Duncan Laurence: “I always dreamt of being an artist”
From Eurovision to taking the world by storm, Duncan Laurence has had a career not to be missed, though it hasn't always been easy for the singer-songwriter.
Since speaking to Duncan, the 26-year-old Dutch singer-songwriter is remaining to take on the world as he collaborates with singer Fletcher for a highly anticipated single 'Arcade'. Even with his hectic life, Vibez Music had a chance to ask him a few questions about the start of his career, his debut album 'Small Town Boy' and, what we can await from him next year, just before 2020 concludes.
With everything being a bit off-balance at the moment, Duncan explained he takes each day as it comes: "Life has been good, but different, especially during these weird times. It’s been a tough year for everyone with the pandemic and, the state of the world we are living in. Sometimes it can be a bit much, hard to see through the dark clouds. Luckily, there’s music the one thing that keeps me going, apart from the love for my loved ones."
Growing up in Hellevoetsluis, Duncan found solace in the power of music despite bullies who teased him for his passion for singing and theatre. Baring this in mind, Vibez Music asked him if he saw performing as a future career: "Oh, god no, but I dreamt of it. I dreamt of it a lot," he said.
"I can still remember my first performance. I was kind of scared to crawl up on the stage and sing my song and express myself. But, the moment I did it felt so exhilarating. I remember it really well. A room full of my bullies, an old grand piano and LED high school lights. Hmm. I feel a great concept for a video coming up."
“Anyway, I always dreamt of being an artist. Ever since that first performance. Ever since I felt that that was the only way I felt truly heard by people. Ever since I felt that telling stories through music was my calling in life."
After falling in love with music, Duncan joined The Rock Academy in Tilburg. Speaking about the academy, he said: "The Rock Academy has especially influenced me a lot as a musician and a human being. I felt safe within those walls. I finally found a place to thrive. Away from Hellevoetsluis, away from the bullies, away from all the negative stuff."
"It was a place where I could be myself, fall in love with whoever I wanted to, and develop myself as an artist. I wrote hundreds of songs there. I was constantly trying to improve my sound, my English and my voice,” He added.
Whilst working to sharpen his musical knowledge, Duncan has had the opportunity to play in a band (The Slick and Suited) and competing in The Voice. Duncan said, ”The one thing I learned from The Voice was staying true to who I am whilst being in such a big television production. It’s a circus: there is so much happening around you all the time. To me, it was about one thing and one thing only: making sure that I could perform as good as I wanted to, focusing on the story that I wanted to tell. Music first, always."
Despite all of Duncan’s life-changing experiences, which he is very grateful for, he admitted: "As a Dutch artist, it’s not easy to get an audience on a global level. Still, not a lot of Dutch artists have managed to make their music travel across our planet. I wanted that. But I kind of, had to find my own way in doing that, since the avenue for Dutch artists is much more narrow." Although, adds: "Things are getting easier these days because of streaming platforms that don’t have boundaries or territories per se."
Duncan, since The Voice and Eurovision, travelled the world before growing into a new sound that helped him produce his debut album 'Small Town Boy'. He said, “I started songwriting behind the scenes and developing my songwriting skills. I began creating a sound that felt more like me and my music. I spent my time meeting new people, going to new places and always stayed focused and busy. I needed to give my dream time. A lot of time."
With his debut album now in the hands of his fans, Duncan delves into a dense vision of love, hope and perseverance through an intense yet intimate project. Making his younger self proud, Duncan expresses his true self and admits: "It was really, important to me that I told personal stories throughout this album. I’ve always seen writing songs as a way of expressing how I feel, a platform to share my story. As people listen to the songs, I hope they can find a little bit of themselves in the lyrics and think ‘hey, I can really relate to this small-town dude from The Netherlands.’” Holding to his raw traits, Duncan examines the adventures he has encountered painted by the rich instrumentation of alternative rock with a splash of folk; swelling to a modern take on contemporary pop.
Whilst taking inspiration from Coldplay, Amy Winehouse and Sam Smith, Duncan eventually finds his own distinctive sound that led to the over-powering yet modest debut album. From writing and recording in some of the world's music meccas –– London to Stockholm –– Duncan admitted Los Angeles influenced him the most. "I spent a lot of time there during the ‘safer at home’ restrictions, which made it possible for me to start producing my own songs. So much creativity goes into production and, it was cool to be able to express myself through that avenue on top of writing lyrics and melodies." He adds: "If I had to choose one place I’d want as a home away from home, it would be LA. I love the attitude of the people, hard-working, but relaxed. In LA, no dream seems too big and, there’s always a way to get inspired."
From the understated acoustic ‘Beautiful’ to the heartbreaking story of ‘Arcade’, Duncan draws from special moments from his past. He goes on to say his favourite track to write and produce was 'Sleeping on The Phone’: "It was the first track that I wrote with my fiance, Jordan Garfield. Back then we were just, dating and, we didn’t know each other that well. I really feel like we got to know each other a lot more by opening up and writing songs about it."
He continued: "'Sleeping on The Phone' is about us missing each other and promising to always, be there. Even with a time difference between The Netherlands and LA. Even when we’re an ocean apart."
With a Eurovision win and a debut album to his name, Duncan hasn't found 2020 easy being in the public eye and just all-round being a human-being. He admits, "This year was the first time that I ever experienced panic attacks. I never had them before. But, due to the pandemic and the unpredictable state of the world, I sometimes feel a little bit lost." With a series of challenges Duncan has overcome, the artist has learnt over a hundred things. "Overcoming anxiety has been the hardest challenge of 2020. But I have learned how to be mindful of these struggles and get help managing them," he said. "But my favourite moment of 2020 was meeting the love of my life. Big contrasts in 2020, right?"
As we wrap the interview together, we had to find out what more Duncan has up his sleeve and he did not disappoint. "A second album!" he shouts. "I can't wait to write and release new songs. Also, I want to make a bunch of videos for album one." With live performances in faint sight, Duncan looks forward to performing again. "There are big plans for Eurovision next year too, where I will appear as a guest artist."
Even with the eyes of flashing cities watching him, Duncan is still that little boy with a dream. "I think the most important thing for me though, above all, is to focus on my health, my music and my loved ones."