Liter-Artists: An Interview with Darce (Ciaràn Darcy)
Updated: Jul 16
From Cork, Darce (Ciaràn Darcy) is an alt-hip hop act who has received national and international coverage since his debut release. His music has been featured on District Magazine and some leading Spotify playlists, and he was declared 'New Artist of the Week' by reputable outlets such as The Irish Times and Nialler9.
Hi Ciaràn, first I would like to thank you for taking the time for this interview. Your tracks have been included on some major playlists like 'New Music Friday' and 'A Breath of Fresh Éire'. What inspires you to create?
Thank you so much for having me and hosting this great idea! Creative inspiration is a really interesting process, isn’t it? I suppose in many ways. I feel I can't help it. It’s the same way Trigorin from The Seagull can’t help writing down ideas in his notebook. I do that but on my phone with voice notes when I see something interesting or have an idea for a melody or lyric, which has led to a few mad looks walking down the street. I also get really inspired by the idea of creating something that I can share and that someone might relate to. I mean, why not? No one else is going to make what you make, so you should put it out into the world. Music is a very reactive and collaborative process too, so if someone plays me some cool chords, I instantly have to write something. The feeling of playing a song live in front of a crowd or seeing it on one of the Spotify playlists you mentioned with so many great artists is also definitely an inspiration to keep creating too. Those moments become something you chase, but I don’t think there is a better feeling than just finishing a creative project because you did it, and it’s yours.
Do you have a special process when you create, and does literature play a role in this process?
Literature plays a huge role in how I create. It could be anything from research to referencing a lyric or character in a song to having a similar metaphor present. I think it’s so refreshing to share aspects of the things that have inspired you in your music. It makes the song more personal and exciting with hidden meanings. The big thing I have taken away from literature is descriptive language about place and time. I’m obsessed with it. How we describe the setting or feeling of a moment and where we were at that time is possible my favourite part of literature. I try to incorporate that in a lot of my songs, whether it’s drinking spirits in ghost estate in ‘Valhalla’ or a house party in ‘Enlightened’. My general process consists of trying different ideas over songs and seeing how they flow. I write one or two lines at a time, then go to the top to see how they fit together. It’s like a jigsaw with vibrations and fun!
Who are your favourite writers, and why?
Oh God, I have so many favourite writers. I adore Gothic writers, which is very relevant to this interview haha. I love Mary Shelley for capturing the idea of what our society must look like from the outside. Her words sum-up beautifully the dangers of our biases and cruelty while also showing us the beauty of living. I love Oscar Wilde for how he pokes at society and how every line seems like a jab. I like Martin McDonagh’s plays for the same reason, and I feel he has some Gothic aspects to him. These writers provide a sort of surreal drama that you can get lost in but also relate to at the same time. I'm also partial to Tolkien's world. The Hobbit might be my favourite book ever!
What makes a book your favourite?
The fantastic thing about books is that so many different books can be your favourite for so many reasons. It could be transporting you to a wonderful world you could never imagine, it could be someone else’s journey that inspires you, or it could be a book that challenges your perspective on society. I think in the digital world our attention span isn’t great with so much information so when I have a moment in a chapter where I float away with the story, and I realize this is for me. It's magic. After that, I become utterly committed to the journey, that’s one of the best moments in reading for me.
Music and literature are often interconnected; for example, Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. In your opinion, is music literature?
In my opinion, yes, music is like a mosaic aspect of literature. A novel tells a full story while songs tell a moment that can be sometimes wrapped in their own narrative in the form of an album. Albums or playlists are almost like a collection of poems in that way. Also, songs are in most cases, a language of storytelling with visually descriptive sentences so I certainly believe they belong in the literature ecosystem. The best example in terms of musical literature that I can think of is Lorde’s or Kendrick Lamar’s work. Lorde’s albums are full of observational terms on life, alliteration, metaphors and onomatopoeia that form beautifully crafted details of a time and place. She also writes essays and picks out phrases to use in her songs, which is cryptic and impressive. Kendrick, on the other hand, makes amazing albums that literally have non-linear storylines where each song is a chapter, but the reader must figure out their place in the story and what the true meaning is. Music and literature are so connected, and I’m really excited about the future of their relationship.
We are all living in a difficult time due to the Covid-19 crisis, but has it helped you to read more and create?
It has definitely helped me read more and try different genres of books that I wouldn’t usually read, so that has been a vibrant experience. The creative process has been more interesting, let’s say haha. In some ways, the situation has provided more time to shape ideas which has been a wonderful silver lining. The lockdown also means we have less interaction with society, so inspiration some days can be hard to come by. There isn’t a timetable to creativity, but I do believe if you chip away at whatever you want to try, you'll eventually create something you can be proud of.
Music and literature both have psychological benefits. What do they bring to you?
They are both fantastic ways to get lost, change your mood or a mindset. They also just bring out such an array of emotions and relatable experiences that can make you feel better about existence. They manage to make you care for another person even if that character isn’t real or from a completely different background than yours. It’s that creation of empathy for others that could be the most essential aspect of literature, in my opinion.
What are your favourite songs at the moment?
I have been listening to a lot of albums at the recently actually. Mostly Lorde, Rina Sawayama, Billie Eilish, Carly Rae Jepsen, Jay Electronica, The entire Dirty Hit Label stuff. I’m working on an EP so to hear how songs flow together and feed into each other to create an experience is something I’m actively listening for and trying to get better at. I also listen to so much Irish stuff because we have so many amazing acts rights now. God Knows, JYellowL , Tebi Rex, Dermot Kennedy, Hozier, Eve Belle, Ava Archibold, Alex Gough, Murli Bo, Denise Chaila, Lilla Vargen, 1000 beasts, Jack Rua, Blushing Boy, Pure Grand, Damola, Awkward Z, Blakkheart, Kojaque and so many more are releasing amazing music for now in a way that would not be possible for Ireland of old. I mean we have so many diverse artists now across all types of music. How cool is that?!
Thank you so much for your answers. I hope to see you soon live in Galway! One last question to give us inspiration on what to read this summer - what are the books you think we all should read?
Thank you so much for having me and hopefully, Galway is an amazing place for music and the Roisín Dubh is one of my favourite venues. The books I think you should check out this summer are:
Normal People by Sally Rooney - It might be an obvious choice but it’s the novel of summer 2020. I never thought something like this would exist for the Irish adolescence experience and I’m so grateful it does. It’s weird though because in many ways it’s almost too close to home, I’m used to reading or watching people from the UK or America go through this journey, not Sligo! It’s addictive traumatic nostalgia, a must-read.
Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation by John Carlin - A brilliant book about a brilliant leader. This book is particularly important given with the movements taking across the globe. It really gets across the unbelievable hurdles Mandela had to overcome and how he changed race relations in South Africa using sport. The biggest thing it provides, however, is hope.
The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald - The new roaring ’20s, right?
Phil Taggart's Slacker Guide to the Music Industry by Phil Taggart - Really helpful for aspiring musicians and really funny too. Philly came to my first gig, he really cares about music and is just a cool person.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - A masterpiece.
Anything from An Siopa Leabhar - Irish language for the win!
Interviewed by Sophia Hadef.