Is St Kentigern’s Academy in West Lothian the most successful school for pop music in Scotland? Both Lewis Capaldi and Susan Boyle went there, and in the last year Bathgate-raised 19-year-old Dylan Fraser has earned praise from Elton John and Sam Smith, and plenty of radio play for his most recent song I’d Rather Be Here.
“The music department was good, but I think it’s just one of those weird coincidences,” says Fraser, who doesn’t know the 24-year-old Capaldi. “My mum played in bands when she was in high school, so I definitely got it from her. She taught me my first guitar chords, then I started writing songs. I left school when I was 15, which she wasn’t too chuffed about.”
Fraser studied music at college in Edinburgh for a year, but made more money from his own Instagram marketing business, and used it to travel to London to make connections in the music industry. There, he met his now-producer and co-songwriter Jonah Summerfield, and his music earned him a prestigious deal with Atlantic, also home to Paulo Nutini.
“My main influences are Thom Yorke, I love everything he does, and Lorde is a big one” says Fraser. “Kanye West, too – I grew up on his music, and I like the risks that he took, production-wise. KT Tunstall was a big early influence, her first album playing in the car was my earliest memory of music.”
For his Scotsman Session, he recorded a stripped-back version of his song I’d Rather Be Here. “When I play this song live I’ve got my band, so it’s a lot heavier,” he says. “The song has this explosive moment after the chorus that goes into a big, synthy, guitar-driven post-chorus – obviously at home I can’t do that, but it was nice to strip it back to the bones. It gives a different… not a feeling, but a view of the song.
“I’m young and I’m still figuring out life,” he continues, “although I think we’re all doing that, so that’s what I write about, and about my own mental health and anxieties, about society, about relationships and friendships. I rely on having interesting conversations with people from all walks of life, that helps spark song ideas for me. So the last year has been weird, but now things are moving in the right direction, I’m feeling more inspired.”
Dylan Fraser’s second EP will be released later this summer, www.dylanfrasermusic.com
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