If you're looking for an end-of-semester anthem to get all nostalgic to this summer, consider taking it from a dude who knows firsthand the long, bittersweet road of change.
"When I was 13 I pretty much got all the money I had and bought a bunch of equipment," rising pop singer Duncan told us while chilling in the parking lot of the Denver coffee warehouse that used to be his day job. "I went down to my mom's basement and was like 'let's try and make some music!' And it wasn't very good. I had no idea what I was doing. But in the end I had a good 20 songs worth of crappy music, and just kept on crackin'."
Today Duncan's debut single "Light Up The Sky" is racking up YouTube views and fighting for an early spot in the Songs of Summer 2012 canon. We were gonna chat with Duncan about his new music video and covers of the Biebs and Childish Gambino, but we mostly just ended up nerding out about Disney and Marvel characters. Some things you don't grow out of.
SparkLife: You've sure put some distance between yourself and your mom's basement. What became of those early recordings?
Duncan: I keep them locked up in a vault for no one to ever listen to. But I have them, and my mom has them too. Maybe when I'm broke I'll sell them on eBay or something. (Laughs.)
So how'd you go from "mom's basement" to "Light Up The Sky?"
I kept at it! I knew music was what I wanted to do, and I loved doing it. I went out in Denver and found some other people to work with, and at the time underground hip-hop was pretty big in Denver, so I actually started with a hip-hop group called Infinite Mindz. We finally parted ways because I really wanted to get more into the singing instead of rapping, and more into pop songs. So I hooked up with another group of producers and a manager who works out in Miami, and really just never stopped working.
Do you miss rapping?
For sure, I love rapping. A couple of my songs maybe I'll do a little verse here and there. For now I'm really concentrating on singing though.
You got to do a little rapping in your Childish Gambino cover. How do you decide which songs to cover?
A lot of time someone will hit me up on Twitter and say hey, I want you to do Usher "Climax," I want you to do this or that. It's actually been pretty easy. Most of the songs I get asked to do are pretty hot at the time and I'd like to sing them anyway, but sometimes like with Childish Gambino's "Heartbeat" I just really wanted to do for myself. For the most part I leave it up to the fans.
So you're kind of like a friendly Twitter Jukebox?
Yeah (laughs) I have a little Duncan army on Twitter. One of them wanted me to do Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend," so I just did that.
Did you get any Belieber backlash?
No, the Beliebers are super supportive, actually! They love "Light Up The Sky."
That video looked super fun to film.
It was super fun. It was a really long day but totally worth it. We were out in California, and we literally partied until the sun came up. That's real, right there (laughs). I met all those people on set and we had a really good time doing it.
There's one line in the song that goes, "This is your Super, Super Sweet 16." What would your super sweet 16 look like if you had unlimited funds?
Oh man. I would have like, a jet cake. An F-16 jet cake. And I'd have a waterslide, and some type of unicorn, I believe. (laughs) No, I dunno. I would make it big and make sure everyone remembered it, and I'd just want a car, really. All those kids got sweet cars. I'd buy myself a friggin…I dunno, the newest Bentley SUV or whatever just came out.
What was your actual 16th b-day like?
I honestly cannot remember the actual birthday, but I probably just partied with my family. I don't remember doing anything extravagant like that. I think I just had cake with my grandma. (Laughs.)
Were you geeked for The Avengers?
Oh yeah. I was planning on seeing the midnight showing but I might have to stay up late to finish the cover for Friday. I'm a super nerd, so I'm really into that. I can't stop talking about the Batman trailer either. I'm that guy (laughs.)
Do you read comics as well?
I have a TON of the comics, and I used to read them all the time. My two favorites are Batman and Spider-Man. I'm a nerd who loves music. I sing, and I love comics, though I haven't had a chance to read any in a while.
What's your geekiest habit, then?
You mean besides spazzing out over the Batman and Avengers trailers? I'm always getting caught in those moments where I'll be freaking out over superhero stuff and my friends will be like, "Really dude? You're talking about Batman right now?" I have lots of those moments. Music is another thing I'll get all geeky and spazzy about. Like, if Kanye drops a new single, I'm like, "Oh crap. I gotta listen to that. Everyone gather round!" And whenever I make some new stuff I'll be like, "Alright, everyone. Stop what you're doing and come listen. Don't talk." (Laughs.)
While we're talking geek swag, I need to call you out on something. One of your Tweeps asked you to name your fave Disney character, and you didn't respond.
Oh yeah, I saw that. (laughs) OK, favorite Disney character…I always like the old school ones, like Hercules and the Hunchback. But…it's gotta be Tarzan, because he's raised by gorillas. He could probably beat up all the other Disney characters combined. So I'm gonna go with Tarzan. And Nemo coming in second.
So your top two is Tarazan, powerful ape man… and Nemo, adorable misplaced guppy?
Does that blow your mind?
Yes. One more geeky thing: If you could perform with any artist, who would it be?
Oh man, there's a few, but I'd definitely like to perform at Red Rocks in Colorado, it's my dream venue. And I'd like to play with Kanye West and Jay-Z, or like N.E.R.D. I remember seeing a show with all of them, so that'd be awesome.
What if you could play with any zombified, back-from-the-grave artist?
Probably like, Elvis and The Beatles. Both of them. At once. Maybe they can be holograms.
Are you on Team Duncan?