With the festival season in full flow, T in the Park – although as muddy as a duck puddle – certainly did not disappoint. With Saturday headliner Calvin Harris less than an hour away, a friend and I stumbled upon (literally, after a few cans of Tennent’s) a smaller stage on the way to the main Arena. An inconspicuous tent, it played host to many less prominent names in the musical scene than the stages in the main arena. Ranging from amateur groups who just enjoy the feel of performing on a stage to up-and-coming artists, warming up before later appearances at the festival alongside elevating their musical prestige. Towards the end of the night, a young Scot named Declan Welsh took to the stage, equipped with nothing more than his good self and a recently rented acoustic guitar from the local music shop – the box in which it was delivered still visible at the back of the stage.
Hailing from the Town of East Kilbride, south of Glasgow, Welsh stood out on the stage from the get-go. After some casual talk with the small, yet captivated, crowd – he began his set. Warming up the crowd with a couple of covers – including a brilliant cover of Pulp’s Common People – Welsh then began playing songs he’d written himself. Instantly catchy, with his thick Scottish accent standing out, Welsh’s songs were a hit with the crowd. His song writing, as well as spoken word, tends to focus towards commentary on his life as a youngster in Scotland, from nights out to social persona, and everything in between. No doubt, his brilliant and idiosyncratic style was well suited to the younger festival audience that had also neglected the headline acts to hear his performance. Welsh’s presence has not gone unnoticed in the musical world; his experience already boasts touring with acts such as The Proclaimers, Glasvegas and Squeeze.
As long as everyone’s enjoying themselves, you’re alright
After the appearance on the smaller stage, I spoke to the man himself. Welsh seemed a down to earth, well-mannered guy who was to appear on the T Break stage later on in the weekend, and let me know about his recent debut EP Alright. Setting myself down to listen for the first time, the EP took me straight back to the brilliant memories of the smaller stage. The title track Alright is an upbeat, instantly catchy viewpoint on the events of a night out. From the music in the club to confrontation with the bouncers, the song describes how night outs – from the outside – appear unpleasant. But, as so often is the case with Exeter nightlife, ‘as long as everyone is enjoying themselves, you’re alright.’ Welsh’s natural and accentuated vocals, coupled with a great band performance and insightful lyrics capture an exciting listen to start the EP. The realness of his vocals in particular, coupled with an honest spoken narrative, create a raw and vivid mood which underlies his music well.
Amsterdam is a deeper, rock heavy listen with a punchy bassline; a different composition to the previous track. However, the vocals cut through the track and stand out, describing Welsh’s visit to the Dutch capital and how the culture has become awash with Island holiday behaviour. His experience of the city engulfs the composition, painting a vivid picture of an appealing culture trip that has been diluted by ‘British themed coffee shops’ and ‘nightclubs blaring dubstep’. She’s From Bearsden is yet another change in tone to previous songs. A relaxed, acoustic number – echoing back to my first exposure to Welsh’s music in the middle of that muddy field in Perthshire – describes romance across class barriers, social standing and educational background. Although as he puts it ‘less pretentiously, fancying one of they posh folk you hear about.’
A nuclear Weapon aimed at the Hollister menswear section.
Lads, a spoken word poem, concludes the EP. Through perfectly fluent verse, Welsh provides a no holds barred comment on lad culture as a whole, and his clear contempt for it. A well written, clear cut track, Welsh describes it as ‘a nuclear weapon aimed at the Hollister menswear session. Or anyone who plays Rugby in uni.’ Whether you agree with his view or not, his honesty and unshackled descriptions are refreshing and tell an all familiar story of a social group who are often the centre of attention. Throughout the EP in particular, the brutally honest lyricism from Welsh stands out and carries a stimulating song writing style with ease. Alright is an exciting insight into what the young musician is capable of, and I am certainly captured by his style. Bright times are certainly ahead for this talented wordsmith. If he sticks to what I have heard on the EP, he should reach a greater audience who will undoubtedly be as gripped as I am for what’s in store. This release is certainly better than ‘Alright’.
Declan is available to listen to on Spotify, Soundcloud, YouTube and Bandcamp.