THIS Friday, Scotland’s most prestigious music prize, the Scottish Album of the Year Award, moves to the capital for the first time when Live at the Longlist takes over the Queen’s Hall as part of the venue’s 40th anniversary celebrations. An award which celebrates, promotes and rewards the strength and diversity of Scotland’s rich music scene, the twenty outstanding albums that have made the coveted Longlist from a remarkable 293 submissions will be announced on Friday night in front of a live audience by hosts Vic Galloway and Nicola Meighan.
Hosted by the Scottish Music Industry Association for a third consecutive year, Live at the Longlist will bring music fans, industry figureheads and artists together in a massive celebration of Scottish music and along with the very exciting Longlist announcement, attendees will be treated to a series of exclusive live performances from previous nominees C Duncan, Modern Studies, Rod Jones and Kobi Onyame.
Shortlisted in both 2016 and 2017 for ‘Architect’ and ‘The Midnight Sun’, it’s been another massive year for C Duncan who released his critically acclaimed third album ‘Health’ back in March. Ahead of his headline performance on Friday, we caught up with the producer and composer to hear his thoughts on the SAY Award, Scottish music and his latest album.
“It feels fantastic to be part of the longlist announcement celebration! Having been nominated for the award previously I know how fun and exciting the SAY award events are and it is a great place to showcase what music is coming out of Scotland at the moment
I think that it is very important to show off how much amazing music comes out of such a small country and the SAY award celebrates every style and genre of music. This also goes to show how eclectic and varied the musical and artistic output of Scotland is.”
Combining a fascination of the classical with a characteristically modern approach, C Duncan has established himself as one of the nation’s most uniquely talented musicians. His delicately layered debut proved to be one of the most enchanting albums of the year when it was unveiled in 2015, earning him nominations for both the coveted Mercury Prize and the SAY Award. It marked the beginning of an incredible journey for the composer and producer who eclipsed all expectations once again a year later with its follow-up ‘The Midnight Sun’; a record which saw him transform his pastoral folk sound into something more polished and expansive. Not only did the album achieve widespread critical acclaim, but it also saw him shortlisted for the SAY Award for a second year in a row. It’s an experience which he looks back on fondly: “It was both extremely exciting and humbling to be nominated for the award as it has become somewhat of a big thing for music in Scotland”
An award which shines a light on the strength and diversity of Scottish music, a record-breaking 293 albums were submitted for the SAY Award this year. Spanning a wide range of contemporary genres and styles, that number will be narrowed down to twenty this Friday. But who would C Duncan like to see on the Longlist? “Apostille, David Fenessey, Vital Idles, Randolph’s Leap, Kathryn Joseph and Andrew Wasylyk to name but a few…”
It’s an eclectic list that certainly aligns with his own refreshing approach to songwriting. Based in Glasgow, the nation’s rich musical heritage is rooted in his own. He adds: “My two biggest influences have been Cocteau Twins and Billy Mackenzie. I’m a total sucker for dreamy music with great melodies and these two specialise in that.”
Dreamy and melodic are two words that have become synonymous with C Duncan’s meticulously crafted arrangements. His latest album ‘Health’ sees him revisit his penchant for lush, kaleidoscopic soundscapes but takes them into more vibrant and dynamic territory. He says: “I think my music has become a lot more open and honest since the first record. I used to hide my voice behind huge sweeps reverb (which was also part of the dreamy style I wanted to create), whereas now – three albums in – I have the confidence to bring my vocals and lyrics to the forefront of my music.”
This confidence leads to a new depth of colour and complexity to his sound; a sublime sucker punch to the senses and radical shift in mood. Notably, it was also the first album for which he has strayed away from his own bedroom studio to enlist the help of other producers, Elbow’s Craig Potter the man in question. Describing this new dynamic, he said :”It was a really fantastic experience! Having never done it before I was a little apprehensive at first, but immediately I relaxed into to it. Having others bring their expertise to the table really helped develop the sound of this record. The main obstacle for me was just getting used to working in a ‘real’ studio as it was nothing I had ever experienced before.”
Duncan has described the making of ‘Health’ as a very cathartic experience. It’s undoubtedly his most candid piece of work to date with lyrics that turn to topics of communication, sexuality, and anxiety. While the instrumental motifs have become more complex, so too has his subject matter. For an artist who previously held an air of mystery around him, it’s a remarkable portrait of a man who is willing to divulge his inner feelings and hold them up for the world to examine.
“It is a very personal record to me and writing these songs helped my through some hard times but also helped me celebrate good times. Because the process of writing a song can sometimes take weeks, you have these experiences floating around in your head for a long time, which in a way helps you to rationalise your feelings. I found the whole experience very therapeutic.”
After another huge year, Duncan has already got his eyes set on the next project as he looks to continue his prolific run. He concludes: “My plan is to (hopefully) finish creating another album, and start writing some classical music again – it’s been a while!”