Chatting New Music, Drag, and the Production Process with Belfast Pop Artist Gary Duffy.

Photo by Stephen Edgar.

Belfast based pop artist Gary Duffy has had a very busy year; since releasing his debut single ‘Did You Ever Really Love Me?’ back in early 2020 he has accomplished an album, two music videos, and a management deal with football legend Gerry Armstrong’s X Pro Management. Duffy’s new single ‘Afraid’ has just been released, he sat down to chat with Sam from The Jumble about his production process, late game changes, and potentially incorporating his drag persona Sasha Fierce into music in the future.

So Gary, since we last spoke you have released your new single ‘Afraid’, can you tell us a bit about the track?

So ‘Afraid’ is a dance tune all about the anticipation of meeting someone new after heartbreak, a sort of situation when you’ve moved on from the heartbreak but are a bit apprehensive to potentially get hurt again. The track was originally a ballad, but with only a few days left of production we made the late decision to change it to a dance track, but the lyrics are still illustrating that nervous, more emotional tone, even if it is perfect for being played when you’re in a beer garden with the girls, gin in hand!

You mentioned that you changed the vibe of the song later in the creative process, taking it from a ballad to something more upbeat, how did you feel about making such a drastic shift to the sonics of the song? How important is it to you to examine the song so late in the game?

It was a decision that I did not make lightly, but I knew that by release we would be easing into summer and hopefully out of lock down, so I thought to myself that maybe people need something a bit more up beat to suit that, The guys at Black Studios ; Jessica Hammond and Matty Graham text me telling me they had a broad instrumental, and we took it from there to fine tune the differences and put together the sound that it has now. I was surprised how easy it was to change from a ballad to something more upbeat, but that’s down to great production.  

You’ve also recently been signed by X Pro Management and have picked up a lot more radio coverage, well done! Does this growth in your audience and career impact your song writing process?

My songwriting process is pretty casual still! I could be anywhere, doing anything, and something will come to me so I’ll take it down on the notes app on my phone. Then I work on it more when I get home, I like to take my time and refine things to make them the best they can be, and that stays the same both before and after more radio coverage. It’s all from my heart, and everything I’m writing about is based on things I have actually been through.

All of your songs are open about telling stories about love, loss, and life from a gay perspective. What does that openness mean to you, and is it ever difficult to repurpose your own experience into music? 

Yeah totally, when I first started writing I was so afraid of being too vulnerable or giving too much away, worried that people may speculate which songs are about which person, for example. That swiftly changed when I realised that song writing was my therapy, and I can’t explain how much it’s helped me develop a better sense of self and self confidence. I really believe that I’ve changed since I started, the support I’ve received from people in my life and the media has been fantastic and has helped me realise that that openness is nothing to be nervous about. 

Your discorgapy so far is a blend of soulful ballads and energetic dance pop, what’s one other musical genre you’d love to try out some day?

This may come as a surprise… but I’d love to try rap! I have a drag persona; Sasha Fierce, and I’ve performed in drag for years now, that was actually one of the things that first got me into music, I started off lip syncing and eventually worked up the courage to try singing live. The initial audience reaction was so positive that it set me off with knowing I wanted to sing for real, and soon enough I had my own slot singing as Gary Duffy. Anyway, I would love to involve Sasha in my music, she’s not dead! Somewhere between drag, music, and working full time she’s had to take a bit of time off… but she may appear sometime soon on one of my tracks with a rap feature!

Lastly, what’s next in your music career?

There’s a few collaborations coming up soon that I’m super excited about! We’re going to be shooting the video for ‘Afraid’ in the next couple of weeks and I also have an upcoming gig in the Crumlin Road Gaol in the Summer (Depending on restrictions, but for the time being it is going ahead).

Listen to ‘Afraid’ on The Jumble Magazine Local Music Playlist, and be sure to follow Gary Duffy on InstagramFacebook, and Spotify.

Interview by Sam Dineen

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