Tender and heartfelt, Luke Sital-Singh’s music will make you want to cry, laugh, and go experience life to the fullest with the ones you love. The London-based singer-songwriter is a man of many talents—although he’s at his best when it’s just him, a piano, and a room full of space. Luke’s music has been featured on the TV shows Grey’s Anatomy and Suits.
We recently got the chance to talk with Luke about his music, his sometimes whacky experiences, and his upcoming album. Enjoy!
Kindling the fire
Ethan Weitz: You just announced the release of your second album, Time Is a Riddle. What aspects of the record are you most excited to share with the world?
Luke Sital-Singh: It’s hard to pick out specific aspects. I think in general it feels like a significant achievement to have brought this album to life. It was tough going for a while and I really felt at times there wouldn’t be another album. So I am just super excited that it’s finally been announced and will soon be out there in the wild!
Ethan: What inspired the title, Time Is a Riddle? Are there any overarching themes or concepts running throughout the album?
Luke: Time is a Riddle is the title of one of the songs on the new album. It was a significant song, as it was the first song I’d written after a long period of writer’s block. I’d written quite a lot of half songs but nothing I was proud of. I wasn’t even particularly proud of this song—my vision for it was all over the place—but something inside made me send it to my manager anyway. He came back so enthusiastic that it really rekindled the fire and opened the way for the rest of the album to come together. So highlighting it as the title track felt right, and also it’s just a cool title.
I’m chronically introspective, so my songs are often inspired by inward musings on what it means to be alive and be a better human being—learning lessons, a changing heart, feeling alone, and of course, love. Always. Bloody. Love.
“[My songwriting process is] either an abject mess or a flawless, frictionless gift from above.”
Ethan: Your recent single, ‘Killing Me,’ is both powerful and tragic. What inspired you to write it?
Luke: The idea of losing someone you love is something I think about often, possibly because I’ve not yet lost anybody I was very close with. But it’s one of life’s inevitabilities. I find it very heartbreaking, especially thinking about the people left behind, the loneliness they must face, and also all the joys they can’t share with their beloved. My grandma lost my grandfather 10 years ago, and I often think about how much she must miss him. I was feeling overwhelmed by that thought when I wrote ‘Killing Me.’
Writing music, conjuring magic
Ethan: Did you always dream of being a musician and songwriter, or was there a point where everything clicked and you realized this is something you just had to do?
Luke: I don’t remember a point where anything clicked. Looking back, all I see is this gradual slope from picking up a violin at age 8 or 9 all the way to where I am today. It’s a slope built from curiosity, tenacity, dumb luck, circumstance, fear, laziness, aspiration, and everything in between. I don’t really believe in callings or being born do to things. On my bad days, being a musician is the last thing I want to be; but on my good days, I’ve not experienced anything that brings me more joy.
Ethan: Are there any other experiences that stand out as really formative for you as a musician and songwriter?
Luke: I went to see Ryan Adams play in Brighton in 2011. I was just out of university and had a mindless job. I was getting by, but my drive for music was lagging. I could see myself wasting years living as a perpetual student just bumming around. But I went to this gig and watched this man alone on a stage for 2 hours giving me a masterclass in what you can achieve, what magic you can conjure from just a guitar and a voice. I left that show feeling like I had a lot to do. Soon after I moved back to London and that’s when things started moving forward.
Ethan: What does your songwriting process generally look like?
Luke: It’s either an abject mess or a flawless, frictionless gift from above. Either I work on something for hours and hours, days and days, and end up mostly giving up (although at times finishing something good), or I sit noodling on my guitar whilst watching The West Wing and out of nowhere a complete song lands on my lap. There are barely any in-betweens. It’s horribly unpredictable.
Ethan: Who or what are some of your biggest influences—both musically and lyrically?
Luke: I find the influences question tricky to answer—especially musical influences. I just don’t think about it at all when it comes to writing or recording music. I make gut decisions, which of course have been influenced by all the music I’ve listened to and enjoyed. So those influences would be—but not be limited to—David Bazan, Wilco, Ryan Adams, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Justin Vernon, Elbow, Josh Ritter, The National, Low, Sam Amidon, Tallest Man On Earth.
In terms of lyrics, I hold up poet Billy Collins as a major influence. I will forever try and fail to do in a song what he does in a poem.
On being a musician
Ethan: What have been the biggest challenges of making and performing music? On the flipside, what is most rewarding about being a professional musician?
Luke: For me the most challenging thing is trying not to go insane from worry all the time, and being able to switch off. The social media aspect of being an artist these days can get overwhelming. I suppose it depends on your character, but I’m a fairly private person and constantly sharing stuff doesn’t come naturally to me. But giving myself a break from being ‘on’ all the time is hard as well. You end up just feeling guilty for not doing things to progress your career 24/7.
It may sound silly, but the most rewarding thing is the rare times when you just get to make music. When you find your way through the quagmire of nonsense that is 80% of the music industry and stumble on a clearing in the woods where music becomes the only thing to think about. This can happen for me onstage, when everything is working as it should, but also when recording. In Donegal making this new record I felt very free to just record my songs and think about nothing else. It was so great.
“My grandma lost my grandfather 10 years ago, and I often think about how much she must miss him. I was feeling overwhelmed by that thought when I wrote ‘Killing Me.’”
Ethan: What is the strangest thing a fan has ever told you?
Luke: “You’re my favourite artist.”
Ethan: What are some of your most memorable experiences from touring and performing?
Luke: One highlight was performing on the park stage at Glastonbury a few years ago. I remember it well, as I was opening the stage and it was pretty wet and muddy. Just before I went on, I noticed that there was hardly anyone there to see me. It wasn’t a great feeling going onto the stage. My habit is to sing with my eyes closed, and I was doing just that as I sang the first couple of songs in my set. Then I vividly remember opening my eyes and seeing that one of the largest crowds had appeared, as if by magic. It was such a shock that it nearly threw off my performance. But it was a great moment.
Featured image by Steve Gullick.