At the wise old age of 25, Declan McKenna is already a veteran of Britain's pop scene with a third album "What Happened to the Beach?" earning praise from Elton John.

McKenna made a huge splash with his debut single "Brazil" in 2015, a semi-protest song about the country's hosting of the World Cup.

It confirmed his status as one of Britain's up-and-coming stars after he won the emerging talent contest at the Glastonbury Festival.

"I was just going with the flow. At the start you take what's presented to you," he told AFP.

"I definitely look back and think, 'Woah, that was intense for a young age'. But I feel in a good place -- I don't feel chewed up and spat out just yet," he said with a laugh.

The British pop machine has a tendency to propel young talents to stardom and then abandon them just as quickly.

But McKenna's light-hearted jangly pop seems to have staying power -- helped by a plug from Elton John, who invited McKenna on to his "Rocket Hour" radio show and said recent single "Sympathy" was "one of his favourite songs of summer 2023".

"It's huge praise. I'm a huge fan of Elton," said McKenna. "He's still doing really cool things, such a legend in my eyes."

McKenna left his home town of Brighton in southern England in the dead of winter to record the new album in sunny Los Angeles. It comes out on February 9.

"It was a bleak time of year in the UK, so it really was an escape, and that became a theme of the album.

"But LA is a very isolating place. It's got its charms, but I couldn't live there," he added.

His recent single, "Nothing Works", appears to hint at worries that he will struggle to fulfil his early promise or be given a phoney makeover by his label.

But like many musicians of his generation, McKenna has quite a pragmatic view of his career, and doesn't take any of it too seriously.

"I didn't want the message to be that I'm being manipulated by my label," he said of the song.

"It's not the truth: I've afforded myself some freedom and the label have supported that, even if I've had to fight for it at times.

"As heavy as (the rapid success) might have been, I was enjoying a lot of it -- and I still am."