"I didn’t want anything other than my instincts to be running the show" - hmv.com talks to Luke Sital-Singh
As he releases his second album Time Is A Riddle (which you can purchase on the right-hand side of the page) we sat down with singer-songwriter Luke Sital-Singh to discuss his departure from Parlophone, working with Villagers on the album and why he wanted to call the shots this time...
How did you want Time Is A Riddle to move on from what you did on The Fire Inside?
"I just wanted to make all the decisions, and I didn’t want anything other than my instincts to be running the show. No external concerns about radio, or singles, or sales or anything. I just wanted to disappear somewhere and make something I thought was beautiful and then deal with the consequences later. Which is pretty much what I managed to do. Which was nice."
You worked with Tommy McLaughlin, how did the collaboration with him come about? What did he give you as a producer?
"I had met Tommy whilst on tour with Villagers. He has been a long time member of the Villagers band, he told me about his studio. I said it sounded nice, and that was that. Fast forward a few years later and I’m thinking about making this record and wondering who to work with. I listened to the Soak record, which Tommy produced, and thought ‘Hey, this Tommy guy sounds legit’. So I looked into his studio again and it ticked all the boxes. As somewhere beautifully remote, and working with people I liked. Plus Tommy likes coffee nearly as much as me. So that was important."
"As a producer, Tommy is very sensitive to the song itself. He understood instantly from my demos that we didn't need to make a showy, glitzy record. but we needed great simple performances that got the emotion of the songs across. As an engineer he knows how to make things sound good, which becomes more important the fewer things you have going on. Each element is more exposed and so needs to sound nice and rich. We had a good time."
You recorded in Donegal with a band of local musicians, what was that experience like?
"The musicians were mostly also members of Villagers who I had met whilst touring. James (Byrne) on drums and Danny (Snow) on bass, so it was nice to see them again and that felt really relaxed and fun. We also had piano/keys player Michael Keeney who I hadn't met before but everyone knew each other previously and it made the whole thing so painless. It can be pretty lonesome being a solo artist all the time. So those times when you can pretend to be in a band are really important."
Your first album came out on Parlophone whereas this is coming out independently, why did you decide to make that change?
"I didn’t really make that decision in some ways. The Parlophone relationship was dwindling towards the end when I decided I didn’t feel at home there. So after I split there was a period of wandering the desert with no idea what to do. But I was lucky in that my time at Parlophone had elevated my profile enough that I wasn’t desperate to jump into another big record deal. I was able to carve something out with my manager and red essential and put together a record deal that was a lot fairer to me and gave me the freedom I wanted."
Which of the songs on the album took the longest to get right?
"None of them were very hard as far as I remember. I think the drums on 'Hunger' took a little while to finesse. It’s a slightly off-kilter beat. We really gave James, the drummer, a lot of work to do on that one. As much as possible we wanted to use full takes rather than chop little moments up, which obviously takes longer as everyone has to learn all the moves in the song and get it exactly right. although we weren’t overly fussed with little mistakes as long as it didn’t take away from everything else."
And which came together most quickly?
"'Killing Me' was the fastest to record. Myself and Michael Keeney, the pianist, are performing it together. It was a special part of the album. We turned all the lights super low and Keeney played the piano and I sang, completely live in full takes. I think we did 3 or 4 takes. I was drinking a lot of red wine. It was nice. Totes Emosh."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a common theme?
"It’s all over the place really. I’m still a very introspective writer. There is probably more lyrics that are explicitly about my inner life. Whereas on the first record there were a few more songs about us weird human beings. This one is more about me and my issues."
When did you settle on the title of Time Is A Riddle?
"I knew I wanted it fairly early on. When I wrote the song I thought it was a cool title for a record. Usually, I don't like to settle on a title until after the album is done and then I try to listen to the album and work out what theme is popping out. Time Is A Riddle just worked for me."
What are your plans to take the album out live?
"I’m doing this song solo. Most of the songs all came from solo demos and I love to play solo. It should all work pretty well. I’ve tried the band thing and It didn’t work well enough to justify losing what I love about playing solo. The rawness and the freedom. It’s a drug for me."