Bayasgalan Dulguun, better known as Magnolian, released his new EP of indie folk rock, “Famous Men”, in July 2016. “Famous Men” has six songs with strange and unique names: “Banquet”, “Etiquette”, “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”, “Famous Men”, “The Bride & the Bachelor”, and “The Beach Song”.
He writes his own lyrics and music, by himself. All the songs are written and performed in English. Magnolian’s songs make the listener feel like they’re walking on the clouds or traveling into their dreams.
The following is an interview with B.Dulguun about his work as Magnolian.
Why did you choose the name Magnolian? Why didn’t you just go with B.Dulguun?
Because it looked like Mongolia the first time I saw it. Many years ago, I saw the word “magnolia” and I thought I saw the word Mongolia, because the spelling is very similar. It was a strange kind of feeling, like seeing somebody familiar in the middle of the street.
Actually, I couldn’t find a good name for a very long time. I thought about a couple of names until I settled on Magnolian. Magnolian is kind of like Mongolian, but it is kind of like a play on words, with Magnolian-Mongolian. I am very happy with the name Magnolian.
There are a few reasons why I didn’t go with my real name, B.Dulguun. First of all, there is already a singer called Dulguun. She is a rapper. I didn’t want to be confused with her. Second of all, I wanted to separate my personal identity from my music. Third of all, I don’t think Dulguun is suitable for an artist’s name.
Why did you call your EP “Famous Men”?
Actually, it is the title of one of the six songs on the album. I wrote the song before the album, so “Famous Men” just seemed like an appropriate album title.
I really like this song, because “Famous Men” is not very fancy, and boring. Most people make pop songs, or whatever they want, if people like it or not. I think “Famous Men” is a balanced song. It starts very soft but it becomes very rhythmic.
The cover of the album has three men on it. The cover also came after I named the album. I think the name and the cover of the album are really well matched.
Did you choose the cover of the album randomly, or do you know the three men on the album cover?
I couldn’t find the right cover for the album for a long time. I was looking through photographs at home and then I found a bunch of old photos. Suddenly, I found that photo. It was such a good photo to me.
That picture was actually taken on July 11, 1996, during the Naadam Festival. Those three men were drivers on a trip. In the photo, they are trying to watch Mongolian traditional wrestling on TV, in the middle of nowhere. The colors, sky, and everything look interesting. I just thought it was a great picture, and it had a great story behind it. I think it went well with the music as well. I also think that it’s a pretty funny picture.
Were you allowed to use their picture for the cover?
I didn’t ask them, but two of them I know personally. They are also happy with it. I don’t know if I am legally allowed to use it. I didn’t really look into that, but they know that they are on the cover. They will for sure not sue me.
How did you connect your life to music?
First, I started playing guitar when I was 12 years old. Then, I started writing music when I was 15 or 16 years old. Starting from 2014, I was writing songs and music as Magnolian.
In the beginning, I was playing other people’s music in order to learn guitar. When I was 16 years old, I started writing guitar pieces. I have been writing guitar pieces for a long time, because I was waiting to meet the right people to form a band. But it was hard to find people to play with. Then I decided to sing songs by myself.
Where do get your inspiration from?
The moment when I feel like writing music is when I listen to good music. Sometimes, I just hear a song and think, “Damn! I have to make music now.”
You have to read books if you want to write a book yourself. You have to watch movies if you want to make a film. For me, I listen to various genres of singers and bands.
I listen to good music, and that music made me want to make my own music.
Obviously, sometimes when you listen to music, you don’t feel anything, even though it could be the most beautiful music. Sometimes I listen to music and I just get inspiration from that and start making music. It depends on where you are, or what you are doing at that moment.
What is good music to you?
Obviously, my music taste has changed over the years. Nobody in my family influenced me musically. My mother and my father are not musical people.
My musical taste has been acquired independently. I started listening to pop music when I was a kid. After that, I gradually started moving to rock. My friends used to listen punk rock. They influenced me.
Eventually, my taste in music formed in my senior year of high school. At that time I found a band called The National. I heard one song by them, and that song was so interesting. Drums, piano, guitar, the arrangement, and everything were so different. I had never experienced that kind of thing before.
The singer of the band has a very deep and weird voice. The National is not a bandthat catches you instantly, you have to listen to them many times. I started learning about them. Actually, I don’t like to listen to just one song over and over again. But I did that.
I also like Bon Iver, The Weekend, Vincent, and Arcade Fire.
I was lucky because I discovered the bands I like. I opened the door to the music world by finding those bands. At that time, I matured musically.
What is the most difficult thing about making music for you?
The most difficult thing for me is working with other people. That’s why I write songs and make music by myself. But I have to cooperate with people at the end of my music, such as making music videos, playing instruments, and recording an album. It is very hard to let other people understand me. The ability to cooperate and communicate with others is a very important thing. I regret that I didn’t learn this skill when I was a child.
What are you working on now?
I like to watch films. Films have influenced me so much. Currently, I am working on a documentary called “Nomad Meets the City”. I am not the director. I am the cinematographer and a producer on that. The director is an American lady, Anji Sauve Clubb. She came to Mongolia to make a movie about rapid urbanization.
In modern Ulaanbaatar, we are witnessing a cultural and geospatial transformation unprecedented in Mongolia’s history.