Irish singer-songwriter and producer Cian Ducrot first stepped into the music scene in 2020 with his mixtape started in college, however, his love for music began at a very early age. Ducrot grew up in Cork, Ireland, where his mother was a concert pianist and flautist. He was well-versed in classical music from Johann Sebastian Bach to Frederic Chopin and was accepted to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London where artists like Elton John had gone. It was a no-brainer for Ducrot to attend the prestigious school as music was something very important to him. Not only did he join musicals and drama clubs during his school years, but it went deeper than that for him. Music was what he turned to when things in his personal life were difficult.
With a full-ride scholarship, Ducrot headed off to London to study classical flute, but it was a holiday trip to Los Angeles that inspired him to pursue a career as a pop artist. He took a leave from school and traveled from Ireland to London to Los Angeles and back while also writing songs. During that time, Ducrot taught himself how to produce tracks as well. After releasing started in college, a body of work that narrates his journey into music, he was discovered and signed by Darkroom/Interscope Records last summer. His first single with them, “Not Usually Like This,” released in February 2021 and has since amassed nearly 2 million streams on Spotify.
Ducrot has now dropped his second single, “Crocodiles,” leading up to the release of his debut EP later this year. “Crocodiles” is about losing a friend and being both angry and hurt about it. In the chorus, he sings, “Tell me what you know about friends / What’s the point of starting if it ends / Never thought you’d be the one to leave / Never would have thought to call myself naive.” Emotional and poignant, the single further solidifies Ducrot’s place as a rising pop star in the vein of Lewis Capaldi and Lauv.
We had a chat with him about “Crocodiles,” songwriting, his upcoming EP, and more!
Let’s talk about “Crocodiles.” What inspired this track?
“Crocodiles” was inspired by a real-life situation that happened to me with some friends that I was living with. And there was a point where I really needed them and was counting on them, and they weren’t there for me the way that I would have been there for them. It was a really emotional thing for me and a really hard time. A few months later, I wrote the song.
The chorus in particular hits really hard because you say what’s the point of starting if it ends, and never thinking you’d be so naive to trust someone who did you wrong. There’s a vulnerability there and also a fear of trusting anyone who comes into your life. As a songwriter, do you find it easy to be vulnerable in songs while writing?
Very easy. I think find it almost too easy. [laughs] I think it might be a benefit because I don’t struggle with trying to say what I want to say.
The song is quite versatile in the sense that you can relate it to any relationship, whether that’s an ex or a friend you have a falling out with. How important is it for you that your listeners are able to relate to your songs?
I think for me that’s one of the most important parts of my music. I’m aware that the moment the song is out there in the world, it’s no longer for me or about me. It becomes somebody else’s story. And that’s really, really important for me that that’s captured when my listeners and my fans, listen to the music…that they really feel like they can connect with it personally themselves and they’re not just listening to another one of my stories.
You’ve gained a lot of listeners on TikTok. How has it been navigating that platform?
I love TikTok. It’s very freeing and you can do what you want to do. I try to remind myself why I liked it in the first place and why I use it in the first place because sometimes there can be a lot of pressure to do a certain thing or be performing a certain way. But for me, I just want to use it to be myself and to be real. I’m not trying to copy what other people are doing or be on trends. It’s amazing for building an audience and a fanbase, but I think it’s also just a really nice place to let people see another side of you and that’s really what’s most important to me about it.
It’s funny you bring up the trends and copying people. I recently spoke with someone who did a deep dive into TikTok and they said to them it just seemed like a lot of copycats. No one had original content — they just used what they saw and recreated it.
It’s difficult because I don’t want to be a TikTokker. I want to be an artist who has TikTok and uses it to share music and do some funny things sometimes and share my personality. I don’t want to become a cover artist on TikTok and get stuck doing that. For me, that’s why I made it about my personality because that’s what was most important for me to share on there…for people to really get an insight to who I was in a different way than just my music.
Your mother is also a musician and played classical music when you were younger. Were you always drawn to what she did?
I think, like, growing up in the classical music world was very inspiring for me. And I was very lucky that I got to have my mum as an inspiration. It was very much my own choice. I was very free to do what I wanted and it wasn’t pushed on me in any way or anything like that. Often I actually had to push my mum to allow me to study a certain instrument, but she always nurtured any sort of talent and anything creative. I was very lucky in that respect.
What’s the best advice she gave you in terms of pursuing music?
It was just always ingrained in me as a kid and from her that having a career in music was just a normal thing that you could do. We watch people around us choose different career paths, you know, their parents push them into medicine or law or something that isn’t what they actually love. The music is what they love and we just watch them regret it over and over again. My mum always said to me if you want to do music, you have to work extremely hard. But if you do, you’ll have the best life ever. You’ll be doing something you love every single day.
What made you want to switch from classical music to pop?
I was doing both the whole time. I was doing everything. There was never a switch where I suddenly was like, actually, I want to do pop. I was always doing both and it just got to a point where I stopped studying classical music, but that was really the only decision that I had to make.
Who are some of your favorite pop artists?
I’m a huge Jeremy Zucker fan. I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan. I love the new 1975 album, that’s been a huge part of my lockdown. Funnily enough, I’ve recently been into Jack Harlow. My music taste is weird. I just like listening to all genres. For me, it’s really just about songs that are good and make me feel something. So I listen to a lot of random stuff. Everything I can find from Jeremy Zucker to Jack Harlow. If it’s got a good sound, I love it.
Do you feel that your background in classical music has helped you when you work on the music that you do now?
Yeah, absolutely. I think it allows me to approach it in a different way. I like to believe that it has just affected my subconscious. Or, I guess it trained my ear in a really great way, I suppose. I try and use what I’ve learned subconsciously, and also methodically understanding rhythm, melody, and placement, and why things sound good and catchy. I try not to be too complicated when I do that, but it definitely has allowed me to approach music in a different way than others. I’m really glad that I have the classical music approach, but I try making it subconscious so I’m not thinking about what I’m doing too much.
When you first started out, you struggled quite a bit as you traveled from city to city, couch surfing, and having to do everything on your own. It all culminated in your work started in college. What does that body of work symbolize for you personally?
started in college is exactly what it is. It’s like the first song that I ever released to the last song that I released before being signed. It all happened while I was in college, essentially. At least most of it, you know, started in college. I started learning how to produce in school. It was in college that I started taking music seriously and that’s when I found out how I could release music and how I could put my music out there and really work to the point where my production and my writing was at a place where I was happy enough with it to put them out. And so that’s what started in college was for me…it was me discovering myself and my first-ever music releases. It was a big discovery and you hear everything — all the changes and improvements as well as the ideas and my life. It really embodies what happened to me during those two years, like, all of the different things from falling in love to falling out of love. My friends, the different people I encountered with amazing stories. It was all basically made on just a laptop, a crappy interface, and a microphone. That was basically all I had at that time for that entire mixtape. So it’s pretty cool. I’m happy and proud of myself that I got to do that in that kind of environment in that way.
What can you tell us about your upcoming EP?
I’m working towards it right now, and if I’m being honest, the EP is written. I have more than double or triple the amount of songs that I need for the EP. For me, at this point, it’s just deciding the world of that EP and the creative to go with it and what music will fit correctly. I’m trying to make the best body of work that I can for my first EP and it’s a balance of what tracks get to stay and what doesn’t. It’s a really exciting process and I’m very excited about all the songs that I think are going to be on it. Really honestly, it’s some of the best music that I’ve ever made, so I’m really very excited about that.
With started in college, it was very autobiographical of that time in your life. Will this EP be a continuation of that and what’s been going on in your life since then?
Yes and no. It’s slightly different. I think it’s a little bit broader and a little bit deeper in areas. It’s a shorter span of time…the mixtape was over two years. My single “Not Usually Like This” is maybe a year and a half old and the same with “Crocodiles.” Some of the next singles coming are a range of a couple of months old to maybe a year or a couple of weeks. So, it is a mix. I think, for me, it’s the importance of those stories. That’s what I want to share. And I think it’s a new chapter, really, a new step in where I’m going musically. It’s definitely autobiographical. If anything, probably more so than the mixtape because of the fact that there are only stories from my perspective. Even if some of the stories aren’t directly about me and I’m writing about someone else, I’m still writing from my point of view. It’s a follow-up from there and stuff that I’ve definitely been thinking about in the last few months, a year or so. So yeah, very personal.
Mental health is something that’s important to you. Are there going to be any songs that touch upon that?
There are some songs that are more directly about that kind of subject that I think isn’t going to be on the EP. I’m thinking of saving them for later. I touch on areas not directly to mental health, but topics around abuse that definitely get into that.
Now with this new journey with Interscope/Darkroom, what are you most excited about?
I think just taking everything to the next level, you know, like making bigger, better music and connecting with more people. I want to try more things and explore. Just really pushing my limits and my boundaries and pushing myself to create something more for those who listen to my music. And so I’m really excited to have, like, such an amazing team just to be able to help me with all that.