Born in Glasgow in 1989, the son of two classical musicians, C Duncan has been surrounded by music his entire life. As a child Christopher learned to play piano and viola and later, as he came into his teens and started playing in school bands, he took up the guitar, bass, and drums. However, his fascination with the composition and performance of classical music was not to be quelled, and he eventually enrolled in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. There Chris studied music composition and produced work that has been performed by various musical ensembles across the UK. Nevertheless, he returned to writing pop music and signed with FatCat Records in 2013.
C Duncan’s music is intricately crafted out of the artist’s diverse influences – his classical background intertwines with his contemporary influences, creating an entirely unique sound. The artist’s releases so far are reflective of that, with his debut album “Architect”, submerging the listener into an ethereal combination of choral harmonies, acoustic instrumentation, and electronic inflections, veering into dream-pop territory but never quite stopping there, proving Christopher’s ability to transcend genre, or even to synthesize his own. This ability is further solidified in C Duncan’s sophomore album “The Midnight Sun”, in which he pursues a more electronic direction, while maintaining his organic approach to songwriting. His references span broadly across the musical spectrum, putting The Knife alongside with The Carpenters, Burt Bacharach, and Arvo Pärt.
To this date, all of C Duncan’s repertoire has been composed, arranged and recorded using his Glasgow bedroom studio setup. Layer upon layer, Chris lovingly assembles his musical pieces, building them to their breadth, letting his classical training surface. Apart from being a musician, C Duncan is also an accomplished painter, exhibiting his work throughout Scotland. The cover art to his records are his own paintings, lending his work with sonic and visual cohesion all throughout.
Since releasing his first single “For” in 2015, Christopher Duncan has accumulated a solid fan base, fueled by the support of the press and radio — ranging from rave reviews from publications such as the Guardian, NME, Les Inrockuptibles to two of his singles being featured on BBC Radio 6 Music’s A-list and extensive attention from the likes of Lauren Laverne, Radcliffe and Maconie, Huw Stephens, Steve Lamacq among others. In November 2015, it was announced that “Architect” was nominated for a Mercury Prize, increasingly steering attention towards C Duncan. In February 2016, he released an EP of four previously unreleased tracks and went on to successfully tour the UK and Europe, which included a sold-out headline show at London’s Union Chapel.
Currently, C Duncan is preparing for a multitude of festivals he will be playing at during the 2016 festival season in the UK and Europe, including Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Festival No. 6, Electric Fields, Positivus Festival and more.
Learn more C. Duncan in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Now that we are well into the fall of 2016, what are some words you would use to describe this year? What have been some of the highlights for you and your music?
This year so far has been exciting, crazy, busy and a little bit surreal. One of the biggest highlights this year has been the amount of traveling I’ve done. Over summer alone I was in France, Netherlands, Norway (in the arctic circle!), Sweden, Latvia, Los Angeles, and I am currently in Barcelona! The most recent highlight has been releasing my new record and getting to play it live.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
In some way I knew from a very young age that music would be a very large part of my life. My earliest musical memory was when I was 6 I played on my neighbors piano, and from then on I got music lessons and as a teen started to record music. As I reached the end of school I knew that I wanted to spend my life making music.
You recently released your album, “The Midnight Sun.” Can you talk about the inspiration behind this collection? How is it different or similar then anything else that you’ve put out? What about then your previous album, “Architect”?
The Midnight Sun is loosely inspired by The Twilight Zone. It is quite different to Architect as it is a lot more electronic in sound. Although there is the same feel for melody and harmony in both albums, The Midnight Sun has taken on a different style than my previous work and is a lot more coherent and personal.
I’d love to know more about your paintings. How does your music compare to your art? How are they in line with each other or are they very different? Do you think you enjoy doing one over the other?
I enjoy both disciplines as much as each other. They are both very different so I get a lot out of each – when I’m not making music I paint, and vice versa. When making albums I have a strong idea in my head of what the album artwork will be so my music often takes on the same vibe stylistically, and often the locations of my paintings feed off the music I am making.
When I’m not recording I work on a lot of different ideas for album artwork and I usually pick a painting that sums up where I’m at, then as I’m recording I paint more in that style so I have a few to choose from then I usually pick the most personal painting for the album artwork.
Who are some of your favorite artists and what bands continue to inspire you all and your music? Who would you still love to work with in the future?
I am really inspired by a lot of artists and composers. Mostly Maurice Ravel, The Cocteau Twins, Burt Bacharach, Bjork, Thundercat, Beach House, Michel Legrand and Olivier Messiaen (amongst many many more).
When you aren’t performing, working in the studio, what do you like to do for fun? How do you all unwind from it all?
I usually like to travel, cook, hang out with friends, drink Belgian beer, do crosswords, read… I’m also partial to a bit of badminton.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
The whole reason I make music is to bring enjoyment to others whilst expressing myself. Music should be for everyone as it’s one of the big joys in life and I guess I want people to be able to connect to my songs on some level.