Cian Ducrot: Cork's rising star is ready to take the next step 

Cian Ducrot has already cracked the Top 30 in the UK, and a series of sold-out gigs suggest he's not done yet 
Cian Ducrot: Cork's rising star is ready to take the next step 

 Cian Ducrot plays Cyprus Avenue, and the Other Voices event in UCC.

The video for Cian Ducrot’s hit single All For You is a parade of heartache. Shot in the northside of his native Cork, it features ordinary members of the public gathered in a bar. They talk, they cry, they hug while Ducrot’s gut-wrenching song – think a balladeering Ed Sheeran meets a Celtic Adele – rises on spirals of melancholy. All the assembled individuals have one thing in common: each has lost someone dear to them.

“I wanted it to be real,” says Ducrot (25), taking some time off after recently playing his first sell-out show in London, at the 600-capacity Lafayette in King’s Cross. “They had all recently gone through loss in their life. These were real stories, real emotions being put on the screen. It was an honest, raw video.”

 Honest and raw is also a perfect description of Ducrot’s music. Fuelled by his expressive voice, his material brims with loss and hope, angst and renewal. These are emotions with which he is all too familiar, having experienced difficult times following the separation of his parents when he was growing up in Passage West. The message of his songs – and of his life, really – is that it is important to never give up.

That lesson is powerfully conveyed by All For You, which went top 10 in Ireland and to 30 in the UK and then became a radio hit all over again when he released a new version featuring guest vocals from English singer Ella Henderson. “I swallow my pride 'cause it's all on me,” he croons, his falsetto welling up with heartache. “Lost more than a friend, now I'm on my knees.”

That seam of ennui continues in the video, which starts with Ducrot gazing down at the Church of St Anne in Shandon. It then cuts to the Kerryman’s bar near Dillon's Cross, where members of the public, young and old, have gathered.

“I didn't know them personally at all. We had a lot of people share their stories with us. Usually for music videos you do casting calls. People do their 'casting tapes'. For this, they were just required to share their story and talk. It was all based on their real stories in their life. Everyone had a very different story – a big mix. That is what really brought the emotion home for that video.” 

Ducrot is about to return to Cork for sold-out gigs at Cyprus Avenue and Bringing It All Back Home, an Other Voices showcase to be held at UCC and which also features Leesider Jessica Smyth (aka Biig Piig), local punks Pretty Happy and Susan O’Neill (from Clare) and Soak (from Derry). He’s proud of his origins but, with his parents having separated when he and his brother, Eoin, were young, there are unhappier recollections too.

“You have bad memories and good memories,” he says. “I was very lucky that I had an amazing mom who always tried to give myself and my brother as many good memories. To create as many happy, happy, joyful ones as possible. I have so many fond memories of growing up in Cork, from my best friends to doing music or skate-boarding or musical theatre. There are places I don’t like going, where I don’t feel comfortable. There’s a lot more happiness than sadness.” 

‘Ducrot’ is his mother’s name. Sabine Ducrot is from France and has played with the Orchestre de Paris, the Orchestre National de France and the Orchestre de Radio France. Today she lectures at the School of Music at Munster Technical University. As a kid, Cian says he felt more in touch with his French identity as all of his extended family was from France.

“Growing up I wasn’t as much ingrained [in Irishness]. I was very into Irish music. But I didn’t play lot of Irish sports. Which often makes you a bit of an outsider. I didn’t have any Irish in my close family. Me my mother and my brother – it was very French household, in Ireland. Although I am really Irish. And when you leave Ireland you realise how Irish you are. I was a bit of an outsider.” 

He feels that this sense of not belonging says as much about Ireland as his French heritage.

“Ireland can be like that with anyone who is slightly different or doesn’t follow the mould. It is strange, then, to come back and receive a lot of recognition, having gone and pursued a dream most people were telling me I was stupid to pursue. It is a strange one. And to be now known as an Irish artist…” 

He had a difficult adolescence. Ducrot was an arty kid who wanted to be a musician. This made him a target. He changed schools. Wherever he went, he was bullied.

“I had a hard time. I was bullied in like every school I went to in Cork. And I went to many different schools. It was actually when I was shooting this video – one of the kids in the video, him and his girlfriend were both studying musical theatre. They wanted to do that and they were also doing sports.

 "I was asking, ‘Do you still get bullied and picked on? Are you still left out if you’re an arty kid doing dance and music?’ And it was actually amazing that they said ‘no’. ‘Because of people like you who’ve done it and made it cool’. I guess social media shines a light on it.

 "I never really thought about it – or thought about being a role-model for younger people in school. That for me was one of the most special things to hear. That it was no longer lame to do – or something you get picked on about.”

 After school, Ducrot moved to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music. He was simultaneously trying to make it as a solo artist and spent several years playing open mic nights and trying to get noticed.

 It was disheartening and there were moments he felt he was going nowhere. But then he came to the attention of Darkroom Records’  Justin Lubliner, the A&R wunderkind who discovered Billie Eilish. Lubliner signed him – a gamble that has paid off with All For You, the shivery smash that has put Ducrot on the map.

“I knew I liked it,” says Ducrot of the single. “And that it was a good song. I didn’t think it was any more special than anything I had written before. Because of its simplicity, I had a good feeling. Everything I wanted to get right with it, I got right. When I teased it before putting it out, I got a great reaction. But I never expected it to go this far.” 

  • Cian Ducrot performs at Cyprus Avenue, Cork, on Weds, Sept 28; and Bringing It All Back Home - Other Voices, at UCC on Thursday, Sept 29. Both events are sold out. The UCC event can be watched online via the Other Voices website: https://www.othervoices.ie/events/ovucc
  • Tickets for his 2023 tour go onsale Friday, Sept 30 including: Academy, Dublin, March 23; INEC, Killarney, March 25; Cyprus Ave, Cork, March 26

Biig Piig, aka Jessica Smyth
Biig Piig, aka Jessica Smyth

Rebels with applause: Cork's rising pop stars 

Biig Piig: Born in Cork, raised in Spain and based in London Jessica Smyth has made her name with songs that blend pop and rap. She recently put out the acclaimed single, Fun.

Lyra: Born as Laura McNamara, she has been compared to Kate Bush and Florence and the Machine. From Rochestown by way of Bandon, she has played festivals such as Electric Picnic and Live at the Marquee.

Lenii: Ellen Murphy, aka Lenii, went viral in 2021 with her TikTok hit, The Kids Are All Rebels – a track inspired by the frustrations the College Road-raised singer felt through the lockdown.

Elly O’Keeffe: The Knockagree, North Cork singer floored the judges of BBC’s The Voice with her cover in 2020 of Leon Bridge’s The River. “Wonderful style,” gushed Tom Jones. Her new single, Remember Who You Were, is released in October.

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