Rising star: Blair Dunlop on politics, style, and Erik Lamela
Aged 26, Blair Dunlop already has three albums under his belt. He tells us why number four – Notes From An Island – will be his most revealing record to date
How did you first get into music?
I come from a musical family, so I grew up in a house full of instruments. My mum always sang to me when I was young, so it was normal to express yourself in that way. Then, as soon as I started taking guitar seriously, it was game over.
What’s been the most surreal moment / experience of your journey so far?
Probably last May when I went on tour with a great American singer called Aoife O'Donovan. She's not a household name but she's one of my absolute heroes so to share a stage with her was a dream come true. Awards and accolades come and go, but I feel it's all about creative stimulation.
What’s your favourite part of the musical and creative process?
For me it's that feeling when you finish a song that you're really proud of. I do love playing live, especially sharing the stage with great musicians and friends, but I get the most satisfaction from writing.
Tell us about Notes From An Island...
On one level it's a very personal record, easily my most revealing so far, but it also has a strong thread of social commentary running through it. I suppose it's reconciling the personal and national confusion from the last couple of years. I feel that my own personal anxieties were eerily reflected in the wider political discourse and so this record is a product of that.
I feel more comfortable painting a picture or posing a question than preaching an overtly divisive standpoint
How did your politics inform this album?
Of course, as there is an element of social commentary, my politics have informed some of the songs. It is just that, though, a commentary. I feel far more comfortable painting a picture or posing a question than preaching an overtly divisive standpoint. Some may see that as an abstention of sorts but I just feel that it's conducive to better art. Issues in my personal life have certainly informed my politics, though, and I'm learning more about my beliefs with every passing day.
Are there any artists you’d love to collaborate with?
There are so many, and I've been fortunate enough to already work with some very inspiring people. If I had to choose one right now, I'd probably say Anais Mitchell. She's a a true poet.
Which other emerging artists should we be looking out for?
There's a guy who opened for me at my last London show called Rory Butler, he's very special. The main support for that tour was a girl called Brooke Sharkey, she's also incredible. They're both beautiful people, too. I think that comes through in their songs.
If I need to calm myself, meditation works very well for me. Rock'n'roll
When it comes to style, what are your favourite labels/designers – and why do you like them?
I love Italian styling, though, more recently, that's been more applicable to the Automotive sphere (see: Horacio Pagani and Pininfarina). Nowadays, I'm more likely to be found flying the Union Jack in Oliver Spencer with a splash of Penhaligon's. In terms of high street labels, I love Reiss. Classic and versatile.
Do you have any piece of gear – watch, bag, etc – you couldn’t live without?
My best mate Hamza got me a black Mulberry satchel a few years ago and I love that. It's the perfect size for cabin luggage, which is very handy as a traveling musician. To say I couldn't live without it, though, would be an overstatement!
Where is your favourite place to perform?
A tie between Australia and Italy. Australia for the broader appreciation of roots music, Italy for the food and football.
How do you work up to a performance? Any habits or superstitions?
I don't have any superstitions as such, at least none that I know of. I love to have a noodle on the guitar backstage to get warmed up, but I imagine that's standard procedure. If I need to calm myself, meditation works very well for me. Rock'n'roll.
What are your ambitions for 2018 and beyond?
1. Enjoy the new album. The hard work is done, I just want to enjoy its release and the subsequent tour.
2. Write the next album.
3. Meet Erik Lamela. Don't ask.