RGM Introducing – Cian Downing

  1. What made you decide to become a soloist?

I’m one of those people that has always had my own ideas and done my own thing, so it suits me really well to have complete creative freedom. I’ve been in bands before and I found it so frustrating whenever I wasn’t completely in charge of how the group would sound and look, so I realised the only way for me to be fully in control was to go solo. Of course, I now realise how much help I have to enlist to get everything done, but I’m very lucky to be working alongside some very supportive people.

  1. How positive are you feeling now restrictions are loosening?

The delay was a bit of a kick in the teeth, but I do feel like better days are on their way back. Being out and seeing football fans everywhere and people having fun is actually quite emotional – it’s like some sort of collective recovery is taking place. I do feel as though live music is being marginalised, but I’m sure in the next few weeks we will be back to (sort of) normal on that front – public opinion seems to be in favour of bringing things back that we’ve been deprived of for so long. Considering how low we’ve sunk as a nation at points during this crisis, the only way from here is up!

  1. How much are you looking forward to playing live?

Well I’ve actually been fortunate in that I’ve already played my first gig back since lockdown – we played The Amersham Arms in New Cross a couple of weeks ago and it was a fantastic night. Obviously there were still lots of restrictions in place and the audience was all-seated, but after so long it felt amazing to be back up. The crowd were amazing as well, and they made it a fantastic atmosphere despite everything. Having said all that, the thought of playing a packed, sweaty room again is so exciting – that’s where the real essence of live music comes through.

  1. What’s your favourite song by another band currently on your local circuit?

I recently heard a tune called Western Skies by The Pretty Visitors. It sounds like a duet by Mike Skinner and Arctic Monkeys. Really good, social commentary-type lyrics and a cracking chorus! Ones to watch for the future for sure.

  1. Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?

Nah – I understand why some people are drawn towards them but they just don’t make any sense.

  1. What support is out there for new artists in London?

It’s tough out there I won’t lie – there are organisations about like BBC Introducing, Tom Robinson’s blog Fresh on the Net and lots of promoters who are keen to support emerging artists. The trouble is there’s so much competition, and every band seems to be jostling to make themselves heard over everyone else. Trying to stand out in such a big crowd is unbelievably difficult, I think we’re all just looking for that bit of luck aren’t we really? I think it comes down to being in the right place at the right time.

  1. Who is inspiring you at the moment on the London unsigned scene?

Kid Violet are releasing some pretty great tunes at the moment, their singer has a really unique sound and I love it! Their latest single is called ‘Kryptonite’ and it’s full of trippy guitars and aggression, right up my street.

  1. What useless party trick/talent do you have?

Maybe writing songs… Too early to say at the moment.

  1. What was the most fun you’ve had on stage?

When I was 16 my old band that was unbelievably called The Zebras played a gig in a proper old boys social club in a town called Letchworth Garden City. It was for an event called March of the Mods, and the crowd was full of 40-60 year olds all dressed up like they were in Quadrophenia. We went on first and played a set full of classic mod songs (you know the sort… The Jam, The Who, a bit of Motown…) and every song went off. The whole place was bouncing and singing along… Best gig of my life by a mile.

  1. What was the worst experience on stage?

Probably at The Horn in St Albans, I was 17 and my voice was still changing. I tried to sing a cover of I Heard it Through The Grapevine and my voice just gave up halfway through. I struggled through the rest of the set but it sounded awful. One of those moments when you just want the earth to go and swallow you up, but you always learn from these experiences. Don’t let them get you down!

  1. Tell us something about you think people would be surprised by

In the past year I’ve got really heavily into Ska and Reggae, particularly some of the great Caribbean singers like Delroy Wilson and Desmond Dekker. Been saying I’ll write a full-blown reggae tune at some point but it hasn’t quite come to fruition yet.

  1. Tell us a funny story from backstage

Nothing particularly stands out… The fact that I used to rock up to play gigs when I was about 15 and the promoters would have to adjust their offer of a few free beers always makes me laugh. All the other acts were usually about 40!

  1. If you had to describe your sound to an alien how you describe it?

Lots of guitars, catchy melodies, energetic choruses and lyrics about real life and my own experiences. Might have to be a bit imaginative with this one because I doubt aliens would know who Paul Weller is.

  1. If you could play any music festival what would it be?

I want to say Glastonbury but everyone says that surely… So I’m gonna go a bit left-field. Artists Against Apartheid organised a carnival followed by a huge free festival Clapham Common in June 1986, where acts including Boy George and The Style Council played. Over a quarter of a million people showed up. To have played to a crowd that size in support such an important cause would be an absolute dream come true.

  1. Best gig you’ve been to that you weren’t playing?

The Stone Roses at Wembley Stadium, June 2017. Best night of my life, and one that made me truly fall in love with live music. The crowd was absolutely electric all the way through. One of the most important bands to ever come out of this country, and a critical influence of mine.

  1. What advice would you give someone going into the music industry?

Be pro-active. In the earliest stages of your career you are going to have to seek an audience yourself – no one is going to approach you if they haven’t heard of you! Don’t be afraid to contact promoters and venues and ask for gigs, and record that single or EP you’ve been talking about for years! It might be the best decision you ever make. Also, believe in yourself and your art, because you need to perform your music with true conviction to entice an audience.

  1. What makes you stand out as an artist?

I might not be the greatest singer or guitarist that has ever lived, and I’m certainly not the coolest or most interesting musician about now. But I think my songs are a perfect mix of sing-along melodies, catchy riffs and honest, heartfelt lyrics about things I’ve been through and learnt about. My debut EP is essentially me bearing my soul to music, and I don’t think many people write songs like I do in this day and age.

  1. Right now, what’s pissing you off the most?

The fact that the Tories are still in power, and people don’t seem to see how much contempt this government holds them in. The level of incompetence at the highest level is doing irreparable damage but they seem to keep getting away with it.

  1. What’s your favourite song to play live and why?

Without a doubt, In Reality. You just feel the energy lift up a notch when the first verse kicks in with the drums and vocals. A nailed on set-closer, and a tune that always seems to cut through to the crowd especially well. Sixteen-year-old me didn’t do too badly on that one.

  1. I hear you have a new EP, what can you tell me about it?

It’s called English Summers, it’s coming out this Friday (9th July) on my own label Loft End Records. It’s entirely self-financed and released, and features three of my very talented mates who have all been absolutely fantastic – Louis Harley on bass, Jayden Fitzgibbon on Drums and Kieran Butler on Saxophones and Keyboards. It features rerecorded versions of my first three singles, plus two brand new tracks which I’m so excited about. It’s a huge step forward for this whole project and I can’t wait to hear it!

  1. What are your plans for the year ahead?

After the EP release, myself and the band will be rehearsing some new material for the next few weeks. My next confirmed show is on Sunday 22nd August at the legendary Fiddler’s Elbow in Camden Town, then we have a couple of other very exciting dates lined up for later in the year which I currently can’t reveal. Onwards and upwards really.

  1. Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

Pre-save my EP on Spotify, follow my Instagram and Facebook pages and support live music as much as possible! Think that’s it. Thanks for your time everyone, see you all soon.