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After an absence of three years and a change in record label, Luke Sital-Singh is back on the scene with new material on his latest album ‘Time is a Riddle’. We got the chance to talk to the London-born artist about the last few years, his approach to the new album, and of course about his favourite cocktail…
You’ve been compared to acts such as Bon Iver and Jeff Buckley in the past, and you’ve also been credited with “breathing new life” into a “tired form”, so how would you describe your sound and what do you think you do to breathe new life into it?
There’s nothing particularly ground-breaking, in my mind, about my sound. But I like to be heavy handed in the emotions I try to put into songs. It’s singer-songwriting to describe it really, it’s fairly simple acoustic guitar-based pop songs, instrumentally. I think when that review was written, I don’t think there had been that new wave of singer-songwriter yet. I would say that there’s just maybe a little bit of something deeper maybe about what I do. I don’t really think about it, I just try and write songs that agree with me, but moving people is the thing that I want to do the most. Music at its best for me, is that kind of music that stops time and you just go “jeez, that is a beautiful song”. If I can write albums full of songs like that, that’s what I’m trying to do, just really move people emotionally.
Do you think you’ve managed to keep it up then? Considering we’ve had that ‘new wave’ of singer-songwriters now, do you think your sound still stands up?
For me, that whole breed of singer-songwriter has been around and it will continue to be around forever, it’s such a simple, primal way of writing music. There’ll always be that community of people writing songs like that and singing them. I started doing this style of music when I was 14-15, and I’m 29 now and still doing it, writing songs exactly the same way and you know I still feel like a beginner, I’m no master at it or anything. It still excites me and makes me think that it’s still a worthwhile way of writing songs. It’s still doing it for me anyway, that’s the main thing.
You mention that the style of singer-songwriter will always be around, and looking to where you’re from, John Martin, Jamie Woon, who grew up in your area, did they have any influence on your sound and were you aware of them?
As successful as those guys are, I don’t think it was something my town was particularly proud about or even knew about. It’s more like a bit of trivia than them influencing me. There should be a statue of them somewhere if you ask me but I wouldn’t say there was anything about New Malden that is breeding singer-songwriter types at all.
Is the town proud of you then?
I’ve got no idea actually! It’s a bit of weird mind maze at the minute when I go back. Fairly recently, I found out that they demolished my childhood home, when I say ‘they’ I don’t mean the people of New Malden though! [laughs] It’s whoever sold it, my family don’t live there anymore. But it’s a bit weird to go back and see your house is gone. I go back every now and then but it doesn’t really have much of a cultural…I’m poo-pooing this place a bit now [laughs] but it’s alright, it’s fairly anonymous.
Mentioning the environment, you recorded your new album in Donegal in Ireland, what prompted that decision?
When we were coming to making this new album, one of the things that I wanted to do with the process was that I wanted to disappear somewhere. One of the frustrating things about the first album was that it was made with lots of scheduling problems because of the world that it was made in. There was just tiny little sessions here and there, one song every two weeks, it was all cut up. There was no cohesion and it wasn’t particularly satisfying creatively. So I wanted to do the opposite of that this time and just go somewhere for a couple of weeks, play with the same musicians and just get it all done. The studio there had these wall to ceiling windows as well, so when we were recording you could just look over the Donegal hills, which were all wet and windy which was speaking to the songs. You can hear the rain on the roof on some of the tracks. It was a really beautiful place to spend some time. We recorded it all in the live room as well with the band, so you get that bleed between the instruments and the microphones, so there’s a lot more of a raw ‘as it happened’ thing on this album which I’m really chuffed with.
Is it fair to say you’re happier now after the split with (previous record label) Parlophone?
Yes I am, but it’s tricky, I’m not gonna poo-poo everything that’s happened in the past but you learn loads. If it wasn’t for my time with them I wouldn’t have the profile and stuff, there’s loads of things you get from them. But I have enjoyed the process of making this album more than the first one. I’ve taken complete control, even the none-musical things, artwork design and just the way we do things. I’ve carved things out with my manager and we put it out through his label, which has contacts with bigger distributers. So it’s the best of both worlds at the minute, it’s going really well and I’m loving it.
And finally, if you could describe your music as a cocktail, what would it be?
A negroni, the reason being that it’s pretty strong and it packs an emotional punch.
‘Time is a Riddle’ is available now: http://www.lukesitalsingh.com/