Tom Raine interviews
The Edinburgh Interview Series - Declan Gibson
This week we bring you an interview from September with Edinburgh student Declan Gibson, a singer-songwriter from Wakefield who released his debut track, Better Off Without, on June 19th.
You released your debut single Better off Without back in June, it’s a really stunning track but quite bittersweet in nature, how did it come about?
D - I actually started the song with my sister on acoustic guitar and then we figured out the lyrics together. I then took it to the piano with my producer Vinnie who I met whilst I was on exchange in Amsterdam, it was born from there really.
I saw your mum painted the album artwork – have you always been quite an artistic family?
D - Yeah I guess so, I think that’s why I’m into music, my family has been super influential and are always supportive of me. If I write a song I’ll go straight to them to hear it. I started playing as a kid at my gran’s house, who was a music teacher. There was a drum kit in the living room, guitar in the living room, I was just always there!
How long have you been building up to release this track? When did your musical life in this current stage begin?
D - The music that I’m making is with a dude called Vinnie who I met in December, right now we have 5 songs just sat there. We chose this song to release and we’re building a nice repertoire so we can start releasing properly. This one took about 5 months.
You’ve shared a few posts about your song-writing on Instagram, who would you say are your biggest musical influences, both lyrically and sonically?
D - I grew up listening to indie music, bands like the Kooks, Arctic Monkeys, The Smiths, The Killers, so that’s probably where my origin is. As I started gigging a lot of the crowd-pleasers would be Elvis, The Beatles etc, so I started building my repertoire. I feel my music is a way I can express how I’m feeling, so lyrically I listen to people like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, reading poetry; really immersing myself to try and tell a story that expresses exactly how I feel through my music. I want to make commercial music that’s gonna be getting played on the radio, I go to sleep at night thinking about playing in huge concert halls. That’s my dream really, and that’s the kind of music I want to make. I’d love to make really alternative Bon Iver style music but right now I’m gonna stick to a more commercial feel.
How long do you tend to work on your lyrics?
D - Sometimes inspiration comes randomly, and sometimes you just decide to force it through. I find what has been working well for me recently is just writing for about 10 minutes, not thinking too much about what you’re writing and then looking at it, seeing what expresses how you’re feeling and then adding a melody. It’s definitely in the editing phase that things come together, especially with lyrics and notes. Often it can be frustrating since you can’t write the perfect song all the time! Sometimes I’ll get annoyed when I feel like I’m writing bad songs.
Do you find being at home for long periods inspiring or challenging? As a fellow young person coming from a small northern village I know too well that it can definitely be both of these things.
D - I think we’re all in the same boat, being in once place isn’t always nice. But I’m lucky where I live being in the countryside, there’s a nice community which makes you feel like you’re not on your own. Sometimes it has been difficult though, I’m quite extroverted and being stuck inside wasn’t easy. It was nice to spend time with my family and have a routine: writing, working out, doing these sorts of things that stop you from going crazy.
Pre-lockdown you managed to do a few gigs in Amsterdam, how were those? How much are you missing going out and gigging again?
D - I moved over with all the stuff I’d gig with, on the ferry cos I didn’t really trust the plane. I first went to this place called Zoku, this rooftop bar that throws a live music party every Friday. I didn’t really know anyone there so I turned to the guy next to me to ask how long the band playing would be on for, turns out he was the organizer of the night! So obviously I told him I was a singer and he told me to come down to their open-mic night, the first one I did my friends came along, literally everyone was videoing me! It was such a great night. After that I got in touch with AMP, an organisation who runs grassroots gigs in Amsterdam, and they set me up with a load of gigs.
What are your plans going forward? I see that you’ve released a couple of other original tracks on Instagram.
D - Regarding releases the plan is release some more singles and then get an EP out. I want to start gigging more when we can, and then just keeping up with writing whilst moving back up to Edinburgh. I’m super to determined to succeed, but when I’m not doing something it can make me stressed out.
If you could pick any gig from the past that you would have liked to have been to – which would it be, and why?
D - Michael Jackson! My mum’s actually seen him, sometimes before I start playing or rehearsing I watch videos of him performing, he was amazing.