From politics to personal experience with Declan McKenna

A look inside Declan McKenna’s ZerosA look inside Declan McKenna’s zeros
Photo courtesy of Jeff Hahn
English artist discusses musical growth between albums.

Singer-songwriterDeclan McKenna is most well-known for his political outspokenness. Since his debut in 2015 with the single “Brazil,” McKenna has released several tracks pertaining to social issues around the world. Such as the song “Paracetamol,” which discusses how trans teens are often misrepresented in media, and “British Bombs” which criticized the hypocrisy of the British arms trade. 

While this is the reputation that many associate with McKenna, he himself doesn’t believe that he is a “political” singer, rather someone who is singing about the events his peers were speaking about. With the events of his own life too “boring” to pull inspiration from. “I’ve always been sort of a vocal human being. The world is a political place and there are political struggles that we all kind of have to engage with at some point. But it led to questions like anytime something interesting or something unusual is happening in the world, people are just like, ‘You going to write a song about it?’ and it’s like no, it doesn’t work like that. You can’t just be jumping on to everything that happens in the world because it’s not good for your head.”  

For his second studio album, Zeros, McKenna felt there was so much that happened in his life, that he was able to draw from these more personal experiences. “With Zeros there was just a little bit more of ambiance to it. A little bit more of you’re taking your own interpretation of it. And I feel like I’m much more confident in my ideas and in myself as an artist, you know?” McKenna shared when asked how he felt he’s grown since his last studio album, What Do You Think About the Car. “I feel like I’ve kind of grown into really wanting to express myself and wanting to materialize my ideas fully.”  

McKenna mentioned that working in a studio in Nashville with producers Jay Joyce and James Ford helped him learn what his songs need and don’t need. “When I was first writing I was a looper so I did loop petal stuff and would just keep going…I was never like ‘that’s too much stuff.’ That most important lesson was learning what was too much and what is actually needed, so, it’s always less than you think.” 

Similar to this, McKenna also mentioned how Jay Joyce’s fast-paced work environment forced him to “choose something” when recording Zeros. “If you can channel a bit more of the sort of more impulsive stuff that comes to you as an artist and just learn when that’s right. l found for me, that can be just more exciting, you know, when making music, rather than being too meticulous. Obviously, there’s a bit of meticulousness that comes with making music and all of that, but a lot of the time trusting your impulses is so good and so important when it comes to getting stuff done and when it comes to expressing yourself.”  

This trust in himself and creative decisions definitely shine bright in the album. With the exciting guitar riffs, upbeat drum sequences, and catchy lyrics and choruses, any listener can tell that both McKenna and his band members channeled this trust in their own creative efforts.

This is a selection from the Nov. 04 issue. To view the full issue, visit:

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