The singer-songwriter talks first tours, industry friendships and the runaway success of his breakout track, ‘All For You’
Fresh off a show at London’s Lafayette and gearing up for the next tour, Cian Ducrot is not running low on energy.
“I can actually show you my apartment,” he says at one point on our Zoom call, springing up from his chair and carrying his iPad across the room. “I have like, my piano like over there…” The camera swivels to reveal the instrument situated idyllically by a large, light window. “And then when you’re sitting at the piano…” His face reappears, grinning, holding the iPad up so I can see what’s over his shoulder, at the other end of the apartment. “It’s a coffee machine!” he says. “So basically, I go from like, my piano, to my coffee machine. And I do that all day.”
From an outside perspective, things have moved relatively fast for Ducrot, from the release of his debut EP in December to the success of his breakout track ‘All For You’, which has seen him team up with platinum-selling artist Ella Henderson to release a duet version. He’ll also be joining her on tour. His ascension has appeared rapid, but for Ducrot it’s been a long time coming.
“Oh my God, no,” he says, when asked if it’s felt quick. “I mean, in the recent few months, things have gone really fast just down to ‘All For You’. I was lucky that I had a lot of music before that that has like allowed people to get to know me really quickly as well… It’s moved quickly in that sort of way, but it’s obviously something that I’ve wanted to do and something I’ve been trying to do for 15 years.”
Ducrot gives the impression of an artist completely in love with their work, up for as much of it as possible, and thrilled at the idea that other people might love it too. And they do – the songwriter has gained 1 million fans on TikTok alone, and his headline show at London’s Lafayette sold out in under 24 hours. Ducrot is on his way up.
How was the Lafayette, London show?
It was mad to do. The whole tour is really weird, because it’s like the first time I’ve done a tour. It’s one of those things where every moment you kind of feel like you’re spectating somebody else’s tour – it doesn’t sink in that you’re doing your own. I hid before the London show. My tour manager went out and filmed the queue of people queueing to get in. There are people who arrived for three in the afternoon to try and get there first. And you’re just like, “Why are you all here? What’s going on?”
Was there a moment where it all really hit you?
I got quite emotional at the end of the very last song. But it’s so overwhelming and it’s so beyond human to be in that position that it just doesn’t really hit. Because I think if it did, you’d be like, “What’s going on?” You’d lose your mind. Obviously, it’s so different because I’ve just played my first proper London headline, and I’m in the middle of my first small tour, but I remember years ago, I became really good friends with the guys from Shawn Mendes’ band. I remember asking them, “Is it not, like, insane? Especially for Shawn? Like when you walk out into an arena, and it’s full of people who are there to see you? Do you not just lose your mind?”. I couldn’t understand how you can do that. And they were like, “You know, you just realise that it’s your job. And Shawn just kind of walks out and does his job and then comes back off. And it’s very normal.”
I was like, “How could that be normal?!” Now I’m experiencing the start of stuff like that. Your body just doesn’t take it in. You’re just constantly turning around like, “Who are they looking at?” I don’t know, it’s just weird. This week was so amazing. Such an amazing feeling. But I think it doesn’t really click properly. At least it hasn’t yet.
Do you get that feeling at all of it being a job?
No, no, I love it. But I guess also there is a whole side to it which is like extremely professional. I feel a lot of pressure to put on a show that people are going to enjoy, to keep the energy up and keep making sure people have a good time watching because I don’t want them to get bored. I think also, because this is my first tour, I hope that they don’t come and go, “I’m never gonna go watch him again.” I want them to come back! It’s definitely scary in that way.
When did you know that you wanted to go into music?
Well, my family are basically all musicians. So it was kind of a no brainer for me. It was either music or acting. They were the two things that I just loved so much. I just loved the whole world around music. Everything about it was so cool to me. And I loved being onstage. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a musician and I didn’t want to be onstage.
Is acting still something you’re involved in?
Not really, other than music videos, where I get to act. But other than that, it’s kind of something that I want to do in the future once the opportunities come forward, and definitely something I will look into sooner rather than later.
Tell me about ‘All For You’. Did that feel like something special as you were writing it?
It was funny, actually, because I talk to my manager every day. We’re like best friends. It was the two of us basically, doing this. You know, before anything happens, nobody really cares. But the people who always care, obviously, are the artist and their manager, if you’re lucky enough to have a good manager. We speak about so many different things, and I’m always writing songs, but I remember specifically saying to her when the New Year began… It was a lot of figuring myself out for a while and not knowing exactly what to do. Just trying things out. When you have lots of resources suddenly and you get to make whatever music you want, you start to experiment and be like, “What am I doing?” And so I kind of came back to my roots and just started writing in the way that I really wanted to and making music like I would have back when I was younger.
Anyway, one of the things I said to my manager was, “I just need to have a huge ballad, because those always work”. She was like, “Well, yes, a big amazing ballad would be great, but they don’t write themselves every day, you know. It doesn’t just happen”. I was like, “Yeah, I know, but I’ll just go write one now”.
And so then I just went and I wrote ‘All For You’. I was so excited with the song, I just sent her a voice note of me, like, screaming down the phone playing piano. It was such a bad voice note that she was just like, “That kind of sounds a bit sh*t”. And then I properly finished it and demoed it, and then sent it to her, and then she really liked it.
Obviously the meaning of the song was something that I’ve been thinking about for quite a long time. But I also realise that my meaning for the song doesn’t really matter as much because it’s more about what the listener turns it into for themselves. I didn’t know it was going to be the song that really starts everything for me. I just put it online like any other thing, I teased it on TikTok and stuff… And then it just took on a life and I was like, “Oh, this could be something.”
Then Ella Henderson got involved and wanted to do a feature. And now we’re going on tour together. Talking with Ella is great, she’s so nice. She’s unbelievably kind, unbelievably talented. She’s really such a role model for success in the way that she carries herself and the way that she acts and the way that she treats people. It’s very rare. Not everybody is nice like that in the industry, especially when they’re successful. Ella’s like, annoyingly nice.
It’s a great collaboration as well. Your voices go so well together.
Yeah, they actually do go really well together. Again, it’s one of those things that doesn’t really register with me. It wasn’t actually until we went and we busked together on Oxford Street and everybody knew who she was that I realised how famous she was. Because you can kind of forget what’s going on when you’re hanging out with Ella, you’re in the studio, you’re stopping by Joe & the Juice… She called me and I was with somebody from the label, and they were like, “Oh, that’s so cool that Ella Henderson just pops up on your phone”. And I’m like, “Yeah, that is cool, actually!” I used to sing her songs busking and when I was gigging back in Ireland, so it’s quite a full circle moment.
Is there anyone else on your list that you’d love to collaborate with at some point?
I’d love to collaborate with Coldplay. They’re my favourite band ever. The 1975, I love them… I mean, the thing is, there’re so many people that I would love to collaborate with that probably wouldn’t make that much sense. But I never would have thought Ella Henderson either. There are so many collaborations that you think about, but it’s always the random ones that come up where you’re like, “Oh, yeah, that makes so much sense”. I think those are really the special ones. I’m so open for more moments like that. I’d love to collaborate with SZA, but I think that would be the weirdest collaboration of all time.
I kind of would like to know what that would sound like though!
Me too! Like R&B vibes? I mean, to be honest, I’ll collaborate with anyone who I think is a great artist if it makes sense for the song.
You’ve written for a lot of other artists as well.
That’s correct, yeah. It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do – I obviously love songwriting, and I really love writing for others but it’s very hard to get into. That all started to kick off in a way this year as well. At the same time that I had written and put out ‘All For You’, I also had written ‘Flowers’ for Lauren Spencer Smith, which came out around the same time. It was cool actually, because I was like, “I’m gonna have two songs in the charts at the same time”. I never had anything in the charts as an artist or as a writer, you know. When I had written it, I just knew – I’m gonna have two songs in the charts at the same time, one that I’ve written and another that I’ve written and I’m the artist on.
Lots has come from both of the songs as well, which is really nice, so I’ve hopefully got quite a lot of other stuff coming for other artists. I just love songwriting, so it’s the funnest time ever. I especially like writing songs for other people because I don’t care about the emotional attachment to the song in that way – I like the challenge. It’s like a puzzle for me, like, “I’m gonna make the best song ever”. And that’s what I try and do. And I usually fail.
Is it quite a different process, then, writing for other people?
Yeah, but it’s actually taught me so much about writing for myself and just kind of surrendering and not trying so hard. So often I write for others and the first thing I’m playing on the piano, they go, “I love that.” And then I think I’m like, f*ck, I should have kept that for myself.
It’s something that definitely has taught me a lot about letting go and just accepting whatever song comes out that day. It’s changed my process of writing as well. I pretty much only write at the piano now. I have a studio upstairs, but I’ve started to write less and less in the studio and more and more just sitting on the couch or at the piano. And that’s usually where like the best stuff comes out.
What have you written for someone else that you wish you kept?
I’ve had a few songs recently that I’m like, “Oh, that’s really good”. When I write for myself, it’s my choice whether I put the song out or not – when you write for another artist, it’s their choice whether they like it enough to put it out. I almost try harder to write better songs and more interesting lyrics when I’m writing for other artists. Now I’ve started thinking I should write my own songs like I’m writing for someone else.
You’re heading back to Ireland soon to play a few shows. How are you feeling about that?
I’m very, very excited. It’s been quite a weird journey in Ireland. I left to come to the UK and then I’ve gone back maybe twice. I played one festival where like, 20 people showed up. That’s tough when you do that. You just have to keep reminding yourself, it’s gonna change.
Then I went back a few months later, and played Electric Picnic, and I was sh*tting myself that only 20 people are gonna show up again. I walk into this tent and it’s huge, like the biggest tent at Electric Picnic and I was like, “Why am I playing in this tent? It’s 2:15 in the afternoon, who is going to this gig? Nobody’s going to be here.” And then it was full. That was probably the very first moment where I was like, “Okay, this is what it is now?!” This tent packed with thousands of people screaming the lyrics to ‘All For You’. It was number three in the charts in Ireland for a month or something, but you don’t know what that means when you don’t live there, you don’t know that people are hearing it.
Now I’m coming back to play three shows in Dublin, Limerick, and Cork. And that’s gonna be weird. It’s gonna be really weird. Especially to go to your hometown, where you grew up and went to watch gigs. It’s just strange. I think the show in Cork is five or six hundred people. I didn’t even have ten friends. I couldn’t get invited to a birthday party if I tried!
You know, I actually went back to Cork recently for the first time since the song’s blown up in Ireland. I went on a night out with my friend, and it was really crazy. I had been back a few months previously, and everything was normal. Nobody knew who I was, nobody gave a sh*t about me. Like usual. And then I went there a few months later, and I was getting stopped everywhere. Even all the bartenders, they’d be like, “Oh, you’re the guy who sings that song!”.
I went out to the beer garden and there were all these people from my old school. That was a school that I basically left because I was having such a hard time. And they just mobbed me essentially, people who I didn’t even know who were suddenly like, “Oh, my girlfriend was in your class,” or like, “Oh, my younger sister or my brother…” None of these people cared about me ten years ago, when I was in school. No one had looked at me twice. And now they’re all like, “congratulations, well done!”. It just doesn’t make any sense.
That’s kind of the vibe that I get when I go to Ireland. It’s so weird. But it also is amazing, because there’s nothing nicer than being at home and having an Irish crowd.
What’s next for you after that?
Well, once we finish in Ireland, then we actually go and play a festival again in Manchester. Then I have the Ella Henderson tour. And then we’ve got the next tour… I’m just on tour now for the rest of my life! To see it on the poster, I was like, “Wow, that’s a lot of dates.” It’s weird, you know, to be able to go to that many cities and hopefully have people show up. But I’m so excited. All of this tour, I’ve just been trying to be in the moment and be like, “just enjoy this tour and don’t think about the next tour or the next tour…”.
I had some huge moments, like when I played the London show. I think it was maybe twice the capacity or three times the capacity of the other venues. And I did a meet and greet afterwards, where people can queue up, and I’ll sign whatever they throw at me and take pictures and whatever. And here was one girl who had seen the smaller Manchester show and said she preferred it.
It was really interesting to hear that. You don’t really think about that. As an artist, you often think ‘the bigger the better’. Everyone wants to be in the arena, but you forget how much the fans and the audience don’t want that. They want it for you, because it’s great for you and they want to see you happy, but they also just want to be able to be front row with 200 people and be able to basically touch you. I hadn’t thought about that at all. And that was a big moment where I was like, “Okay, you’ve got to enjoy the rest of this tour. Because it’s for them. They’re not going to have that moment again.”
I’m also probably not going to have that moment again either.