C Duncan is back and releasing his third album Health on March 29th. It’s a deeply personal, mesmerising and (a couple of tracks excepted) lush affair. On his search for clarity and more a spacious sound, he has let old habits fall aside with a move away from his DIY roots to collaborate with Elbow’s Craig Potter.
With your new album coming out at the end of March you must be looking forward to seeing how it’s received?
Yeah absolutely, it’s been a while since I last released one. I’d forgotten how nerve racking it all was.
How has it been for you, the jump from DIY bedroom producer to working in a professional studio, with somebody else having a say in your work and how it progresses?
Yeah it’s been great, I was slightly apprehensive at first as I’d only ever worked alone and it was a strange idea to go into a studio. I guess I kinda wanted to up my game a bit and certainly, in terms in sound, there is only so much I can do at home. I thought the logical thing to do was to go into the studio and it just completely changed everything. The songs, I had already recorded demos before I went in. They were all there but it’s what we actually did with them, the sounds we chose. The bits we left out was the biggest thing for me. Whenever I record I kind of throw everything into a track and it becomes very blurred and very mushy but with this record I was quite adamant that I didn’t want that. To have someone to omit certain sounds and some parts that just aren’t needed and to have these sorts of discussions was really eye opening and really really helpful.
How was it working with Craig Potter, how did that all come together? Did you approach him?
I went on tour with Elbow around the UK about a year and a half ago and then out to the US about a year ago and got to know them really well. They’re such a friendly band and I became pally with them. I’d got talking to Craig about production and we were both discussing what he does and it was there that I thought that actually he would be the correct person to work with. We have a lot in common musically and he could see what I wanted to do with the record, along with the skills to get the clarity I wanted.
Most of the tracks, there’s a lot of space in there, definite headphone tracks. While others seem more geared towards being good for radio.
Whenever we were listening to the tracks we switched between hundreds of different speakers and one of the ones we used was a little mono Bose one that you put your iphone in, we would listen to quite a lot of that. On the radio they get compressed so it was in the back of my mind that if it sounded good on that, it would make a good single and come across well on the radio.
Having worked by yourself for so long I’d guess you would have developed routines and ways of getting yourself to work and keep progressing. How was it to break away from that?
It was great, everything was kind of recorded at home and I’d demoed it to the same standard as the last few records. I had already got into my new routine of getting up in the morning picking up the guitar and hitting record. But then going down to the studio we re-recorded it and rejigged things around. I’d never been in a studio before so for an extended period of time I didn’t know how things would be structured or how much I would need to perform and re-learn tracks. But after the first couple of days Craig had already worked out exactly what we had to do and when.
Was it a comforting having that kind of guidance?
Yeah totally, it put me at ease
So, what would you like listeners to take away from the album?
I’d like to think it’s a step up sonically from the last one and much more direct lyrically. Previously I’ve hidden behind lots of effects and vocals and reverb, you can’t really hear what I’m singing about. But this time around, because it’s quite sparse, you can hear a lot more. Listeners can relate to it more I guess as you can hear what I’m singing about for once. I guess that’s the main goal and I hope people enjoy it.
What about the narrative side of things? Is there anything in particular you want people to come away from it with?
Well it’s a very personal record… love and loss and all these sorts of things… frustration and also joy. I guess that it’s quite vague and not just one thing throughout like the second album. Every track has its own little story going on.
You have your tour coming up as well. How are you going to translate the album to a live setting?
This one is more translatable to live as there are more live elements on the record. There won’t be as much arranging or sorting things out as with previous records. It’s been quite exciting going to the rehearsal studios and just play it.
Health will be released on FatCat Records, March 29th