The Current's Guitar Collection: Declan McKenna, Fender Elite Telecaster

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Declan McKenna in The Current studio (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

Seventeen-year-old singer-songwriter Declan McKenna is making waves the world over with his hit single, "Brazil." On a recent visit to meet the staff at The Current, McKenna took some time to talk about his brand-new Fender American Elite Telecaster.

Tell us about your guitar.

It's a Fender Elite Telecaster. I think it's quite a new guitar model; they've only just started putting it out. It's very cool!

When did you get it?

I got it just before I came out to America. I needed a new guitar that was going to last me the whole trip, rather than my other one which was kind of falling to pieces. I got it just before I came, just a couple of days before I went to Florida.

Where did you get it?

At the Fender place in North London. I was lucky enough to be given one, which was like, "Thank you!" (laugh) That was cool.

It's in an industrial estate, and there's just like a Fender room full of guitars and they invite people in to go and look at guitars or to get a guitar. It was mainly my manager who sorted it out, because the person who works there manages Foals. So they sorted it out because they give Foals a lot of their gear, so she pretty much sorted it out, which is crazy cool. Because, free guitar! You can't go wrong.

Had you tried a few at the Fender place?

I kind of wanted a Tele. I'd had a Fender Jaguar for a while and I realized that they're just a nightmare, so I wanted to get something a bit lower maintenance that doesn't have some magic problem that you have to fix every five minutes, which was kind of getting annoying about my old one. The Tele is a very cool guitar.

You had had the Jaguar for while?

I still have the Jag. It just had loads of problems that were never fixing, and it was just a bit annoying! So I'd wanted to get a new one and I was able to get the Tele, which is really, really cool. It's really fun to play and, I don't know, just a new guitar feels really nice!

Who are some of your guitar-playing influences?

So many. I mean, everyone says Jimi Hendrix — but Jimi Hendrix! He's everyone's guitar hero.

At the minute, among guitarists around right now, I'm really loving St. Vincent. She's one of very few guitarists around right now that really have their own definitive style and she's just infinitely cool, crazy, innovative. I just love the sort of jazziness — her whole jazz thing — and then this weird, distorted, kind of dystopic electro sound which is just … She just doesn't really play like anyone else! The one time I did see her live, I was like, "What am I watching? This isn't human!" She's awesome.

I love Jeff Buckley, he's awesome as well. There are so many out there. And Kurt Cobain, I guess; everyone loves Kurt — very simple, a pretty-but-gritty sort of thing.

How do you approach songwriting?

I write on whatever, generally some kind of guitar or a keyboard. But a lot of the time, the majority of my songs will just start as sort of melody ideas I'll think of while I'm walking somewhere. I tend to have my best ideas when I'm not trying to write. When I sit down with a guitar and try to play something, I rarely come up with anything good.

I think "Brazil" was kind of the example where I did work it out while I was just playing my guitar, and then I was like "Oh, that sounds cool." But that rarely happens to me. I don't know why.

Song ideas just come to you when you're not thinking about it.

Yeah, yeah, exactly. I feel like that's the most natural thing for me. It's just how I work, I guess.

Now you've got this Tele, is this going to be your go-to instrument from now on?

I do love it, but I don't know. I'd definitely love to have as many guitars as possible. Like a Gibson — I've never had a Gibson. It would be cool to get a Les Paul; everyone wants one of those.

I don't know. Someday I'll have enough money to actually buy a guitar or a couple! And I love my pedals as well, so I like expanding those whenever I can, which isn't often, but it's cool. I just love messing around with different guitars and different sounds and stuff.

4 Photos

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    Declan McKenna performs in The Current studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Declan McKenna's Fender Telecaster Elite in its case during McKenna's visit to The Current studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Declan McKenna's Fender Telecaster Elite (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Declan McKenna performs in The Current studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)