When signing a major-record-label contract, few realize the implications it will have for their creative output. Executives often bring in external talent to help write tracks, and higher-ups have a habit of sanding down edgy tunes to make them sound more commercial—radio is key, after all. Many performers soon find their creative control slowly diminishing, and that they’re pushed into adopting a different identity as an artist.
U.K. singer-songwriter Luke Sital-Singh decided to say no. Walking away from a deal with Parlophone—the giant that produced his first album, 2014’s The Fire Inside—the performer chose instead to put out his second LP on an indie label. He hasn’t looked back since.
“It just wasn’t really working for me, being with a major,” Sital-Singh tells the Straight on the line from Boston. “I don’t hate collaborating and cowriting, but it was just too intense—the more voices you have projecting their own sound into your work, it starts to water down the vision. There are still a few people out there that I’d happily write with any day, that get my music and bring out the best in me rather than stamping their own thing on top of my stuff. I look back on the first album and realized that I said yes to too many other people’s ideas, and I should have stuck to my guns.”
Instead, the artist has spent the last year, as he jokingly puts it, “trying to ignore as many people as possible”. Having released his new album, Time Is a Riddle, on Raygun Records in May, Sital-Singh is proud of his sophomore effort, describing it as a “labour of love”. Without losing the singer’s signature bite, the songs feature soft, emotive piano scores blended with gentle guitar chords and supple vocals. That balance, Sital-Singh suggests, came from laying down the songs live.
“I recorded in a beautiful studio in Donegal,” he recalls. “It was in the middle of nowhere, with incredible countryside. I really wanted somewhere that I could escape to, and become enveloped in the making of the album. We finished it pretty quickly, in about 10 days. It was a really natural, organic process, which was very different from making the first one. Before, it was built around everyone’s schedules, which meant lots of little sessions—one day here, two days there—and it was all really broken up. I really wanted to have one block of time to really get stuck in.
“Because it was live, we made some mistakes,” he continues. “We kept them. Some of the vocal takes of mine could have been better technically, but I was singing in the room, so we couldn’t redo them. We just went with the full takes to try and keep some energy and aliveness to songs, which can often be quite sad or slow. It really sounds like the tracks have more vivacity to them because we’re all in the same room together. They sound like they’re being played by human beings, and that’s a very important thing.”
Luke Sital-Singh plays the Rio on Saturday (October 14)
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