Luke Sital-Singh wants his music to be naked. He wants to abstain from the processed noise and factory-made drum machines to keep his clean and charged sound. Not that those things are wrong, but he believes music should be able to prompt an emotional response from the listener without needing anything more than a voice and an instrument. His lyrics could’ve been taken from a journal, and his music is fitting for the reverb of a church chapel.
As seen in his first official release, an E.P. called Fail For You, he is so focused on perfecting the foundation of songs. This penman from London holds high the songwriting, and the emotion involved, and ignores the pull of lazy and superficial song building.
Pooling inspiration from big names such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Damien Rice and Sigur Rós, Sital-Singh consumes what they give him and makes it to be his own, producing emotional acoustic musings that touch on loss, redemption, and love in its natural form. He’s taking his individualized sound and melancholy ballads across the United Kingdom, keeping a consistent show schedule, including an appearance at Glastonbury 2010.
Sital-Singh comes from a West London town called New Malden, where he grew up surrounded by music. The baby of three musical brothers, his instrument of choice was the violin, soon to be swapped with his brother’s guitar. He claimed his loyalty to the guitar and now pairs his ability to strum a six-string with his knack for writing, spreading generously the yield of his talents.
Sital-Singh’s Twitter bio reads, “Writing melancholy pop songs and singing them like it’s the last thing I will ever do.”
What a way to go out.
[Below is a Q&A with Sital-Singh]
What’s the story behind your newest release, Fail For You?
Fail For You is actually my first official release. I’ve been making music for a while but never put anything out into the big wide world. The song is an old one, about two or three years old I think. I remember being eager to write more songs on electric guitar, so I borrowed my friend Sandy’s big Fender Hot Rod amplifier, carried it across Brighton (they are heavy) and set it all up in my old tiny flat. I remember sitting there once everything was ready to go, completely shattered from carrying this thing and I just started to play and the song fell out of me. Lyrically I’m trying to explore love. Boring I know, but to me there aren’t enough love songs about the reality of love, how bloody it can be. Amy Winehouse’s “Love is a Losing Game” does this amazingly. I was exploring the idea of love as self-sacrifice of letting go of your ego and how hard that can be.
Can you talk about your writing process?
My process is definitely still in process. I haven’t cracked what really works for me. But in general a song takes weeks, and the pen hitting paper is what happens at the very end. It’s more like collecting than writing. I’m a hoarder of information and words. I like reading; anything from poetry to blogs to news stories to non-fiction books. My brain just logs interesting ideas and when I come to sit down, when the mood and my head is just right, it all comes spilling out in nice shapes and sounds.
What do you do when writing isn’t coming easily?
As you can probably guess, my process doesn’t lend itself well to deadlines, as it’s so unpredictable, so usually I’m banging my head on the wall trying to force everything to move faster – that rarely works. So I just tend to carry on collecting until that moment strikes.
You grew up playing the violin before switching to guitar – what did you like better about the guitar?
I learnt violin at age 9 or 10 when I was mainly doing what was expected of me. My parents were encouraging of me taking up an instrument and I just liked the idea of the violin, but it never really connected with me. As I got older and started to carve out my own way in the world, the guitar became a more obvious idea and it just fits better with those rebellious teenage angst years. It’s stuck with me ever since.
You’re being managed by Raygun Music Management – how did that come about?
I met Julian when I was living in Brighton. Brighton is a great place for meeting musicians, and I happened to become great friends with all of Julian’s management roster. Paul Steel, The Xcerts, Stars and Sons. All great bands and lovely people and it was inevitable that Julian would come across what I was doing and he liked it and gave me advice years before we started working together officially. It’s going pretty darn well.
What’s your most memorable experience at a show? In the studio?
My favourite live experience was opening two shows for Josh Ritter. I think Josh is one of the best songwriters working today, it was unbelievable being able to open for him, plus his crowd was so quiet and positive toward what I was doing.
Studio-wise, recording the new E.P., which is out in September, was my favourite experience. I haven’t done a lot of studio recording, but this was great. Iain Archer produced it and he is also a personal hero of mine so it’s been great working with people I have so much respect for.
It seems you like to play shows in churches…
I play shows wherever I’m invited to play shows. But there is something very unique about playing in some old church buildings. Live music is a very connecting thing and the atmosphere in churches really adds to that feeling of connection to something that is bigger than yourself. I work a few stewarding shifts at the Union Chapel in Islington, London, which is a magnificent church building and one of the best live venues in London, I’m aching to play in there.
What do you prefer: solo concert or a band behind you?
At this stage, I’m loving playing alone. I love the idea of this very simple thing that people do and have done for so many years. Just get up with an acoustic instrument and sing a song. It’s such an intimate thing. I really don’t like all these loop-pedals and drum machine malarkey that are being used at the moment. It’s taking it away from the purity of what I love about singer/songwriters and moving into the world of ‘music has to move your feet.’ And I think, yea, one role music has is to move your feet, but another role, and I’d argue a more important role, is for it to lock your feet and your jaw to the floor.
What music are you currently listening to?
As I’ve written this interview, I’ve gone through Bon Iver, Derek Webb, Explosions in the Sky and Tallest Man On Earth.
What album can’t you live without?
That’s tricky. I think Sigur Rós – brackets album ( ). It just takes me there every time.
What have you not done musically that you’re just dying to try?
Performed live with a big orchestra.
Besides music, what else keeps you entertained?
Anything Aaron Sorkin has ever written. He’s the guy who writes films like Social Network and Moneyball, but also T.V. like Sports Night, The West Wing, Studio 60. His new series The Newsroom is taking a lot of my time.
What’s happening for you in 2012?
The E.P. is coming out in September and hopefully some tours on the back of that and then working towards the first record. It’s been an exciting year already, so I’ll be happy with more of the same!