Declan McGarry

"For me, hope was never really a strategy," says the 26-year-old singer and songwriter Declan McGarry. "It was in my upbringing that sitting around hoping something would happen wasn't going to bring you anything. When I realized that, it changed my whole approach." For McGarry, that new approach meant leaving dreams of pop stardom laid stagnant in Los Angeles, Nashville and Memphis, and going back to his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, to embark on an ambitious business plan to build a music career from the ground up and on his own terms. His new self-titled record, released on his own LT Records, is only the first stage of that plan coming to fruition, but it's the culmination of 10 years of a love of songs and songwriting.
 
How do you describe your music to people, Declan?
My music is a celebration of folk meets rock meets heartland meets country. It touches on everyday life and existentialism. It's truly a description of who I am. There are days when I'll live inside my head (which can be a dark and scary place!) and I'll write a song like "Angels on the Billboards" or "Headlights Glow" which deal with heavier themes. Then there are days when I'll be in the moment and write songs about loving life like "Since We're All Here Tonight" and "Summers of My Life". I can't just write a straightforward pop record with the same songs over and over again because that is not who I am. I have many different identities and I think a good record should reflect that.


Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
I started "writing" songs from an early age. I did not know at the time that I was writing songs. I was simply singing whatever came into my head. I guess I began actively crafting songs when I was about 14. I loved the feeling that I could create something that might actually reach people in the way that other songs had reached me. I also loved singing and being on stage. Performance has always been a passion of mine.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
My favorite thing to do in the whole world is to perform on a stage in front of a captivated audience. There is no greater justification of my existence then having strangers be moved by something I created and am personally sharing with them. The stage is a place of refuge. It is my temple where I go to answer questions about who I am and what my purpose is. And when I enter that temple rather than being received by a wise old monk, there is a room full of people (hopefully!) who provide me with the answers to my questions.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
There are many challenges to running my business. The hardest challenge from a business standpoint is marketing. You can have a great product and a great salesman or woman (namely the artist) but without the right marketing outlet you will never reach your intended audience. From a personal standpoint the biggest challenge is figuring out what to do next. There is no formula. Sometimes it is hard to go through your day wondering what else you can be doing to improve your chances of success and not having the answers. There is no roadmap. We all like to lay our heads down at night knowing we put in our eight hours of work and being able to look back on our day and see our accomplishments. Some days just aren't like that for us in the music business. You have to constantly be looking for that next opportunity. And the days when you have small victories should be celebrated because you don't know when the next one is coming.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I had many aspirations as a kid. My earliest dream when I was about 5 years old was to be a singing-garbage man. I should point out that the reason I wanted to be a garbage man was not because I had a fixation with garbage removal. We had garbage trucks that had platforms on the back for the two guys to stand on while the truck was moving. They'd jump off at every driveway and throw the garbage in the truck then jump back on. I thought it looked like so much fun to ride on the back of the truck! I had many other dreams growing up but each one was accompanied by me being a singer. A singing-veterinarian. A singing-baker at one point (not sure why I wanted to be a baker since I had no skills regarding this occupation other than an insatiable appetite for baked goods). But when I hit 10 or 11 years old I dropped the suffix and just went with singer. That was my dream from then on.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
I grew up in Winnipeg MB Canada. It is a good sized city (650,000) in the middle of "nowhere" Canada. We are fairly isolated. So whenever someone displayed a unique set of skills the community rallied around them. This meant I was blessed with a very supportive group of friends who encouraged me to believe in myself. Ironically, my biggest musical influences came from the US. So I decided that that was where I really wanted to launch my career. I moved to Nashville June 2009 and haven't look back since. The influence Nashville has had on me in the last year has been tremendous. There is so much talent in this city that it forces you to step your game up in order to be noticed.

What other artists out there do you love?
It takes a lot for me to fall in love with an artist. I respect what a lot of artists are doing even if I don't really care for their music. Often I'll like one or two songs of an artist and that's it. The thing is, most music does not have a profound affect on me. I watch friends go to concerts and revel in every song and I get jealous sometimes because I don't feel the music the way they do. But when a song hits me it hits HARD! As a kid I would listen to the same song over and over for hours on end. It was like a drug. I would just never get tired of it. And I connected in such a way that it made me see the world as more than it appears to be. I'm constantly chasing that spiritual high.

That said I do have a few favorites. I love Bruce Springsteen. I could listen to some of his songs day in and day out. Other favorites are Jackson Browne and Neil Young and Tom Petty. I do listen to a lot of newer music. I've been listening to a lot of "newer" music like David Gray and Ryan Adams lately.

What does your future hold?
I love this question because it gives me a chance to shape my destiny! My future is bright with a lot of promise. It has been a steady uphill battle but always with forward motion. I have the same vision today that I had 15  years ago (I'm 26 now). I still see myself on a big stage with thousands of people crowded around it waiting to see me play the music I created; the music that reached out to them and made them see the world as more than it appears to be.