UK singer-songwriter Declan J Donovan releases his debut song “Vienna” today via Interscope Records. The captivating piano ballad is an apt introduction to the 22-year-old’s powerful sound, a mix of epic melodies and soulful intimacy.
“Vienna,” recorded with George Ezra producer Cam Blackwood, captures Donovan’s storytelling knack. He weaves tales about his friends and family into his songs and loves finding magic in the mundanity of everyday life. “I love talking to people and seeing how their mind works,” he says, “seeing what they’re going through and getting perspectives on how people think. A lot of my songs are other people’s stories.”
“Vienna” is a snapshot of a blossoming romance, inspired by his close friend and tour buddy Jack. “I was on tour last year and I always bring Jack with me just to help out and have a mate there. Because he’s six foot four and really good looking, he gets all these girls talking to him every night. He’s supposed to be selling t-shirts but he’s not very good at it, cos he always talking to girls. But one night he met this girl from Vienna and they instantly fell in love. They spent the whole night talking.” When Donovan was back from touring, he asked Jack if he was going to follow it up and go to Vienna. He offered to buy him a ticket there, telling him he’d be crazy not to. “I wrote the song from Jack’s perspective, about someone who’s gonna drop everything to go and see this girl in Vienna.”
Becoming a musician didn’t seem like a viable career option for Donovan as he was growing up in Harlow, a deprived town outside of Essex. But after hearing Ed Sheeran, and then discovering artists such as Bon Iver, Matt Corby and City & Colour, Donovan felt compelled to start writing his own songs. The first track he ever wrote, “Fallen So Young,” created especially for his brother’s wedding, was a huge success when he uploaded it to Soundcloud, getting a million plays within six months. In the wake of that triumph, he self-funded three tours around the UK and Europe, eventually landing a record deal at Epic Records in Germany, where major labels caught word of this unsigned troubadour from England playing to sold-out crowds who knew the words to every song. He was one of the only unsigned acts to play last year’s BBC Music’s Biggest Weekend, appearing alongside Taylor Swift, Florence + The Machine, Sam Smith and more.