performance.
How did your Conservatoire teachers feel about your interest in pop?
They were very supportive. Surprisingly so. Head of my department is a huge fan of pop music so he really encouraged it. If you were writing popular music he even encouraged you to put it into your portfolio. I’ve always been encouraged. My parents are both musicians, they’ve encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do musically. It just happened to be pop.(smiling)
I’ve heard you’re an accomplished painter as well.
I enjoy painting.
Do you exhibit?
I have done a few times. In Glasgow.
Have you ever thought about combining the two, your artistic skills and your music?
I did the album artwork. This is going to sound a bit bad but I guess it’s my job to make music, but art is such a big hobby I still want to do it alongside. I think I’ll continue doing all the artwork for the albums and will have visuals to play live. I’m trying to incorporate that into my music.
What’s next for you in terms of touring?
We’re going out to Europe to do a few shows, which will be great. Also, I’ve started writing the second album, so I’ll be spending a lot of time back in my bedroom.
What can you tell us about the second album?
There might be a string quartet involved. Lots of love songs. It’s very cheery and happy so far.
For tour dates and to buy C Duncan’s debut album Architect click HERE.
Read GIITTV’s full review of Green Man 2015 HERE.
Photo credit: Steven Sibbald