Small town boy on the world stage: An exclusive with Dutch pop artist Duncan Laurence

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Courtesy of Universal Music Group

On “Small Town Boy,” Duncan Laurence isn’t just writing songs, he’s telling stories. Photo by Paul Bellart. Courtesy of Universal Music Group

Duncan Laurence is a singer-songwriter hailing from the Netherlands, and he’s had an exciting 2020 to say the least. With one of his singles, “Arcade” becoming a trend on TikTok as well as his debut album “Small Town Boy” set to release Nov. 13, the former “The Voice” contestant seems to only be getting started. 

Laurence set the context for his new album in an exclusive virtual press conference, giving his fans some hints at what they should expect when they finally hear it.

“I’ve been starting to work on new music, developing my sound,” Laurence said. “(I’m) just trying to get it to the point where I want to be as an artist and as a storyteller. For me, this is the perfect time because I really need stories right now, especially during these times.”

Laurence talked about how despite the state of the world, he took advantage of these tumultuous times to work on his project. “We don’t have a lot to do, you’re mostly at home. I thought this is the perfect moment to release an album. And of course, I was already working towards that album. For me, it’s really all about ‘when it feels right, I’m doing it.’”

“Songwriting and making music gives me a safe haven I can be in for a while. It gives me this world that I create myself, this world where I can make mistakes, and just do whatever I want. Most times, those mistakes turn into such beautiful things.” Photo by Paul Bellaart. Courtesy of Universal Music Group

With a new album ready to release, Laurence reflected on his humble roots as a kid being bullied in South Holland. When it seems like the world is against you, sometimes you have to rely on yourself to grow past the bullying. 

“Songwriting and making music gives me a safe haven I can be in for a while,” Laurence said. “It gives me this world that I create myself, this world where I can make mistakes, and just do whatever I want. Most times, those mistakes turn into such beautiful things.”

Making the most of a bad situation, Laurence has a process for turning the bad times into something he can grow artistically from.

“I tended to lock myself up in my room and spend hours trying to play the piano, trying to sing, trying to write songs, tell stories and also process everything that’d been going on at school or wherever I was bullied and turn something negative into something that I could find comfort in and something that no one could take away from me.”

Being an artist coming out of the small town of Spijkenisse, South Holland; it is only fitting that his new album is named “Small Town Boy.” While he may have started in a small town, Laurence had to take advantage of some big opportunities to get where he is now. 

Laurence has come a long way from his days on “The Voice of Holland” all the way back in 2014, and is finally ready for the next big step in his career with a full-length LP. Photo by Paul Bellaart. Courtesy of Universal Music Group

He had his break in the form of “The Voice of Holland” where he finished as a semi-finalist, and although he may have not placed first there, he went on the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019 where his to-be-hit “Arcade” earned him first place. 

“I went into Eurovision and on a European tour where I went to all sorts of cities that I didn’t even know existed in Europe and visited countries I had never visited before, all of a sudden I was famous in those countries,” Laurence said. “I was so overwhelmed and it was such an exciting adventure. It really felt like that small town boy as I describe in ‘Arcade’ just went on a rollercoaster ride.”

Looking at everything Laurence has done between his 2014 run on “The Voice” and now, it is shocking that only now such an accomplished artist is releasing his debut. However, given his inspirations and background, it seems that he was looking for the opportunity to craft a full-length project, and 2020, for all of the hardships it brought, is also producing some creative energy for people such as Duncan Laurence.

 “Small Town Boy” releases Nov. 13 and will be available to listen from the streaming service of your choosing, or can be purchased through his website.

Thomas Stremfel can be reached at [email protected] or @tomstremfel on Twitter.