Interview: Luke Royalty

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The release of acclaimed singles, ‘I Could Get Used to This’ and ‘I Do’ have made Luke Royalty one of the most exciting new names in music, with 2021 set to be a breakthrough year for the artist.

Hailing from Darlington, Luke came from a creative family of artists and musicians, but only entered into music himself in his late teens.

Previously preferring to spend his time playing Sunday League football and following his beloved Darlington FC, it was ironically the virtual gaming side of football that triggered his first guitar purchase.

We caught up with Luke over Zoom to discuss his journey into music, those two breakthrough singles, making the move from solo acoustic performer to fronting a live band in 2021 and lots more.

NC: You only got into music properly in your late teens, so what was the trigger that turned you towards it?

LR: “Music wasn’t something that anyone did, none of my mates or anyone I knew were into it. We were all into football, Xbox and just being little scallies, basically. When I was finishing school I really didn’t fancy going to university or doing something academic, and I didn’t want to go down the apprenticeship route either. My dad was a musician in the 80’s, and the thing that triggered it was him catching me buying FIFA points on his card. He found out, kicked off, then sold my Xbox and bought a guitar for me with the money. It just came at the right time, I was a bit lost and didn’t know what to do with my life. I’d been playing for about six months and I checked out a college open day to study music, and it just escalated from there really. I used to think people into music were weird, but I was wrong!”

NC: You made the move to Liverpool recently, was it the music heritage of the city that drew you towards there?

LR: “When the lockdown ended for a bit last Summer I moved to Liverpool with the hope of staying there but I just didn’t settle, living with random people wasn’t great. So I was only there for 2 and a half months and moved back to Darlington in October. There were a few reasons for moving there. My producer went to university in Liverpool when I was in Manchester studying music after college, and I’d travel over to the Liverpool studio a few times a week to make music. So I’d experienced a lot of what Liverpool had to offer before moving there and I found myself connecting with the city a lot. It just didn’t work out for me when I actually moved there unfortunately.”

NC: So who are your biggest influences musically?

LR: “There’s so many. When I first started music I was into indie bands. I got into indie music because it seemed like the only socially acceptable music to like round where I’m from. You go into a pub in Darlington, you’ll hear Oasis, The Stone Roses etc. I couldn’t say ‘I wanna be Frank Ocean’ or ‘I wanna be Stevie Wonder’, but if I was singing Oasis covers people would be like ‘yeah this is class’. My music taste has progressed since then, Mac Miller has been influential – his last two albums are massive for me. One of my first music memories was hearing Bill Withers and that has also stuck with me. My Dad was a Jazz musician so that’s always been rooted in my family too. I like all kinds of different things, which is good because I’ve got a 21st century attention span and get bored of thing really quickly.”

NC: You mention your hometown, Darlington. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any musicians who come from there, I might be wrong. So are you looking to put your stamp on the town musically?

LR: “It’s interesting, like you say there have been very few people come from Darlington and break into the mainstream music scene. I’d love to play a role in helping end that. Music just isn’t that common a thing for people to get into here. All I knew of music in school was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, and I just thought ‘I don’t wanna be in that’. I’d love to inspire people like me to get into music because, without getting too deep, it saved my life. I don’t know what I’d be doing without it, I’d probably be a lost boy doing something I despised for a living.”

Credit: Ryan Jones

NC: I saw a comment you’d made about your northern accent coming out in your tracks. Is your northern heritage something you’re proud of then and something you don’t want to get lost in your music?

LR: “Yeah I think so, you don’t hear many northern accents in music. As long as it feels authentic then I don’t think it matters how you sing. When I first started singing I was trying too hard to sound like Liam Gallagher and then Jake Bugg, so it took a while to find my unique voice but I feel like I’m there now.”

NC: ‘I Could Get Used to This’ has done really well since release, with radio backing and a general positive reception. What has that been like for you personally?

LR: “It was great. It was everything I’d wanted it to be. It felt like a slow burner because it seems to have picked up recently even though it’s three or four months old. It got played on Radio 1 which was amazing. It’s a radio-friendly tune, the structure is simple and it’s chorus heavy. I wasn’t expecting it to do so well though. I had released other songs but as I said, I feel like now I’m finding my sound more I want to make sure everything I’m releasing and everything that’s out there reflects that.”

NC: And the track was a collaboration, is that something that will be quite common in your career going forward?

LR: “It’s strange because collaborations are a great thing, and on the surface it’s the most fun you’ll have writing a song if you’re writing it with someone else. But with lockdown happening, I’ve found it quite hard to have that connection with someone writing a song over Zoom, working with people I’ve not met face-to-face. I’ve got a couple of songs ready to go which feature other artists, but that’s with friends. I wanted it to sound like two people have written a song together properly. So I do enjoy collaborating but I’m quite precious about my songs at the same time.”

NC: ‘I Do’ was you on your own. Did you prefer working on that track and can you give us a bit of a background on the song?

LR:I Could Get Used to This is quite broad in its subject matter, and I Do is too, but it’s more ramblings of my thoughts. I started writing it whilst working in a pub in Manchester, the middle was written in Liverpool and I finished it in Darlington. So it has traveled with me in a way. And although it’s all from me, there are lots of different perspectives. There’s a storyline to it, but when I listen back it almost feels like more than one storyline because certain bits don’t match up. It’s almost chronological, three different storylines. It’s a weird song!”

Credit: Eddy Harper

NC: You’ve worked with your producer, Bob McKenzie, for a while now. How important has he been for your career progression?

LR: “He is me. When I first started the Luke Royalty project, I had no intention of being an artist, I just wanted to be a songwriter. I didn’t like the idea of being in the spotlight, I just wanted to be in the background writing songs. A behind the scenes kind of guy. He convinced me to do the whole thing in the first place and I’ve never recorded songs with anyone but him since. He’s been amazing, I owe a lot to him definitely.”

NC: Do you think that lockdown has benefited you in the sense that you’re able to release music without the usual spotlight then? Or has this been a struggle breaking through?

LR: “It’s weird because I don’t actually know what it’s going to be like when everywhere opens up. This is all I’ve known. For me being a solo artist, it’s writing a song, recording it, releasing it and then flinging it around social media for five weeks before moving onto the next one. I feel like I’m just the same as everyone living in lockdown, I’ve got used to living this certain way. I haven’t properly got to experience the whole touring thing. I’ve played solo acoustic shows, but never with a full band under the Luke Royalty project. We’d started rehearsing as a band and our last rehearsal was literally the day before lockdown was announced. I’ve never fronted a band with the spotlight on me, so I’m apprehensive but I am excited.”

NC: You refer to Luke Royalty as a project, so where did that name come from?

LR: “I wish I could tell you some really interesting story behind the name, but the truth is I just put my name into an anagram generator to see what came up. Kule Royalty came up first but I couldn’t have that, it sounded a bit too gangster rap for me. L.P Taylor was another option, but my friend said it sounded like a jewelers so I dropped that one. Luke Royalty was next and it’s just stuck since.”

NC: Now that there is a path out of lockdown and a return date for live music, do you have any plans for gigs in the second half of the year?

LR: “There is. There’s no gigs confirmed yet, what I need to do first is get rehearsals sorted which is looking like April time. We are looking at September for gigs. I’d love to do a free gig in Darlington and pack it out as maybe an ‘end of lockdown’ event. A hometown gig would be great – start there and see where it ends up.”

Credit: Ryan Jones

NC: Did you do any of the virtual gigs or livestreams during lockdown?

LR: “When lockdown first happened I kind of really enjoyed not having the pressure of having to go out and speak to people all the time. Before lockdown, if someone would have said you can go and spend two months with your parents and not leave the house, I’d have jumped at the opportunity. So I hibernated for a while, watching movies and writing songs, and didn’t jump on the livestream thing at first. It took me a while to want to show my face really, but then I did some virtual stuff recently with friends. There’s no point pretending it’s going to be as good as a gig, because it’s not. But it was nice to have chats with friends.”

NC: And it was during the lockdown that the government appeared to be urging musicians to re-train. What was that like for you trying to break into the music industry?

LR: “It was a very strange thing to read. Something you never thought you’d see and, like all of this, it felt like an awful scene in a movie. When that all happened, I spoke to my Dad because we always have political chats, or arguments you could call them. And he said ‘they’ll say that now, but once it’s all over there’ll be a huge boom, so just stay grounded and put the work in now, you’ll be fine’. And my parents have been great and really supportive throughout, so my focus has never shifted. I was angry when it happened for maybe an hour, and then just got on with it.”

NC: Are there plans for any new releases then before the end of 2021, off the back of two successful singles?

LR: “Yeah the plan is to release at the same rate, if not quicker than I have been doing. So late April you can expect to hear some new music. Then every two months from then, with a few collaborations in between, I’ll hope to release more. I’m planning to have about six tracks out before the end of the year if all goes well – that’s if I don’t have another breakdown and change my style! I’m trying not get carried way in thinking that my music needs to be a certain way. When you force something, the results aren’t as good as when it comes naturally.”

NC: And do you have any short term or long term goals in music, or is just about taking each day as it comes?

LR: “There’s a few things I have in mind. I haven’t got any short terms goals, it’s just about working as hard as possible. The best thing to do is take it day by day, particularly with the way things are at the minute. In the long term, I want to convince people from Darlington, who are similar to me, that music is a viable option for them. Not just as a job, but in terms of finding that purpose that I think we’re all searching for. For me, it really did give me that purpose. A lot of people don’t know what they want to do when they finish school, so I’d love to set something up in my hometown which makes music a normal thing for young people to get into (not stealing FIFA points!). The social groups that music brings are so good, and it’s something I was never aware of, so my main goal is to make sure people don’t miss out on these opportunities.”

Credit: Eddy Harper

NC: Are there any particular artists that you’d love to collaborate with in the future?

LR: “You want it to be someone you think you’d get on with. I could say Kanye West but he just wouldn’t like me! People I look up to at the moment are Arlo Parks and Loyle Carner, so for either of those two artists to like my music and want to work with me, that would be unreal.”

NC: Similarly, we ask everyone we interview for their ‘Fantasy Pints’. Three musicians, past or present, that you could go out for a drink with, sit around a table and get to know them for one night. Who are you choosing and why?

LR: “It’s a tough question but I love questions like this, me and my dad ask each other stuff like this all the time. I’ll definitely say Mark E. Smith of The Fall. You want someone who’s going to last the night and he’ll be there until the end. Next, someone massive, I’ll say John Lennon, that would be cool. You want to show off, if you’ve had a pint with John Lennon it’s a story to tell. And the third person, I’d have to say Amy Winehouse! Three music legends.”

NC: And finally, what’s the one thing you’re looking forward to once things are back to normality?

LR: “I sound like such a laddy lad, but the pub. I worked in a pub before lockdown and being able to socialise with friends there, having that spare time to have a bit of a blowout, I miss that a lot. Festivals as well, things where you can just let your hair down and have a good time. I went to Glastonbury for the first time in 2019 and spent the whole weekend just in awe of everything there. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in a weekend!”

So we can expect to hear new music at the end of next month. In the meantime, check out the video for the brilliant ‘I Do’ here:

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