Brit Singer-Songwriter Luke Sital-Singh Debuts in India This Month
A Londoner with Indian roots, Luke Sital-Singh, who will perform in India this month, is the toast of the UK festival scene
He calls himself an amateur songwriter on Twitter but it’s been a spectacular year so far for London-based vocalist Luke SiÂtal-Singh. Singh has already played the bigÂgest festivals in the UK including GlastonÂbury and Latitude. He snagged a spot as a guest on Robert Plant’s set at the iTunes festival in September. Says the singer in a phone interview from London, as he coughs his way through “a man flu” as he posted on his Twitter timeline, “[Glastonbury] Was a crazy festival. Kind of overwhelmingly huge. I was on a relatively big stage, which was scary, and I was sort of a bit worried because I was the first one on as well. But then, a lot of people came and it started raining half way through my set. The thing with Glastonbury is that there’s nowhere to go. You just have to stand in the rain, which is crazy, but they did and maybe a good few thousand people there, but it was fun.”
For a 26-year-old, Sital- Singh has the depth [and grace] of a seasoned bluesman, albeit from the Instagram generation. He writes clever little lines like “Dousing the sun, download the sky/Bring me emotion/ Bottled up tight” and his languidly f ired vocals, make for a compelling performance. He tells us that the line “download the sky” has little to do with him being an app geek. He says, “That song in particular was [a result of] stream of consciousness writing. Words were tumbling out, it wasn’t really a cohesive idea. That line is actually a tongue-in-cheek expression because you can’t download the sky and it’s more beautiful than anything that you download.”
The singer is in India, a country he has ties to but doesn’t know at all, to perform at the fifth edition of Bacardi NH7 Weekender. He says, “My great grand parents moved from Jamaica to India. But the roots are kind of lost. No one even knows where to start. [It was] A few generations back.” Sital- Singh laughingly agrees when I suggest that tracing his lost roots might even be material for a new song. The singer emphasizes that lyrics are the purpose of his songs. He says, “I like for songs to be simple, but yet try and throw in something which would twist the meaning a bit and think twice.” These days, Sital-Singh has been reading the works of American poet Billy Collins for inspiration. Says Sital-Singh, “He writes about normal life, it’s very observational and not poetic in the conventional sense really.”
While Sital-Singh has been compared to the likes of American vocalist Justin Vernon, the Brit singer’s sound is distinct. His songs are simple, maintaining pared-down arrangements with folksy acoustic guitar to accompany his vocals, which can sound robust even as they hit a falsetto. The singer is also one of the few emotionally articulate songwriters among the new wave of folk influenced artists from the UK scene. “When I write on my own, it’s very spontaneous and I let the ideas come along,” says Sital-Singh, “But with Iain, there’s a lot of talking so we spend a few hours just chatting about life and relationships. We arrive at an idea that we both think is very good.” Here, the singer refers to his collaboration with Irish singer and producer Iain Archer on his recently-released album The Fire Inside and EP Fail For You, which was released in 2012.
A big fan of Wes Anderson films, Sital- Singh also worked on an album of songs from his favorite film soundtracks. “I had some time on my hands,” the singer says with a sheepish laugh, “The album [The Fire Inside] was all finished back in March. I have a studio set up at home and I’m just really into films so I just picked songs from favorite films that I would have been proud to sing.” While Sital-Singh didn’t record these songs with the intention of releasing another album, his label Parlophone, was convinced the project had promise. The EP titled Film Songs, was released on Spotify, earlier this year and Sital-Singh picked “These Days” by Nico, “Julio Down By The Schoolyard” by Paul Simon, both from Anderson’s film The Royal Tenenbaums and “Strangers” by Brit rockers, The Kinks from yet another Anderson film The Darjeeling Limited among other songs on the EP. His cover of “The Wrestler,” sung by Bruce Springsteen for the Darren Aronofsky film by the same name, is a haunting version that probably has more impact that the original. He says modestly, “I didn’t really have new songs and it’s easy to get bogged down in the industry with numbers, stats and other virtually meaningless things. But when you get a message on Facebook from someone saying how much a song means to them, it keeps me going.”
Catch Sital-Singh in Pune and Delhi editions of NH7 Weekender this month.