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Meet Declan McKenna

By Luke Keleher, 16 May 2017

Declan McKenna won Glastonbury Festival's Emerging Talent Competition in 2015, and his first single – the self-released Brazil – received critical acclaim for its politically conscious lyrics. The 18-year-old is a musician on the rise for his thought-provoking and insightful views, and is looking to use this attention to shine a light on other young creatives. Consider this is your Declan McKenna crib sheet…

Declan McKenna | ASOS Supports Talent


My name is Declan McKenna and I’m a musician from Hertfordshire. 

What is your passion project?

The plan is to highlight young musicians and go against stereotypes of young people in terms of politics and the world around them. Also helping young people to collaborate and create things with people that they otherwise wouldn't meet. I'm doing this in Rio, in Brazil, and trying to bring back some of the attention that got lost after the World Cup and the Olympics.

Why is your passion project important to you?

This was an opportunity to do something past writing songs, doing interviews and talking about young people and their negative stereotypes. For me, one of the main things is that I was very fortunate to have people come across my music and do so well so early on, whereas, for a lot of other people, that opportunity just wouldn't exist. A lot of things happened just by chance, and I feel like it's always going to be like that with anything, but I want to make it less of a chance thing and also help, collaborate and work together on projects. 

Declan McKenna | ASOS Supports Talent

What do you think is a stereotype of young people that you want to change?

The main thing is just about apathy. That's a problem that exists, but at the minute, more and more young people are making themselves aware and give themselves knowledge that they need for understanding the world around them. But they’re not talking about it and they’re not told that it's important and, for me, I get this thing about, like, 'voice of a generation' and all these sorts of things, and it’s just a bit ignorant. If you looked at my friendship group and the young people around me, there’s so much intelligence, so many eloquent young people who are very much capable of talking about the same topics that I talk about in much more depth. The stuff that I talk about in my songs, I'd like to think, is important and relevant, but by no means revolutionary. A lot of it should be glaringly obvious – and is to a lot of young people.

When did you start singing?

I've always been singing to some extent. When I was very, very young I wanted to be in Busted and wanted to do all of these amazing things. I started working more towards songwriting and performing a little bit later, but it's always been a part of my life.
Declan McKenna | ASOS Supports Talent

What is your greatest achievement so far?

I think playing at Glastonbury at 16, and then at 17 doing the Park Stage at Glastonbury. Now at 18 – just announced – I'm doing it again, which is pretty mad. It’s just not something that you expect to happen and that kickstarted a lot of stuff for me. The coverage of that was cool and I got a write-up in NME, but that doesn't make a career. There wasn't this hype where I was like 'Right, I need to make an album and release it right now.' I slowly progressed and made this album, something that represents the last couple of years rather than rushing into it, which is why it’s such a good achievement for me. Looking back on it now it’s a small step that pushed a load of other things and it kind of all snowballed into what I’m doing now, which is great.

What's your ultimate goal?

Who knows? It could be a number of things. I would love to headline a stage at Glastonbury. I feel like that's a very obvious one but, considering the early stage of my career really started there, it would be nice to have that as a peak. I don’t really have many things by way of goals. I just kind of go week by week, so it’s more about enjoying it, creating and constantly being myself now. 
ASOS Supports Talent Declan McKenna

What inspires you?

A lot of listening to a lot of music is the initial thing, I guess. At the same time, the most important thing for inspiring your work is the people around you and the environment you're in – like my family and friends, who are so important to the stuff I’ve done and made. I have to credit the most important people in my life for that to a massive extent.

What advice would you give to young people who want to follow their passions?

Don’t rush what you do. There's time! Also, don’t hold back what you’re doing. You have to find a middle ground between being scared or anxious about putting out what you're doing and not being precious enough about the stuff that you're making. If you spend your entire life thinking 'this is never good enough', then no one is ever going to tell you that it’s shit, and that’s something that you have to do.