Duncan Nielsen, who has sported the moniker 'DONCAT' since 2013, lives in a vista-abundant neighborhood in San Francisco, CA, just to the south of Haight-Ashbury. From almost anywhere in his house the eye can reach the eastern edge of the city, as well ...
Duncan Nielsen, who has sported the moniker 'DONCAT' since 2013, lives in a vista-abundant neighborhood in San Francisco, CA, just to the south of Haight-Ashbury. From almost anywhere in his house the eye can reach the eastern edge of the city, as well as downtown. On most days, just on the shoulders of the hill behind the house, fingers of heavy fog quietly creep in.
At home Nielsen writes songs by moving between his grandmother's post-WWII wurlitzer piano and his father's hand-me-down acoustic guitar. But he's not looking out the window. While most of us would agree a view is an inspiration, Nielsen finds it a distraction to his creative process.
"The view is nice for sipping coffee in the morning, and taking breaks, but when I'm focusing on songs and their moods, any externalities become very distorting. Writing music is more of an internal and reflective process for me."
Nielsen's approach to songs has been inward-facing from the beginning. As a teenager he spent so much of his time channeling classic rock and folk, both at his parents home in the country on campus, that by the end of junior-high he remembers not having any friends. He had slowly become the token kid-with-a-guitar, loved by all but known by none. At a birthday party he gifted Led Zeppelin I and was ostracized. This compounded a feeling of solitude that manifested deeply through high-school as he continued to write songs and frequently skipped school altogether to surf alone.
Themes of elemental fascination glue together debut LP 'Don Gato.' Nielsen spent summers as a kid between the California oceans and the Eastern Sierra desert; he recalls it as a constant state of ethereal daydream - shooting rifles, making bows and arrows from willow branches, riding horses, catching fish, finding obsidian, and surfing. These experiences forged his connection with the natural. Iconic track Steal Away is a moody memoir of Nielsen's youth as he yearns for these sanctuaries of solitude and rebirth from the boring comfort of home life. Phrases like "So many years in the shadow/ of a mountain called El Toro" and "Polaris/ shine on through/ and I'll follow you" boast the fervent naturalism at the core of his songwriting.
To date, Nielsen has had his songs featured in television series and movies such as ABC's Nashville, MTV's Teen Mom, DirectTV's Kingdom, and independent film Through The Rye. He's opened shows for Hamilton Leithauser and Hayden. While he's not writing and performing his own music he tours nationally with San Francisco based Geographer as a guitarist, keyboard player and backup vocalist. DONCAT is currently in the studio piecing together his follow up LP 'Easy Cowboy' due out Summer 2016. Expect to see west coast tour dates to come along with it.