Culture

Luke Sital-Singh is leaving sad songs (and Britain) behind

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We speak to the singer-songwriter about his bittersweet new album 'A Golden State', pushing himself out of his comfort zone and moving to California to start a new life as an optimist

Luke Sital-Singh was feeling comfortable. Two albums, a happy marriage and a settled life in Bristol were nicely under his belt. But then he decided he needed to shake things up a bit.

‘We’d been married five years and in a comfortable place,’ the singer-songwriter explains. ‘But you need to mix things up and keep things exciting. My wife had wanted to move to California for a long time, but I’d been the scared one. We were talking about the future – do we need to have kids, buy a house? – but then we just decided to run away and have an adventure for a bit.’

It was this yearning for adventure, this excitement and anticipation that fuelled A Golden State, Sital-Singh’s third album, out 6 April. ‘It was a huge thing – it was all we were thinking about and talking about and wondering about,’ says Sital-Singh. ‘This idea of moving away from home, of courage, of being scared, and of having adventures. All these things gelled together into the album. And the name A Golden State came from this idea of a state of mind.’

The drive to upturn his life and move to the West Coast also stemmed from a need to escape from the ‘pessimistic’ state of mind that populated his first two albums, and lead to Sital-Singh’s TED Talk in April 2018, about the cathartic power of sad songs. ‘I think they’re kind of the most important songs we have,’ Sital-Singh said in his talk, which has now been viewed nearly 200,000 times. ‘Songs that sing of sorrow, of grief, of longing, of the darker side of love, the underside of being alive, these are the songs I just never tire of hearing and I never tire of writing, because they make me feel less alone.’

But that doesn’t mean Sital-Singh wants to stay in the darker side of songwriting forever. ‘In general I’m a glass half-empty person,’ explains Sital-Singh. ‘But my wife and I noticed our mood shifts when we’re out there [in California]. It’s a stereotype but there’s an openness, a positivity about America. And I found it refreshing. It can irritate me as it’s the opposite to how I am naturally, but sometimes I think I don’t want to be how I am naturally. It’s almost like a psychological experiment in myself, surrounding myself with sunshine and optimism. What will it do to me? What will it do to my songs?’

That said, he’s never going to write a dancefloor banger. ‘When I’ve tried to write happier songs it just doesn’t work for me. It just ends up sounding too cheesy. I like songs you can really sit and listen to, and engage with.’ And, as it was written before as well as about the move to California, A Golden State is still full of sad songs. The first single, Los Angeles, is full of the hope and longing that Sital-Singh felt when deciding to go to California, while Lover reflects on his frustrations and trepidations with the move. ‘This idea of finding adventure and running away from comfort to find something new is something I feel people would relate to,’ says Sital-Singh.

Now three albums in, and Sital-Singh is already thinking about what’s next – and pushing himself out of his comfort zone again. ‘I’m very comfortable as I am, but is doing another album the same going to excite me? Do I do something that has more of a chance of failing, just to be creatively fulfilled?’ He’s thinking of doing a collaboration, or exploring new music under a different name. ‘Perhaps it would free up the thing inside me that’s all about sad songs,’ he muses. ‘It’s uncomfortable to be something else. But I’m always looking to push myself a bit further.’

A Golden State by Luke Sital-Singh is out on 5 March, and his UK tour runs until 17 April