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Interview: Roo Panes – The Little Giant Grows
Dorset singer-songwriter Roo Panes brought us the joy of his debut album Little Giant last October, and is now preparing for his upcoming April tour, taking him all across the UK. This week, we had the chance to chat with this exuberant solo artist, discussing his tour, lyrics and what he has planned for the rest of the year.
So you have your tour starting in April, how are you feeling on the lead up to this?
I’m feeling great. I haven’t been touring too much so it’s nice when it comes around with a solid month of dates. It’s a shock to the system going from writing to suddenly charging around and playing every night. I enjoy singing when you’re not regurgitating it and I like keeping it fresh – my way of doing that is just not playing a horrendous amount, but I do always look forward to a line of dates and going around the country again.
Lyrically, you show vulnerability and honesty in your songs – how does it feel displaying this to your fans and really showing them exactly how you feel?
Well to be honest I’ve always taken that kind of route with writing, so I’ve never really known how not to write like that. But at the same time it’s quite nice! I find that actually there is common ground between you and the listener, and so, even if you’re saying something about yourself or something you’ve observed, it’s hopefully relevant to someone else listening. So you don’t feel alone which is quite nice.
How does this writing process happen?
It’s quite a mixed bag because I’ve only ever sat down 2 or 3 times to actually write a song. Usually it will come in a fragment, so either a melody that has come into my head, or a situation where I’m like ‘Oh I need to write about that!’ It kind of comes in bits – I enjoy not pressurising songwriting too much and not sitting down and focusing too long to create a song, because that way I surprise myself by what I’m writing.
You’ve said in many interviews that you don’t get your influence from other artists – where does this all come from?
I do listen out to blues music but I’m not very knowledgeable about it. So often people will be like what you listening to and I don’t have a straight answer for it. Traditionally speaking there has always been music around me, as my family listen to classical musical. It was always there and I discovered how much I love strings from listening to that. I always thought that I’d want to incorporate strings into my own music and that came quite naturally. Lyrically I guess I’ve always loved reading and when I was a kid I wanted to be an author, so I always used to do creative writing. I discovered how much I loved words so incorporated that into my lyrics as well. So it never really came down to other music, instead the lyrics come from my love of writing. Living in the countryside and my love for nature and peace and quiet has also infiltrated my sound quite a bit. The different directions and things I love all come together into my songwriting.
So you worked on your album Little Giant with Rupert Coulson (a producer who has worked with the likes of Oasis and Robbie Williams), and recorded it in your own house, what was that like?
That was great, really nice. I guess these songs were written in a natural environment and being recorded in a place I feel comfortable in was good because sometimes studios are the complete opposite. I’m in a black room with a glass panel with people talking to me through headphones and it’s certainly not my favourite environment. We looked around a few places and Rupert thought my house had nice wooden floors and was a nice place for strings. Immediately I thought it was the right vibe and I felt really relaxed making the album there in three weeks.
Do you feel like you fit into the folk genre?
I’ve never really thought of things as genres. I ended up playing strings and being natural, and so naturally was writing on acoustic instruments and got called folk. I never owned an electric guitar. I don’t mind being told I fit into this genre because folk music is great and I love what it’s done with the traditional sense of storytelling. Where we come from is to be ourselves and if people want to find a reference point then that’s understandable.
And what is planned for after the tour?
I’ve been writing a lot and would love to get back in the studio to start working on album two soon, so after the tour that should be where the focus should be. It’ll be quite fun because it’s my favourite bit, the writing and recording stuff. That’s where my mind is at!
Roo Panes releases his brand new single Home From Home this week, on March 16th
In addition, tickets are still available for his April tour – more details available via www.roopanes.co.uk
Interview by Rachel Allman