The Making Of A Duke

Ahead of his June 28th show, Peter Wilson reveals how he became Duke Special…

Since I was in high school, I would sing and play the piano to anyone that I could convince to sit and listen.

So, being a performer was always in there.

After many dead ends, I recorded some demos in 2001 with my friend, the wonderful producer and
songwriter, Paul Pilot, and Duke Special was born.

And the songs that have inspired me along the way include…

1. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away by The Beatles
I was nine years old when John Lennon died, and that night, they showed the film Help! on TV. I saw The Beatles sitting in the living room of the house they apparently shared, where they were singing this song. Something shifted in me, and I knew whatever it was that seeing them sing made me feel, was something I wanted to do too.

2. Shore Leave by Tom Waits
Playing the piano in the 1980s didn’t seem very cool compared to playing electric guitar, drums, synths, or just about anything else. Then I discovered Tom Waits, one of several epiphanies that has informed me as an artist.

3. I Don’t Want to get Over You by Magnetic Fields
I remember being in a caravan in Donegal in the summer of 1999 and reading about an album called 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields, who I hadn’t heard of at the time. On the strength of the review, I bought the album and again, it was like a light bulb coming on in terms of opening a way of writing that I hadn’t previously considered.

4. Deathly by Aimee Mann
I had been aware of Aimee Mann since her second album from 1995, I’m With Stupid, and loved her writing, but this song from Bachelor No. 2 (2000) reminds me of the brilliant film Magnolia, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. If I am on my own in the car, I turn it up loud and hit repeat.

5. Easier to Lie by Aqualung
When I was starting out as Duke Special, I played numerous support slots as one-off gigs, and as part of tours. I was lucky enough to open for some brilliant artists in those early years and watching them from the sides of the stage was like an apprenticeship, not only in songwriting and stagecraft, but in how to look after other support acts. I toured with Aqualung early on in my career, and this beautiful song reminds me of those early years.

6. Next to You by Bell X1
Again, this track reminds me of watching Bell X1 for many nights and seeing them interact with their audience. Gentlemen one and all.

7. Our Mutual Friend by The Divine Comedy
There are many other artists that we (Temperance Society Chip Bailey and myself) have had the honour of touring with, such as Crowded House, Beautiful South, Gemma Hayes, Hal, Stewart Agnew, Billy Bragg, David Ford, The Magic Numbers, and others, but this song by The Divine Comedy reminds me of some big tours that coincided with my first full record coming out, Songs from the Deep Forest. This song is incredible, beautiful and heartbreaking in equal measures.

8. Dinner at Eight by Rufus Wainwright
No words.

9. I’m Going in a Field by Ivor Cutler
Ivor Cutler made me realise that a song can be about absolutely anything, and that there is strength and beauty in being yourself and not following the crowd.

10. September Song by Kurt Weill (sung by Walter Huston)
Kurt Weill straddles the worlds of popular song and theatre and he had an amazing ability to write songs that were memorable yet full of twists and turns, and which had unusual harmonic structure. I was given the sheet music of this song about ten years
ago and still perform it occasionally.

There are so many songs that I love, but hopefully this little playlist will give you an insight into some of the songs and artists that have shaped me as Duke Special.

You can catch Duke Special at The Whale on Friday, June 28th, tickets here:



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