At 22, Donovan is already crafting the sound of the futureRYAN SARADJOLA

Originating from Harlow, Essex, Declan J Donovan launched into the UK music scene with the first track he ever wrote, “Fallen So Young”. After amassing a following on Soundcloud in 2017, he has released several spellbinding singles over the last few years. In 2018, he featured at BBC Music’s Biggest Weekend as an unsigned artist, appearing alongside, among others, Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, and Florence + The Machine. At only 22 years of age, his lyrics are searingly honest, crafted with wisdom and fragility. Despite claiming to be a fairly introverted person, Donovan undoubtedly thrives in the extraverted climate of a live gig. His unique voice sets him apart as one of the rising stars of the UK pop scene.

“They’re my absolute favourite songs to write. When my personal story becomes so many other people’s stories, that’s the best scenario possible”

Donovan’s most recent release, “Before You Let Me Go”, is a tale of heartbreak and the quest for closure. Having started writing the song about three years ago, it always felt unfinished. The song was sidelined until he later listened back to the track, when it resonated with new meaning. After rewriting some parts and uploading teasers on Instagram and TikTok, the song resonated with his fanbase too.

Donovan talks about a recent release, 2020′s “Perfectly Imperfect”, a true testament to his voice, a mellifluous blend of power and sensitivity. “It’s a song that came out of nowhere and has this amazing story to it that connected with so many people”, he muses. Donovan relates how songwriting is about sharing stories. He explains, “if you can relate to it, then it becomes your story and that’s what it’s all about. They’re my absolute favourite songs to write. When my personal story becomes so many other people’s stories, that’s the best scenario possible.”

Donovan cites City and Colour, John Mayer, and Nick Wilson as influencesINSTAGRAM / DECLANJDONOVAN

During lockdown, Donovan composed over 100 songs and is excited to share his latest music with the world. He mentions the struggles of lockdown, both on a personal and professional level. He says, “To begin with, I quite enjoyed it because I was able to just chill, see my family and work on my music and stuff. I remember the first three months of lockdown, I was writing with all my mates on Zoom which was cool. Then the novelty starts to wear off and you’re like, ‘I just want to get back to touring and seeing people.’” At times, there was a constant pressure to write the next song when every day felt the same. “Everyone was writing the same sorts of songs. I need to do something, go somewhere as soon as this eases up. I need to go and get my heart broken.”

When asked, “What is the greatest piece of advice to musicians and artists who are struggling during this global health crisis?” Donovan responded, “you’ve got to really dedicate your life to it, especially if you want it as your job.” He describes how this lifestyle is marked by a relentless pursuit of opportunities. He continues, “You will get into the rhythm of things so just keep going and keep running with it. It’s about writing songs every day, and, even if the songs are terrible, keep persevering. It’s about creating your own opportunities: even the bad days are part of the story.”

YOUTUBE / DECLAN J DONOVAN

When asked about his inspirations, he cites City and Colour, who have greatly inspired his guitar playing. More recently, John Mayer has also had an influence on his sound. He also mentions his friend Nick Wilson, who he believes is an underrated artist that more people should listen to.


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So what are the plans for the future? In addition to his London tour in June 2021, Donovan’s been exploring writing for DJs, so it’s possible that we’ll hear the fruits of this in the coming year. He says that there are so many new songs that he wants to release. Donovan’s voice is uplifting, with a gift for translating tales of life, love, and loss into universal anthems. His mix of euphoric pop anthems coupled with his delicate lyricism is certainly resonating with people on a wider scale, as “Perfectly Imperfect” has accumulated over 36 million plays on Spotify.

We’re hoping he’ll add Cambridge to the tour list next...