Bristol-based singer/songwriter Luke Sital-Singh writes for us about each of the songs on newly released second record Time Is A Riddle.
This song is already known to the world. I released it on my 2015 EP The Breakneck Speed of Tomorrow. Perhaps a strange choice to place an old song as first track on an important second album, but it was a turning point song for me when I wrote it and recorded the original demo in my flat. There was a lot of doubt and fear in the air after my first label relationship ended and the future felt shaky at best. Finishing this song both in composition and production felt really really good. It basically unlocked something in me and gave me a vision for the sound and the sentiment of what could become a second album.
Also, all that fluff aside, I just think it’s a damn good song and I’m really proud of it and it just feels right as the opening statement on this album.
Collaborating or co-writing can be a sticky subject for some. It can be perceived of as being inauthentic at best or as an admission that you can’t write your own songs at worst. There are definitely times I have been put in rooms with 'hit makers' and it all felt very contrived and silly, but there have been other times when I’ve wanted to work with actual friends of mine who are amazingly talented, just to see what would happen. That’s how I wrote "Oh My God", with friend and writer, Paul Steel. The song ended up feeling like a slight oddity for me. In some ways it feels a little angrier, a little more on edge.
With a lot of the writing for this album I tried to let my mind loose and run free when it came to lyrics. I would sing whatever came into my head and try to listen to what my subconscious was coming out with, to see what the music churned up from inside. I was inspired in this by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco who writes most, if not all, of his lyrics this way.
I’ve always heard that a lot of songwriters carry around notebooks or a note file in their phones etc. to capture thoughts and ideas throughout the day, and even whilst socialising will leave the room when someone says something they think is cool, so they can go write it down or record a voice memo. I’ve never really done this, at least it’s never worked. I carry notebooks but they are all basically empty... but there was something about that method that I liked and I wished my mind worked like that. I was jealous of that method. However, one day I was talking with my Grandmother and she was talking about her late husband and she said 'I found the letter that he gave to me, 11 hours before we got married,' and I left the room to write it down. That line became this song. Never done that before. Not done it since.
Another first for me. The whole 'this song came to me in a dream' thing always felt far-fetched until it happened to me with this one. I dreamt I was in a desert town in America, but it was a kind of Heaven but also a kind of Hell where everything was perfect and nothing could die, but in not dying there was no real life. The town was called Rough Diamond Falls. Very strange. I woke up with the chorus melody and the words 'Rough Diamond Falls' repeating over and over in my head.
This songs all about the recording for me. I had the song on file for a while. I knew I liked it but wasn’t sure the best way to arrange it. Working with Tommy, the producer, we decided it would be cool if it descended into something a little crazy at the end. Started off as a hat tip to "Karma Police" but went a bit more nuts than that in the end! I love it.
This is the third time I’ve sat down to specifically write a live set opener song. "Bottled Up Tight" was the first time I did this - initially that song started off very sparse and grew larger towards the end. The second time I did it was "I Have Been A Fire", which I wanted as a bit of a statement piece. That song has been screeching at the top of my range, which was a ploy to get festival crowds and support slot audiences to shut up and listen to me! Sometimes worked. I wanted a new song that would work for this album cycle. I’ve always wanted to come on stage and sing a completely a cappella song, and "Cynic" started as that but I didn’t have the guts or the talent to go along with it so, although it’s stripped, it’s still got some chords. One day I’ll do that a cappella tune.
This song came to me out of thin air. I remember I was watching TV whilst I wrote it. It basically fell out of me fully formed. I would really love to know how that works so I can replicate it everytime!
This is the song that unlocked the album for me. I go through writer’s block more than I don’t. The block is the default for me. Sometimes I find that stressful, sometimes I manage to just let it be and trust that the songs will happen when they happen. But this specific block was painful and I was really losing all sense of vision and purpose. That said I was writing some things but I had such a lack of confidence that I just shelved them and no one heard them. One of these ideas was "Time Is A Riddle", it was mostly just the chorus and a vague verse idea. Some residual hint of will inside me wanted to get the song in shape and I got it finished and sent it to my manager. He came back so enthusiastically it was a real shock to the system. Just having someone praise something new I’d written woke me up and the songs came flooding.
I wrote "Hunger" in the midst of a rocky label relationship. Things weren’t particularly enjoyable and I could see things slipping away from my control. Whether things were quite as bad as there were in my head is another question. I’m a pessimist through and through, so it was the end of the world as far as I was concerned. This song started as a stream of conscious rant about whatever came into my head and turned into a rallying cry for me about sticking to my guns and fighting for what I cared about. This whole album is a bit of a testament to me finding a way to do just that.
This is one of the most personal and open-handed songs I’ve ever written, whilst at the same time it isn’t about me at all. I wrote it after spending more time with my Grandma who had recently moved in with my parents. Her husband, my Grandfather, died 10 years ago and the idea of anyone living alone without their soulmate is heartbreaking to me, but seeing my Grandma talk about him a lot and also witnessing her in her new surroundings with great-grandchildren running around was very moving to me. Eventually I sat down at my piano and the song came spilling out.
One of my favourite bands is Sigur Rós and one day I will play guitar or drums in an epic post-rock band. But it’s not that day yet, so for now I decided to write this. I told Tommy it needed to sound like the track was breaking apart at the end and he put the whole track through a valve distortion unit and gradually cranked it. So chuffed with how it sounds.