“The songs I had before weren’t that good. I think the songs I’m writing now are much better than the ones I was writing then.” The words came with a seasoned chuckle, diced up into bite-sized pieces by an accent from across the pond. The irony was equally endearing as Declan McKenna reclined in the Madison Ave. palace that is Sony Music, criticizing the songs that had all but pushed the elevator buttons on his trip to the top. He twisted his Sharpie-scribbled sneakers definitively, as if kicking decades of old material under the couch.
As so many articles will remind you right off the bat (guilty as charged), Declan is 17 years old. But his self-awareness as a musician – and total unpretentiousness as a star – would say otherwise. After winning the Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition and self-releasing his first single, “Brazil,” to startling success at age 16, he found himself at number one on the alt-rock charts, dodging school exams to shop the record deals that were pouring in. As legend has it, over 40 record companies wined and dined him before Columbia signed him. “Who went in and counted all my emails?!” Declan joked, saying he’s not quite sure where everyone got that number, but that it sounds about right. It’s been an exciting time.
“I wouldn’t say I have a business plan,” said the singer, nearly cracking up at the thought. “I mean, I have people who do that,” he clarified with unintentional badassery. As if on cue, someone popped into the room to check in on him. “I look after Declan’s office supplies,” he explained. “Just want to make sure he has all the stationary necessary for his trip.” He was kidding, of course. It was Rob Stringer, chairman and CEO of Columbia Records. “I’ve got all my pencils!” Declan replied with two thumbs up. He slouched back into the couch with a grin and continued on as if nothing had happened.
“The thing about my age is, I think it’s something people should take into account when thinking about my music and considering what I’m doing. But I don’t think it should be the be-all and end-all. Some people try to connect everything to it and make every line I write about my age, like ‘this song clearly shows his puberty!’” he laughed. “It’s just not true. It’s really cool to have people writing about your music, but it’s sort of odd to have this whole age thing surrounding it. But I guess as I grow up, I’ll probably realize that a lot of my stuff has more to do with how young I am. I don’t know. It all depends!” he said, smiling and shrugging in a way that could put the whole world at ease.
“I stopped [studying] around October. Just because I got too busy, and I was like ‘Fuck it, I want to do music,’” explained Declan. “A lot of people were sort of like, ‘Ah, but you should have a backup plan, and ah, you shouldn’t leave school,” he said in a hilarious concerned-parent whisper. “But this is my main plan. This is what I want to do.”
“I don’t see the point of doing something I don’t enjoy if I’ve got a chance to do something I do enjoy now,” he reasoned. “I’ll just get as much as I can from it. If it only lasts two years, then fuck it! I had a good time.”
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley