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Louis Dunford: "I get messages all the time from young lads that have been affected by the music or that say the tunes resonate with them. And that's worth me feeling a bit awkward or a bit vulnerable."

Madison Drew | 03/03/2023

His rapidly growing success has not changed Louis Dunford. We meet via Zoom to be greeted by Louis wearing a navy flat cap like a Peaky Blinder. Fresh from the barbers with his phone propped up on the kitchen countertop, that just ever so slowly slips throughout the interview, it feels like a reunion.


Since HATC last spoke to the singer-songwriter, Louis has had quite the journey. With many songs now in his wheelhouse, including the anthem for Arsenal. He has played many shows in just under two years after his signing. Louis himself still feels the same. "I'm probably still just as full of self-doubt. It's a weird sort of job to find yourself doing when you don't have much confidence".


Now the 30-year-old is preparing for his show next month at O2 Forum Kentish Town. "[It's the] biggest show I've done. I've not slept the last three nights. I don't know if that's something to do with it."


"You put these shows in, and they're six months away, and it feels like it's going to take forever to get there. And then all of a sudden, they come around, and I think I'm actually going to have to do this. That's when I tell myself, I'm going to manage it. We're going to do this. And then there's this anxiety about it selling tickets"


The 2,300-capacity venue sold out in just under a minute which (metaphorically) "blew [his] head off." The London show is a part of his upcoming headline UK tour. Far away from the open mic at the Highbury pub and his ultimate dream gig at Union Chapel.


Louis is in constant battle with his confidence  as venues get bigger 'I'd probably be a little bit more relaxed, but then, you can do the 900-capacity venue like Union chapel. And you think, 'Oh, we've sort of conquered that maybe now I'm confident.' and then the venue goes up again." Although, he admits he loves an intimate gig as much as those in bigger venues.


New music is in the works. Starting with Louis' new single, 'Lucy', released 6th April. His recent writing sessions have inspired more music about these "characters." Dunford is exceptionally proud of his songs, calling them his children. A worry that pops up naturally is people's reactions. "It's like putting your diary to music, and then you put it out into the world." He usually takes a break from social media until the feeling subsides and tries to focus on positive comments. "100 people could say, this is the best song I've ever heard in my life. It changes my world, and I'll forget all about them as I remember that one person on Twitter".


"I've sort of come to terms with it.  I'm really proud of it and the reaction. If people would love it as well, that would be great. That's kind of how I manage my anxiety." He explains, "I have to make sure that I'm very content with something for it to go out there. And then there's been times before, looking back I think I should have been that honest. And so now I go sing it every time and think, is it good?"


Those songs are undoubtedly good and adored by fans outside his North London town. He's "very thankful" to supporters travelling from all over to his gigs, whether from Scotland or abroad. The dedication doesn't go unnoticed. "It's crazy to me. It's like a beautiful thing. When it does reach people outside of this tiny little corner of London, it kind of blows my mind. I don't really know how to put it into words."


The homegrown support of Islington locals are the first to grow fond of the musician. "It was always a lot of love and support from the off." The Angels have become like a brood for Louis. "The shows are like reunions for people who come to the shows, half of the Angel are in the crowd. It's always nice to have drinks in the pubs afterwards,  it feels like it's been a wedding or something."

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People have been asking him to play "all over the gaff" which is his way of saying across the globe. He reveals a fear of flying may have to be conquered before this. "Europe would be nice. I don't know about America. That's far for me." He recalls his "incredible experience" playing in Dublin, where some of his family are from, and would love to revisit there.


His EPs' The Morland' and 'The Popham' -aptly named after places in his North London town- are edged with sorrow and vulnerability in different situations. His openness on mental health in his tracks has been applauded. As Louis admits it's rare to discuss it for men, especially where he grew up in London. "My best friends are a group of working-class lads. It's almost cliche, but they're the type of boys that would never even admit that they've cried before."


"So when I write about my own experiences, if I ever feel a little bit vulnerable, which is always the way I feel, a bit awkward about really putting something out there, that's very honest, I sort of think, well, you know, ultimately, the boys hear it, and it will make them think about how they're feeling, or make them think about talking to someone about how they're feeling."


His songs have had an impact on many. Whether it's the tragedies of life or nostalgia for youth, "I get messages all the time from young lads that have been affected by the music or that say the tunes resonate with them. And that's worth me feeling a bit awkward or a bit vulnerable. You know, to give someone that feeling of not being alone, I'll take being a bit vulnerable and a bit embarrassed. If it makes someone feel less lonely". For some, the personal experiences from Dunford are reciprocated. "The thing that I always find most difficult is how alone I feel. So if you write something so specific, and people say I feel that way, too, sometimes it makes me feel less alone, which is always a really lovely feeling."

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No matter where the music takes him, his heart will forever be with London. The born and bred North Londoner pens many songs about the city's diverse culture. Spending time away by the sea and countryside is great, but after a while, for him, it gets "a bit too positive now. I need to get back to the negativity of London, and the air is slightly too clean. I need some smoke in the lungs" he jokes. Outside of music, his life is relatively ordinary, spending time with his dad working on the market stall or dropping his two nieces off at school.


Upon reflection of even just the last year of music, his favourite moment has to be getting his band. "When growing up, all I ever wanted to do was be in a band." As he admits he's struggled to convince his friends to join a band in school. The dream has become a reality, with his musicians joining him in recording and playing live shows.


"We get to go up and down the country doing shows, and we did a residential recording week, which was just probably one of the best weeks of my life. We stayed at a studio in the middle of the countryside. We just work all day and record music that we love. And then just have dinner and a few beers every night, life's not going to get much better than this."


Louis has already ticked off his biggest goal of playing Union Chapel. When asked if there are new goals, he responds with "Happy."


"And that my family can be happy and healthy." he adds.


"I've kind of fell into doing this as an accident. And it's amazing. And I take it a day at a time. I'm more successful in music than I ever dreamed I would be. I never dreamed I'd be playing this set of shows".


"This is sort of chugging along. Kind of going above and beyond what I ever dreamed. My ambition really lies in happiness. That's a terrible TED Talk." he laughs. Life comes with its difficulties, but the songs are worth the content they bring. "All these other shows, all these other records that are written or put out there are just the sort of cherry on the top." Music is sure to remain exciting for the singer. Who knows what the world of Louis Dunford will be like when we next meet.

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