Ladies and gentlemen, Duke Special is an artist aptly named. Dynamic, musically ambitious and bracingly eccentric, he's right on cue to charm Britain with his inimitable style and lush musicality. Hailing from Belfast with a sound that is self-confessed 'hobo-chic', Duke Special - AKA the endlessly inventive Peter Wilson - is once heard, never forgotten.
Blissfully at home in his own alluring genre of beautifully bruised romanticism, Duke Special is a world unlike any other - a world filled with vaudeville-esque sensibility, sing-a-longs and addictive melodies. 'My sound is a bit vagabondy, but pure and soulful too,' he explains. 'Before this I was desperately trying to find my voice and the kind of music that really sat well with who I was. I¹d been in a couple of rock bands, but I always imagined people of all ages at our concerts, so started working on demos with a friend, producer Paul Wilkinson, and Duke Special was born.'
Growing up in Ireland with a large family, he soon learnt how to cut his musical teeth. 'I used to listen to their records. I recall a box of singles that contained things like Joe Jackson's 'Different for Girls', The Goodies and my Dad's suspect Country & Western records.' He says. 'We sung in church too, and I remember trying to get the bass lines and harmonies before my voice broke. As I grew up I also listened to traditional music, which influenced my melodic senses, so it all went from there.'
Originally signed to Ireland's Hag Records, with whom he released two limited edition EPs in 2004 'Lucky Me' and 'My Villain Heart' (collected together as a critically- acclaimed LP Adventures in Gramophone) and one EP, Your Vandal, in 2005, Duke Special is now signed to V2.
A tour de force on vinyl, he's equally vibrant on stage. Often joined by a small collective of eccentric musicians - Temperance Society Chip Bailey (drums /percussion), Councillor Réa Curran (trumpet/ harmonium) and Morris-Dancing Ben Hales (guitar/backing vocals) - the performance easily matches the music for sheer grandeur and individuality.
In your average show you can expect Peter's balmy vocals and dreadlocked persona to be accompanied by the theatrics of an old gramophone, a velvet-encased piano, Stump fiddles and collection of makeshift instruments, all of which bring the soul of Duke Special to life.
A fervent performer who harks back to the pre-rock 'n roll era with dashes of Gershwin and orchestral swing, he stands on stage with a white-knuckle grasp on originality. Gloriously vintage and unlike any other artist, Duke Special is exactly that. He's also shared a stage with a host of artists including Rufus Wainwright and Van Morrison a big influence on Duke. 'What I'm trying to put across is something that's more than just a singer-songwriter playing his songs. I want it to be a show that moves people, but also entertains them too.'
Fresh from a nationwide tour, he returns on October 9th with the eagerly anticipated new album 'Songs from the Deep Forest'. Featuring 12 stunning songs written by Duke except 'Brixton Leaves¹, a collaboration with Ben Hales, and 'Slip of A Girl', an old Amazing Pilots song - it includes the forthcoming single 'Last Night I Nearly Died' and is an elaborate combination of ideas and styles.
'It¹s more lush sounding with a wider scope, but I hope that the songs are more inherently Duke Special now that I can find the voice I want to sing with,' says Duke. Highlights include the gloriously startling 'Last Night I Nearly Died', the decadent, delicate beauty of 'Freewheel' and the irresistible excessiveness of 'Everybody Wants A Little Something'.
All tinged with a Northern Irish lilt and poetic lyrics that could feature in a modern-day fairytale, it's the perfect balance of old and new boasting the appeal of a three-minute pop song with the incessant charm of an old-school music hall. 'I want to capture something dusty and beautiful on record, something that sounds like Christmas smoking through an old wooden radio.'