CDtimes meets… Duke Special

The Northern-Irish songwriter tells us more about his burgeoning career and his future plans for his unusual blend of music.

So far you’ve released two EPs as Duke Special. Is this an easier format for you to release your songs in or is it a financial move?

We originally recorded these songs as demos to use to send to labels but they turned out so well we decided to release them ourselves! I guess an EP is also a safer option for someone coming to the music new to try it out and see if they like it. Having done the last 2 records as EPs it kinda feels weird to be doing a full length album now but i am looking forward to it.

Your music is a complicated mix to describe.

I don’t intend it to be complicated, just interesting. The piano and a sense of melody come naturally to me but i want the arrangements and the instrumentation to evoke this other world when people are listening to the songs. I dont want the music to apologise for itself or try and sound like anything else. I love the melodic sense of people like Mark Hollis or the Blue Nile and the drama of Nick Cave and Tom Waits and the mysticism of Van Morrison, the honesty of Eliott Smith, the poetry of Dylan and Bruce Cockburn, the voice of Aimee Mann, there’s so much out there to discover isn’t there!

Your arrangements are very intricate. Do you strip them down for live performances or re-arrange them?

I am very happy for the songs to wear a different skin live than on record, i like the freedom to be able to perform a full band recorded song solo on the piano live or to add more layers than was on the recorded version.

You’ve been opening for major artists which means the audience is not always the most receptive.

Generally its been going great playing to other peoples’ audiences. Most have been pretty approriate to what I do anyway. probably the most difficult was opening for Maroon 5 in Dublin, all the girls there just really wanted them on stage! A certain streak in me actually enjoys having to really work to win an audience, though i am looking forward to playing lots of shows where i can let my guard down a bit too!

Mark Boydell

Updated: Apr 23, 2005

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