Declan McKenna: “If I wasn’t going to be Robbie Keane, I wanted to work in music”
Wed 09 September 2020, 19:08|Tottenham Hotspur
From heroes to Zeros... Declan McKenna may not have made it as the next Robbie Keane, but the Spurs fan is making musical strides another hero, David Bowie, would be proud of.
Born just up the road from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in Cheshunt, Declan swapped dreams of wearing the number 10 shirt for a life in music aged 16. Five years later, still only 21, he has a huge hit album, 2017’s What Do You Think About The Car, countless gigs and festivals - including Glastonbury - under his belt, and he has critics purring over his latest long-player, Zeros, released on Friday and currently number one in the midweek album charts.
Music and Spurs, two strands of life that bring so many people together and in terms of Spurs, it’s family all the way for Declan, from following in the footsteps of his own family to White Hart Lane in the mid-2000s, to the unity he feels every time he steps out at the new stadium...
“There are a lot of Spurs fans in the area we grew up in, and I grew up in a Spurs household,” he told us. “We’ve gone to games my whole life, my brothers had season tickets when I was very young, and we still have them now. It’s my whole life. It’s five minutes on the train to Tottenham. We always get to the games as much as possible.
“I think my first game was either Chelsea or Leicester. I was very young. I think it was on Fireworks Night, and we won. I think we beat Chelsea (we think it must have been the 2-1 win on 5 November, 2006). I remember that quite vividly. It’s a very overwhelming experience, the first time you go and are part of that atmosphere, especially at such a young age. I loved it, and it’s nice to see how that translates into the new stadium these days, that’s wicked.”
Declan has seen the Club’s rise back to the top echelons of English football, reach the Champions League Final in 2019 and proudly call home one of the best stadiums in the world.
“We had some great players when I was growing up,” he added. “Ledley King and Robbie Keane were hugely impactful players for me in my childhood. From there, we’ve harvested some of the world’s best players, multiple times over, and managed to get ourselves into positions that we didn’t really feel optimistic about when I was growing up.
“There is a new-found optimism at Spurs. Even when we have ups and downs, it definitely feels like there has been a positive trajectory in the last few years. We’re a world-class club and we’ve proved ourselves on the world stage. That’s pretty wicked and not something that was natural to me as a Spurs fan growing up, so that’s cool.”
Declan on... getting into music
“Music has been a big part of my life since I was young. My brother had a little eight track recorder when I was maybe 13 and I kept borrowing that and recording my own music, because I’ve always written. The track Brazil got my music out to a lot of people. From that point, I was 15 going on 16, and since then I’ve been doing music full-time, travelling, playing gigs. It’s great, what I always wanted to do. If I wasn’t going to be Robbie Keane, I wanted to work in music if I could do it. I ended up starting quite young, I’m still quite young! But it’s five years now since I signed for Columbia, and it’s been non-stop since."
Declan on... belief
"Yes, that’s half the battle, being incessant, not just in getting music out there, but also in creating. That’s what it’s all about for me, making sure I’m always focussed on making the music I love and making music that connects. That’s important. I finished my GCSEs and I was playing at Glastonbury two weeks later! It was bizarre. It wasn’t like the Pyramid Stage or anything, but still getting to experience the festival for free as well at that age was pretty amazing! That was a significant part of the journey for me, doing that so early."
Declan on... Zeros
"There are a lot of glam rock influences, I’m a big Bowie head, in the years after he died I listened to a lot of his records again, and had a big phase listening to a lot of T. Rex and Bowie and stuff like that. The record has a lot of influences, modern indie bands that I really like, I wanted to record like a lot of the 1970s records I’ve listened to, Bob Dylan, where it’s just raw and you can feel yourself in the room, bands like The Pixies, where there is so much energy and you feel like you are thrown into the room they are playing in when you listen to the music. That’s what I wanted to do. It’s a modern band record, a modern, psychedelic, glammy record, but it’s not all big, expansive glam anthems like Be An Astronaut, but I did have a lot of fun making that because that’s the kind of music I listen to all the time, and tried to give my modern stamp on it."
Finally, what advice would you give budding Declan McKennas?
"Trust yourself, trust your impulses and instincts with music. Always be in your heart and thinking about what you are creating. Keep developing what you are doing, keep looking for the things you love in other artists and find how you can channel that yourself. Trust yourself. You get a lot of bad advice! A lot of the time your own instinct is right. So, trust yourself and find your own way of doing things, rather than listen too much to what people like me are saying! I do believe that is fundamental to being happy as a creator in any industry where you are constantly working towards something. That’s one thing I’ve really picked up over the last few years... sometimes I just should have just trusted what I thought in that particular instance."