Chris Duncan describes himself as a dreamer, but should the Drymen musician walk away with the Mercury Music Prize later this week, his plans for the £25,000 that accompanies it are grounded in reality.

“I’m going to put together a home studio properly,” muses the composer. “It’d be one where I could get other musicians in to record and start getting other equipment. The boring part of the answer is that I’ll get a deposit together on a flat as well.”

Given that Duncan’s nomination for the Mercury came about with a record he put together in a Kelvindale flat for around £50, it is tantalising to wonder just what the 26-year-old could produce with greater resources.

Read more: The Scots who made the mercury rise 

Architect, his debut offering, is a delight of a record. It offers up a sugar rush of harmonies, dream-pop and folk, all woven together with immense skill, and with a touch of classical music in there for good measure.

The latter is not in there by accident. Duncan comes from a highly musical family, with his parents Mark and Janina both classical musicians themselves, his aunt a violinist and his grandfather a composer.

Surrounded by music at home, it’s no surprise that he started playing the piano aged six, was on the viola by 10 and then started on the guitar (loudly, he notes at one point) when he was a teenager. Such a musical background obviously helped the affable musician find his feet, but earning a place on the shortlist for the Mercury, the winner of which will be announced on Friday, is a different situation to anything he’s experienced before. “I was just in complete shock when I heard and I’m still not used to it,” he admits.

The Herald:

“There was a lot of excitement – I always follow the Mercury and now I’m nominated it’s totally surreal and really exciting.”

It’s been a new experience for the whole family, too.

“My parents have always been really supportive,” he says. “I think they’re just happy I’m doing music too, because it’s something we’re all so passionate about in the family.

“I’m not making classical music and they’re excited by that, because they know the classical world well, they’ve been playing it for over 30 years and they know everything that goes with it. So they’re excited that I’m making pop music because it’s totally new to them.”

Although its creator is from Drymen on the way to Loch Lomond, Architect is firmly a Glaswegian record, and not just because the cover painting offers a view of the city from above, painted by Duncan himself. He studied composition at the Royal Conservatoire, graduating in 2011, and it was while there that the elements of his sound started to fuse, most notably the dreamier vocal harmonies that give Architect such character.

The city itself offered other inspirations, too.

“The Conservatoire was something I really loved,” he reflects. “The composition department is something that was great because it was very eclectic and there was a lot of different influences there. It really inspired me to keep writing music. I think the city as a whole did start to seep in [to the music I make] not in a grimy way.

“It was much more something that, while I really love Glasgow and will probably spend most of my life here, I quite often think about escaping to random places, like Monaco or Kenya. Just anywhere random… And I put that into the music, where a lot of the songs maybe aren’t about escaping entirely, but are about just getting away for a while.”

When we talk, Duncan hasn’t escaped to anywhere as exotic. He is sitting near Southend On Sea, having stopped for something to eat while travelling to a gig supporting the English indie-folk songstress Lucy Rose, with trains rattling by in the background.

Who needs glamour, though? His album was recorded in as barebones circumstances as possible, and although there were obvious financial benefits to recording the album at home, Duncan feels it was a decision made more for creative reasons than anything else.

“When you’re surrounded by equipment you can pick up a mike whenever you want. You don’t have to get a studio slot, you don’t have to psyche yourself for going into the studio or anything like that.

Our review (first published in July)

“It’s much more regimented doing it in the studio, whereas at home you don’t have to go to bed, you can just keep the headphones on and keep working. Obviously you can come into contact with other people if you want to, but you can spend days by yourself, just getting lost in another world.

“It’s an intentionally dreamy record for that purpose – I like things by the Cocteau Twins and bands like that, or psychedelic music, where you can just lose yourself.”

Crucial to that sound is the layers of vocal harmonies present. He mentions loving a Carpenters Best of compilation when young, and wanting to have vocals like that or the Beach Boys running through Architect, a choice that adds warmth to the songs.

“Recording it at home means it’s always fun to see how many layers of vocals I can put on – the vocal harmonies for me are a way of getting more harmony in there without adding another instrument.

“There’s something warm about doing it, like with the Carpenters or the Beach Boys songs. I still can’t decide if it’s a summer album or a winter album, I think it moves between both and I think those vocal harmonies brighten it up and add that warmth to it.”

Working at home clearly brings many benefits, but it’s fair to wonder if he can ever take a break from music when it literally surrounds him. He feels he can, thanks to his other main passion.

“Painting is my hobby if music’s the job,” he says.

“I spend a lot of time researching other artists and doing my own paintings, and it’s something that I find very relaxing. The album cover was all these overhead views of Glasgow because I wanted to paint all the places I’d been in and I really like the view of streets from above – there’s so many little parts to paint as part of it, which was fun.”

Already Duncan is back on the job, though. He’s currently halfway through a second album, one that will feature more electronics and, somehow, even dreamier songs. He’s also beefed up his live band to a quartet, and they’ll enjoy a run of Scottish headline shows at the start of December, including what’s sure to be a celebratory occasion at the Art School in Glasgow on December 5.

“I think I’ve grown a lot (as a live performer). When we started it was basically just me singing along to backing tracks and it was all a bit karaoke. Gradually I’ve been adding more people – when we went to two of us it was still a bit karaoke so we kept expanding, and it’s grown naturally. It doesn’t feel like we’re doing anything totally different to the record but everyone is still bringing their own influences to it.”

That doesn’t extend to adding anyone else for the next album, though, which he hopes to release next year.

“I don’t think I’ll have anyone extra on the next album yet, I’m still too much of a control freak for that,” he says, dryly.

“But down the line I’d like to bring in something like a string quartet, and collaborating with other people does sound like fun.”

By then, of course, he might well have the Mercury on his mantelpiece too.

The bookies currently have Duncan as a considerable outsider to actually take the prize, well behind the likes of Jamie XX, Wolf Alice and Ghostpoet, while he’s an unknown in the public eye too, especially when compared to other nominees such as Florence & the Machine and Gaz Coombes.

However he believes that anything will come as an added bonus after the nomination.

“I’ve heard a few stories about artists who think a Mercury nomination puts a strain on their creative process or whatever, but to be recognised after one album, which is the same for a few other artists on the list, is such great exposure.

“It’s all positive for me,” he says, not sounding dreamy at all.

The Mercury Music Prize ceremony takes place on Friday. C Duncan tours Scotland at the start of December. Architect is released on Fat Cat Records and a new version of his debut single, For, is released on November 27.