Belfast musician Duke Special has revealed he no longer believes singer/songwriters need to have tortured souls to write good music.
The star, who recently announced he is to return to Belfast’s Empire Music Hall for a series of intimate gigs this year, added that the element of fame can ruin an artist’s credibility.
Duke, 42, added: “I think it’s completely a myth that you have to be a lost soul to make great music. I think I used to believe that to an extent and that you had to be out of control in order to be poetic. Now I believe there’s nothing poetic about lying in a gutter or hating yourself, it’s not poetic it’s just a waste.
“Often as a musician or as a performer you work very hard to try and have a voice to be on peoples radar, to have an outlet for your music and then along comes with that all kinds of shite that basically isn’t anything to do with your original intention.
“There’s people who’s personal lives and I guess how they have used their fame has become what they are known for.
“I went to see a band at Glastonbury a few years ago and the singer was known for his drug use and I was pre-disposed not to like it but I was absolutely blown away and thought he wrote great poetry and the music was absolutely brilliant.
“I think for me it’s hard to distinguish between someones work and what they choose to do and how they use what the work has brought them, it makes me sad actually and it feels like a waste.”Known to family and friends as Peter Wilson, Duke, said he feels there is an onus on artists to produce music that is emotive as well as entertaining.
“As a performer on a stage you need to own the stage, people are there because you are in the spotlight and you shouldn’t apologise for that” said Duke.
“I think there are some performers who’s whole life is consumed by their passion to perform and to communicate something, Van Morrison is an example, I remember reading somewhere that he said he wanted to be immersed in the river of artists
that had gone before him like Ray Charles and that’s his focus when he’s writing music.
“The trick is to find a way of saying something that is universal but is highly personal as well, otherwise you can’t sing it and mean it.
“I think like poetry you’re trying to find a new metaphor or a new turn of phrase to articulate something that is as old as the mountains, you’re trying to make people look at things in a very different way, what you’re trying to do in a song is to move people, to make them feel something.
“I think it was Elvis Costello who said ‘as a songwriter that’s your job, is to make people feel something’.”
Duke, who has been dubbed ‘a musical poet and story-teller’ by many critics, said he looks to artists such as Leonard Cohen for inspiration.
Speaking on Sky Arts documentary Jim Morrison: Rock Poet Duke added: “There’s something about words and music that when the two are brought together theres an alchemy that happens that is more powerful than both.“People like Leonard Cohen, who’s poetry I started reading recently, is an example. When music is added to his words they take on a greater level of meaning and impact.
“In my music if it had any over arching theme it comes from one of his own lyrics comes from the idea that every crack can let light in.”
And for Duke, he believes poetry is at the very core of all song-writing.
He said: “Poetry often is about the rhythm and the rhythms that that creates and sometime I don’t mind the fact that I have absolutely no idea about what this guys saying but I find the rhythm of the words really moving.
“There are people who are probably poets who want to communicate something and the music is just like the most useful vehicle at the time to try and do that.
“I think that something every artist tries to do is to develop their own voice their own unique way of saying things.
“Sometimes poetry does it for me, sometimes its a repeated line which is used in the rhythm of it which perfectly captures an emption or a feeling.
Rock n Roll and pop music are seen as a less worthy art form, but I think it’s all grown up now – it’s not going to go away, it’s not a flash in the pan but I think there’s so much amazing music out there which is in the broad rock n roll genre which is articulate, poetic, wise, deep, lasting.”
Duke Special plays Belfast’s Empire Music Hall in the first of a series of intimate shows on Wednesday February 27 themed around his hit album Songs From The Deep Forest.
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