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Denis Coleman playing keyboard on stage to a large audience

FeatureSpring 2021

After the RCM

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For the inaugural ‘After the RCM’, Upbeat spoke to Denis Coleman, RCMJD graduate, songwriter and pop star who is embarking on a stadium tour later this year.

Hi Denis! Can you tell us about your favourite memory from your time attending RCMJD?

Climbing up to the sixth floor (up in the tower) for string quartet rehearsal. At the time I wasn’t very keen on it but looking back, those days spent walking up the spiral staircase with friends, joking about the day and looking forward to class were great. That walk taught me to enjoy a challenge, to enjoy good company and to enjoy the view after a long climb.

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When did you know you wanted to make pop music, and what do you love about the genre?

I made my first beat when I was eight years old and was instantly fascinated by the world I had unlocked. Yet I was a long way from translating the sounds in my head into reality. Now, nearly ten years later, I still have a lot to learn - but I have learned a lot. And through that process I have come to love pop music, its endless possibilities, its societal relevance, its transience. Each song captures a moment in time and then fades, slowly, like a memory. And I love the freedom that presents.

How did RCMJD help you become the musician you are today?

At the RCM I gained an incredible amount of musical knowledge and practice that have been fundamental to my development as an artist. My years studying composition at the RCM inform every song I write, and the various forms of expression on violin have proved invaluable to my vocal performances. I also learnt about community at the RCM, and saw firsthand how music is truly a reciprocal relationship between performer and audience, violinist and pianist, composer and musician. Each interaction taught me the beauty of collaboration in music. I was inspired every day by the passion, drive and ambition of my fellow students at the RCM. A career in music will always be a challenge, and my friends at the RCM showed me that this was something to enjoy and to be proud of.

[quote quote="Social media is simply a great tool for connection." author="Denis Coleman"]

You’ve got a growing following across your social media channels. What do you like about using social media as part of your career?

Social media is simply a great tool for connection. Having the ability to talk to fans on a daily basis, to hear their thoughts and struggles inspires a lot of the songwriting, creative direction and values of my music. Plus, you can be super creative with the content you put out, which is always fun.

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Can you tell us about your songwriting process, and your musical influences?

My songwriting process is incredibly spontaneous. While I’m constantly looking for inspiration and concepts in my daily life, whether that is film, art or philosophy, the bulk of writing is done in a two to four-hour period, minutes after making a rough instrumental. My influences range from Marvin Gaye to Conan Gray.

Who are you listening to right now?

The Weeknd, Isaac Dunbar, Conan Gray, Serena Isioma, Don Toliver.

You’ve got plans to tour with HRVY later this year. What are you looking forward to about being on tour?

Everything! I’m excited to work on a live set and prepare all the arrangements. I can’t wait to get on stage again and feel that incredible adrenaline rush. I’m also really looking forward to seeing HRVY and crew again, that will be fun! Most of all though, I’m looking forward to the magic of live performance, connecting with the crowd, feeling their energy and sharing an incredible moment in our lives.

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What are your career goals?

To make it into the mainstream in an unconventional way. To produce art that sounds new, different and ahead of our time. To write the song that makes people feel like someone is listening to them.

[quote quote="I learnt a lot about community at the RCM...I was inspired every day by the passion, drive and ambition of my fellow students." author="Denis Coleman"]

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What advice would you give to RCM students who want to get started in their career?

Firstly, don’t be afraid to share your music with the RCM community. You have the unique opportunity of being surrounded by some of the most talented musicians in the world, students and teachers alike. I was shy at first about sharing my songs which were so personal, but once I did, I really benefited from the incredible resources presented by RCM. Also, remember that a music career is a music career. The career part is very important, so take the time to research the inner workings of the industry and try to get noticed by the right people. However, the music must always come first.

You can hear Denis’s music on his YouTube channel and follow him on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

Annie Corser

Annie is the Editor of Upbeat magazine.