If you’ve been here a while you might know that Paynter started very early on in our relationship. It had hardly been three months before we were working out what our brand would become, while selling our wares on eBay to raise money for samples.
Just a few weeks before then was a first date. Long distance meant sitting on Great Western Rail every weekend, one of us always headed between London and West Wales. The first time Huw came to London for the weekend he brought tickets to see Luke Sital-Singh playing at the Southbank. Luke was a friend of Huw’s, and by coincidence I already loved his music. Win win.
That gig was 4 years ago, and a lot has happened in the time that’s passed. Luke, and his wife Hannah moved to L.A. Then came the pandemic. We kept in touch on Zoom and Luke released music that would keep us company in the studio while packing orders, and Hannah designed the limited edition label on Batch No.10, our first coat.
With the pandemic behind us, it’s time for Luke to tour again and we’ve already got our tickets for the final night in London on the 9th October. We can’t wait.
His tour has just begun and as we’re writing, he’ll have just played in Belfast and will soon be headed to Amsterdam. We caught up with Luke before he got on the road, to ask about the process of creating his new album, his new dog, how he packs for 10 weeks on the road and his love of pizza.
But first, here’s a snapshot of Luke singing at home from his new album, Dressing Luke a Stranger.
You're well known for sad songs. Why don’t you like writing happy songs?
Honest reason: I can’t. Don’t know how to write happy stuff that doesn’t come off very cheesy and crass.
Artistic deep reason: sad songs are the best. I think they move and change people more than happy songs. I go to music to hear that other people find life hard too cos that makes me feel less alone in my mess.
Did anybody teach you to write songs, or are you self taught?
Mostly self taught. I did go to a music college called BIMM in Brighton, which had some songwriting classes. But I think teaching songwriting is tricky. There are some practices and concepts you can learn. But really to learn you just gotta keep writing and writing and writing and listening to as many good songs as humanly possible. Eventually the songs get better.
You’re about to release and tour your latest album Dressing Like a Stranger, is the process of writing a new album fairly consistent or does it change each time?
Writing seems to get harder for me. Or at least slower and I beat myself up about that and that makes it feel harder. I think when I find the initial spark of a good idea the songs come as easily as they ever did. I’ve always been a fast writer when I’m in the zone but if I’m not in the zone I just can’t do it. I’m not a slugger. But finding that inspiration has been hard this time. I don’t like to repeat myself and write the same songs about the same things (although I do end up doing that sometimes) so I flail around uninspired trying to find something fresh to write about. That has been the hardest so far.
How involved are you with the wider album creation process, like how it looks etc?
I pretty much control everything.
I did the design of the cover and all that too.
I’m a major control freak.
What should we expect from your new music?
Pensive, exploratory, existential, questioning, confused, heartfelt songs with a slightly low-fi folky indie pop sound. Haha that sounds awful. But I think it’s good.
Where was it written and recorded? Who else worked on your album?
I wrote I think all of it in my apartment. I collaborate with other writers a lot. But this album has the least amount of writing collaborations on it. Which wasn’t intentional necessarily. Covid made getting together with writers hard. So I ended up working alone on most of it. There are some writers. Dan Croll who also helped produce it wrote a couple and Ben Cramer aka Old Sea Brigade wrote Can’t Get High with me.
It was recorded 90% myself with the aforementioned Dan Croll. Some of it in my apartment but I also rented a tiny studio in LA in order to get out of the house and be able to make loud noise at all hours. So we holed up there for 2 weeks getting it all done. It was an intense 2 weeks but really glad we did it that way. It was a total covid necessity. I’d wanted to do the standard thing I do which is hire a proper studio and a producer and band and disappear for weeks making music with a bunch of cool people. That wasn’t gonna happen. So I had to be more DIY. But it’s ended up being the most personal record and I’m so proud of it.
Do you listen to your own music, and who else do you listen to?
Err I don’t listen to myself as a habit. When I’m in the midst of making an album or releasing the singles I will listen to it a lot. Just by way of process and once released just as a kind of review of what I’ve done now it’s out there. But once it’s released and I’ve streamed it all once or spun the vinyl, I’ll probably never listen to it again.
There’s a lot of people I listen to. But I don’t listen to things over and over as I find that it kills things I love. So I’m always rotating around. But constant go-tos at the moment are - Damien Jurado, Julian Lage, Bonny Light Horseman, Wilco, Phil Cook, Flyte and Josh Rouse. To name a few.
What’s it like like writing your own music vs writing for other people?
Oh it’s so different.
I’m still learning the ropes on writing with and for other people. But it feels like a different set of muscles entirely. For one I gotta be a nice person to be around haha. I’m pretty shy and introverted when I first meet people so when folks come over to write I have to put on a brave face to start with and get over that and that’s before even trying to come up with gold out of our arses. And then I have to pretend I know the answers or have a clue what I’m doing. But I’ve found as I’ve got more experienced in music that no one knows what they’re doing. We’re all just trusting our gut and going for it and seeing what happens. It’s quite liberating.
Have you ever written for someone else then wished that song was for you and stole it back?
No but that’s the goal. I always want to want to have the song myself.
Otherwise I can’t tell if what I’m writing is any good.
If you’re procrastinating when writing, what would we catch you doing to avoid working on it?!
Probably the endless instagram scroll. Hate it. Love it. Hate it. Love it.
What’s a typical day like when you’re on tour?
Feel like it’s been such a long time since I properly toured. But most days there’ll be a hunt for good coffee and good pizza. And a lot of waiting around in dingy venues. Touring rhymes with boring for a reason. The only exciting bit is the time on stage.
Oh and I also LOVE plugging in cables and setting stuff up. I should be a roadie really.
Has living in LA influenced your music?
Yes and no. Not the songwriting really. But the production has taken a lot of inspiration from some of the LA indie folk scene. Think Phoebe Bridgers, Ethan Gruska, Blake Mills etc.
What’s a working day like as a songwriter?
Kinda looks like being a student. Lots of sitting around. Procrastinating. Emailing. Feeling guilty about not tik-toking. Watching YouTube. That’s when I’m working alone for the day.
If I have a session with someone. They usually come by at around 11 and we sit and talk for a couples hours and then stare at each other and the walls until 5/6pm and then marvel at the miracle of having written a song somehow.
How do you pack for travelling for such a long time? How many bags do you take?
Well annoyingly I’m usually travelling with a guitar so that takes up a load of my luggage allowance on flights. Then I have to work out how to schmush everything else into one big suitcase.
I’m literally packing for a big tour in between answering these questions and I feel like it’s been so long I’ve forgotten how to do it. Once, my wife, Hannah packed my bag for me and when I got to the first hotel I realised she had forgotten to pack any underwear. So that was fun. I tend to pack for myself these days.
Where do you wash your clothes when on tour?!
On my first ever tour I was determined to travel light. And I only bought 3 pairs of pants and I washed that days pair in the sink at the hotel each night. But that was stupid and I haven’t done it again since. I don’t usually tour for that long and so I tend to have enough for the whole run. However if the tour is longer there is usually a hotel or two that could get it done or even some venues have machines backstage and showers too!
What do you miss about home when you’re away?
My wife. Awwwwwww 🤢, my sofa and my studio gear. Oh and now my dog. This will be my first major tour since getting the dog.
Aw! While we're talking about tours, any unusual tour habits?
Don’t think so. If I’m really nervous before a show I like to blare the Jurassic park theme tune backstage as my pump up music.
Tell us about your dog who appeared in the shoot…
The dog! Tchai is her name. Don’t ask about the spelling. But it’s pronounced Chai. She’s the best. A Mini Australian shepherd. She's 11 months old in this shoot. Nutty as all hell. But so sweet. She’s become an indispensable part of the family since we got her in December 2021.
And how was it working with the photographer we named Paynter after, Andrew Paynter?
I love Andrew.
He's one of my favourite people in the world. I’ve had the pleasure of being shot by him 6 or 7 times now. He shot the cover of my new album too. He’s one of those photographers you don’t really notice is shooting and then he says he’s done. Thats quite the feat for him as he shoots with a Pentax 67 which is probably one of the biggest and loudest film cameras around. We just spend our time laughing and making really outdated references to The Office (the original version of course).
If you couldn’t be a singer / songwriter, what would you do for a living?
Dog sitter, pizza maker, coffee barista, graphic designer, chef, photographer. I actually have a lot of mini passions that I can see turning into maxi passions if I wanted them to.
That said, I think I’d rather be a banker or something and make some money for once.
Ok, let's finish with some final quick questions:
Your favourite building
The Eames House in LA.
Biggest source of inspiration
My wife awwww 🤢 and just day to day life being an over thinker. There’s always something to think and fret about that usually makes it into a song.
Piece in your wardrobe
ALL MY PAYNTER JACKETS and also this blue vintage French chore jacket that I’m wearing in my album cover.
Pizza. Pizza. Pizza. I also like Pizza
If I had to read one over and over it would prob be The War of Art by Steven Pressfield or a book of every single Billy Collins poem.
Favourite place to chill out
Where are you most looking forward to playing on tour?
Amsterdam. 5000 people. Should be fun.
Do you have a favourite track from the new album?
I think Dressing Like A Stranger is my fave. It was the first one I wrote that felt like I had I licked the vibe of the new album.
Exactly how tall are you (for our size guide lol)