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Declan McKenna: 'There is no one normal in our family. We were given a license to live our own lives'

Singer thrilled to welcome his Irish family to shows


Declan McKenna (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Declan McKenna (Andrew Milligan/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

Declan McKenna (Andrew Milligan/PA)

RISING star Declan McKenna has been creating waves on the global music scene ever since winning Glastonbury Festival's emerging talent competition at the age of 16.

British-born of Irish descent, 21-year-old McKenna, who has just released his new album, Zeros, is being hailed as the Bob Dylan for today's generation, and the new Bowie - tags he bats away.

He sees himself as simply a singer and songwriter with his own quirky style, although there's no denying the David Bowie influence in his music.

"Everyone is unusual in my family," Declan tells Shuffle this week in a phone interview from his London pad. "I mean, my parents are quite eccentric. I'm the youngest of six kids, and we're all kind of very different.

"There is no one normal in my family. We are all kind of doing our own little weird things. It's nice, that's just the nature of my family.

"I think my parents taught us a lot in terms of the way they encouraged us to find what really makes us happy and not being a family that was focused on having to do well in exams.

"It's always been something that I appreciated, and I've come to appreciate it more and more as I've got older and realised that, wow!, my parents gave me so much liberty to do what I wanted to do.

"At 16, I was going around talking to people from record labels and coming home at eight or nine at night reporting back to my parents about what I was doing. They were probably a bit like, 'what is going on here?' But they've always given us a licence to live our own lives."

McKenna, whose grandparents from Cork and Cavan emigrated to England, says he's always had a close connection with Ireland, visiting relatives here with his family on summer holidays growing up.

"I spent a lot of time in Ireland growing up, driving around to see cousins," Declan recalls. "We did a three week tour once where we went and met all of our cousins, and had 7 Up and ham sandwiches in every house!

"We still go back to Ireland fairly regularly and have our cousins come over. It's still quite a close connection, even though all my grandparents have since passed away. My parents are definitely proud to be Irish. Me and my brother played Gaelic football. But it was very much an English household as well."

Since launching his music career, McKenna has played Dublin, Belfast and the Electric Picnic a couple of times. He's looking forward to his first gig in Cork, which take place in Cyprus Avenue next April.

"I've actually never played in Cork, despite having a higher concentration of family there. It's always funny having family on the guest list, so we'll see how many we can fit in. I believe it's the last show on our tour, so it will be a great party. My mum and dad are going to come over as well."

His new album, Zeros, which includes the hit single, Daniel Is Still A Child, has been ready to go for months, but was pushed back due to Covid19.

"Initially we had to take the time out while the world was figuring out what was going on," Declan says. "The main issue right now is not knowing when people are going to be able to get back to their normal lives.

"Someone like me can keep working and keep doing things from home and people will engage with it, and I know that's what will happen. Unfortunately not everyone is in that position.

"I like to think that, hopefully, the human race will soon go back to enjoying having places to do things, because I think that is important rather than doing work, sleep, everything in the same environment."

DECLAN McKenna's new album, Zeros, is out now.

Irish Independent