26 year old Dutch artist Duncan Laurence‘s story is one that every aspiring young musician dreams of. As a kid growing up in Hellevoetsluis, The Netherlands (with a population of 40,049), Laurence found solace in the healing power of music, hiding out from the bullies that tormented him at school for his love of singing, his interest in theatre, and his desire to make art. Flash forward a few years and even an Eurovision Song Contest win in 2019, and now, he’s hoping that listeners can find comfort and solace in his recently released debut album, Small Town Boy.
With Small Town Boy out now, we caught up with Laurence to talk about his start in music, the writing and recording process of the album, and his plans for the future. Read the full interview now below.
Prelude Press: You just celebrated the release of your debut album, Small Town Boy last month! What are you most excited for fans to hear on the album?
Duncan Laurence: I hope people will listen to the album and connect with their favourite songs. There’s a lot of different flavours on the album. But since it’s my first album and since I’ve been working on it for quite a while, I actually really like how cohesive and diverse the album sounds. There’s something in it for everyone. Well, if you like emotional, heartfelt music of course, haha. I hope they hear me, in the lyrics and the stories. The lyrics are very personal.
Small Town Boy is not only a nod to your hometown, but also your start in music at a young age. What inspired you to first start writing and performing?
I wanted to have a way to express myself. At school there was no way, I was bullied a lot. I couldn’t be myself. All that negativity I took home and locked myself up in my room. I would play my piano and write songs. It was a way to dump all that negativity into melodies, chords, lyrics and turn it into beautiful songs. I could be myself, make mistakes and tell my own stories, in a safe world, created by music.
If you could give any message to your younger self now, as an artist who just released their first album on a major label, what would it be?
Just stay true to who you are and keep doing what you’re doing already. But also, give it time. Don’t be afraid to give things time. Things will get better. I know you’re feeling sad a lot, but there will be better days. Sometimes I wish I could transport that small town boy with me to the here and now and show him that it’s all going to be great. To show him that the dream he holds onto so tightly, and the world he’s creating around himself through music, transforms into such a beautiful career that impacts people all over the world.
It being your debut album, Small Town Boy will be many listeners’ first introduction to you and your music. What would you like for new fans to take away from the album?
I hope new fans that listen to the album will find a little bit of themselves in the songs. The lyrics are so personal, but that’s how I like my songs. I hope they’ll listen to it and think, “hey I can really relate to this artist… I know what he’s going through because I am too. If he overcame his fears, so can I”.
I wanted to produce my own songs, at least a couple of songs on the album, and I did. I started producing my own music when I was stuck in my boyfriend’s apartment in Los Angeles. Like everyone else back then, I had so much time all of a sudden. I thought, what better way to spend it then on learning how to produce. It really gives me so much freedom as an artist, to not only be able to express myself in lyrics and melodies but also through production.
You’ve mentioned that the writing and recording process of the album was very freeing, as you were able to write, produce and arrange all of your music – how do you feel you’ve grown as a musician throughout that process?
I started listening to music in a different way. The story is what music is really about to me and I have learned to appreciate that. I feel that the core of every song is the story or meaning behind its lyrics. The melody, the chords, everything should be in sync, never distracting from what the singer is telling you. At least, that’s how I like my music. Before, I could sometimes get lost in a piano arrangement, in adding too many instruments. Now I always put the story first.
Did you learn any important lessons while working on the album?
I did. The biggest one was based on the way that I write my songs, heartfelt, emotional and sad, but always with a little bit of hope in them. It made me realise that is also how I view life. Sometimes, the world can be sad, but there’s always something positive to find- a little ray of sunlight through the dark grey clouds.
With Small Town Boy out now, do you have any other exciting plans lined up for the rest of the year?
There are a lot of things happening at the moment. This Friday I’ll be releasing my first ever duet with the beautiful and talented Fletcher. I’m so thrilled for that. Also, we’re currently working on a video for Feel Something, my other single with Armin van Buuren. And of course I’m already making plans for other videos, new music, my second album and even Eurovision next year, where I will appear as a guest artist.