Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Interview (Because I think it's coming offline soon)

Dylan Duncan – Music And Creativity In Dealing With Life And Loss
Story by Robert F. Smith, Editor, photos courtesy of Dylan Duncan Tuesday, June 30, 2009 9:24 AM

Over the past few years I’ve had a chance to meet and get to know a group of remarkably creative young men and women who grew up in the Chester/Ludlow area. I don’t know if it’s in the water, but these kids have grown into seriously talented young adults who play music, have bands, write songs, record CDs, make films, write soundtracks, draw and paint.

Though most of them have moved out of the area, we’re already in the process of creating Local Musician’s Showcase features on several of them to update the area on what they are accomplishing, and this is the first.

I met Dylan Duncan several years ago when he made a film on haunted sites in Vermont, which I did a feature on, and shortly after that he joined The Message as a graphic designer for a year or so before moving to the Boston area and work as a production artist.

In addition to graphic design, Dylan is also an illustrator, artist, cartoonist, singer, songwriter and musician.

Dylan and I have been e-mailing back and forth for a few weeks now in order to put this Showcase piece together, and his comments will be in italics.

Dylan is in the process of writing and recording a CD, What to Keep & What to Let Go, to be released later this year, and we wanted to get the word out. The first single, “Ask You,” was released in May on the 12th anniversary of his mother’s death. It will be the final song on the CD.

Dylan, 29, has recently found out that he has the same disease that killed his mother, grandmother and aunt, Familial Amyloidosis.

Dylan dedicated the album to his mother, and explained why.

Dylan: It is definitely dedicated to my mom, I think, because it was mostly my experiences with her illness and death that helped fuel my creativity and that need to "share my story".

A lot of the songs on the album deal with change and growth without a special guidance like a mother, taking people into ones life that can help fill that void and make you grow and see life the way you need or would want to.

On the flip side of that, the album deals with the decisions to keep things away that negatively influence you; What To Keep & Let Go being the name of the album, my songs deal really with my life between 2003 and today, a period I think that really started defining who I am.

There was tragedy, realization, sadness and hope all wrapped into a good solid chunk of time. Moving from Vermont to Boston really helped bring the album to life, having dealt with relationship issues, disease, fear of getting close to people and ultimately becoming a much stronger person in the end. The things I learned from my mom and the person I became because of her life and death are very prominent in the themes of the album. And so she is entirely a part of it.

RFS: Who played with you on the CD?

Dylan: My good friends Marcin Kuc, Cullen Corley, Chad Macomber and our very own Brendon Thomas of Chester are all providing their musical talents on the record, helping to bring these songs to the emotional level they truly need.

When the album is complete, it will hopefully be available digitally on iTunes and on the official site as well as in hard copy at shows and performances for now. I will be playing out more when the album is further along.

RFS: How did you first become interested in playing?

Dylan: I first had an interest in music and playing guitar in my first year of college when I was mesmerized by the sound of the acoustic guitar my friend Chad Macomber was playing across the hall. He'd play songs like “Tears in Heaven” or “One” by U2. Definitely a guy heavily influenced by this band and so I learned a lot of those songs to start. "Desire" was actually one of the first tunes that helped me to learn quick transitions from one chord to another. Great exercise and really seemed to pave the way to more complicating songs and ultimately my own material.

I learned on a cheap Epiphone acoustic guitar that I got from Sam Ash music down in Sarasota, FL. I now play on a Breedlove and Ovation Celebrity Roundback. I am gearing up to learn piano for my next album project. I play a mean egg shaker too. I have been playing guitar, singing and songwriting for a little under 10 years now. Definitely a sidestep from an illustration and design focus (which I do now still).

RFS: What are your musical influences?

Dylan: Let's see, they range from such singer songwriters as Mat Kearney and Ryan Adams, bands like U2, Death Cab for Cutie and classic groups like the Beatles and I absolutely love Tracy Chapman and could probably listen all day to anything that goes well with red tail lights and rain drops. Chill music like Iron & Wine and William Fitzsimmons is always good. The music I grew up listening to is quite embarrassing! I think my first CD was the Free Willy soundtrack because I loved that Michael Jackson track on there. I was big into Lynyrd Skynyrd and Barenaked Ladies live albums for a while too.

My current album is a mixed bag of soft acoustic tunes and pop rock stuff. Next time around I want it to spill right out as if there was no plan.

RFS: How do you go about writing a song?

Dylan: I used to find that coming up with a great acoustic chord arrangement was the best way for me to get a song going; mumbling lyrics that wouldn't be final over this and then later writing out what I really wanted to say.

The problem I found with that was trying too hard to find words that fit the phonetics of what I did in my mumbling. You can miss out on a lot that you're wanting to say when you're trying to make a lyric sound a certain way instead of it just existing as is.

So I now write lyrics first and then put the music around them. It's much more real that way.

RFS: Will you be performing up this way anytime soon?

Dylan: I definitely want to try make my way up to Vermont to start playing around on my home turf. I have a goal someday to try and drive all around New England and the East Coast promoting not only my songs but reaching out to people about my disease. I have a song called "Hello, Amy" and it talks about my meeting & accepting of this sickness within myself and it's my hope to create the "Hello, Amy" Tour and talk about the disease while playing my music.

RFS: How has the experience of writing and recording this emotionally powerful CD affected you?

The thing I'm finding so interesting is how my life in this last year has really taken on the themes of these songs that I wrote years ago. I really am finding that I am having to learn really what to keep and what to let go in my life. It's fascinating to see it all happening around me and I really do believe that at the conclusion of the album I will have answered my very own question.

You can find some demo tracks of the album being recorded at

The albums progress can be seen here and is updated quite frequently with photos, clips and thoughts at

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