Louis Dunford almost gave up on music a couple of years ago. After years of half-arsing open mic nights in London, while holding down a day job, he decided to give it one final push, and if it didn’t work out, then he was prepared to let his dream fade.
The now 29-year-old started work with a new manager, and within a matter of months, he’d penned a deal with Sony. Despite having these songs kicking around for the best part of a decade, Dunford finally got into a studio last year and officially released his debut body of work, The Morland EP, in January.
It’s a collection of tales from a misspent youth and sees Dunford frankly discuss everything from grief, depression and K-Holes in the same sonic vocabulary. His candid lyricism is the singer-songwriter’s finest asset. Dunford has a way with words that allows him to approaches these situations in a conversational manner which has the power to make you laugh and cry.
“As long as I’ve been writing tunes, I’ve been writing about just me and my mates, my family, friends and my stories, or their stories,” Dunford says about his songwriting instincts over Zoom. “It’s the only thing I find that interesting to write about, to be completely honest.”
“I sort of started by writing tunes just to take the piss out of my mates,” the Londoner continues. “The goal from the off was to write the most offensive and horrendous songs about my friends and what they were up to,” he adds.
Music has always been something that Dunford has done, but he’s never fostered dreams and ambitions to be the next Ed Sheeran. It took him a while to use songwriting as a source of catharsis. He lacked the confidence to remove the veil of humour and share these songs that he’d written in secret in his bedroom.
“When I started writing what I’d call ‘serious songs’, there was this whole other process, and I was almost like this closet songwriter. I couldn’t bear to tell anyone about it because it made me feel like an arsehole. When you’re taking the piss out of your mates, you’re doing it for fun, so it took me ages to even show my mates and say, ‘I’ve written this song about something a lot more serious than what we got up to at the weekend when we were pissed or stoned’.”
The time it took Dunford to tell his mates about his songwriting is dwarfed by the elongated number of years it took him to finally take the industry side of music seriously. He’d had chances to pen deals in the past, but circumstances got in the way, and the opportunities came and went. Dunford even started to think his time had passed.
Then in November 2019, he started to work with his manager, and six months later, he’d become a major label artist. The fact that he is now a professional musician still doesn’t feel real to Dunford. He describes the reaction to his debut EP as “overwhelming”, and he didn’t expect to see the record resonated with people on this level. On The Moorland EP, he describes his unbearable pain of losing his best friend, Ben Kinsella, who was murdered in 2008, on ‘Ballad For Benjamin’, and his battles with depression on ‘Hello Depression’.
These are heavy topics that Dunford manages to deal with earnestly through wearing his heart on his sleeve. “I used to think, ‘No one’s going to be into this sort of bollocks’. It’s just me rambling on about his own thoughts and feelings,” he said about opening up about his mental health on ‘Hello Depression’.
The singer continued: “It’s weird, the demographic that I seem to attract seems to highlight young working-class lads from the North, and the reaction I’ve got from that demographic is the reason why I force myself to play it at every gig. They are the conversations you should be having, even if it makes me feel awkward and vulnerable for three minutes but makes one person in the audience feel less alone; then it’s worth it.”
Dunford admits his own mental health has gone twelve rounds with Mike Tyson during the last eighteen months, a feeling that will resonate with many.
“Honestly, it’s been a fucking nightmare. I absolutely hated it, and I’ve not thrived at all. The lockdowns absolutely kicked the shit out of me, both mentally and creatively. It was weird as well, as I signed a record deal in lockdown, and for the first time in my life, this music thing became my 9-5. The honest experience I’ve had is, ‘Oh my god, this is so fucking bizarre’.
He adds: “I still can’t admit to being a musician if I’m in the back of a cab; I pretend I’m something else. It’s funny though, when I worked 9-5 jobs, I’d say I was a musician, and now it’s paying my bills, I just say anything else.”
Earlier this week, Dunford performed his first headline two shows since signing his deal at London’s St. Pancras Church — which sold out in just four minutes, and finally got to re-experience the most satisfying part of being a musician.
Dunford isn’t your typical singer-songwriter, and his everyman appeal coupled with his lack of pretentiousness makes him a breath of fresh air.
While the singer does have that boy next doy charm to him, he’s more than just a wideboy from London, and he is telling brutally honest stories about the unblemished parts of life that deserve to be heard.