27-year-old folk newcomer Luca is spinning hypnotic stories in music, and we can’t get them out of our heads. His debut single ‘Wales’ is dreamy and haunting, echoing across the emotional distance between a past self going through a breakup from someone they love and a plaintive present self, sad but able to appreciate the experience for what it was. Having hunkered down to write his album over the last few months, we were excited to talk to Luca as he begins to look towards the next stage, outside the studio. Read the full interview below.
Do you wanna start by telling me a bit about how you started making music?
Yeah – so I’ve always sort of sung. When I was a kid, my mum always used to sing to me. I didn’t have a particularly musical upbringing, but my mum always used to sing around the house. It’s something that I’ll always remember, her singing on car journeys – all these gospel songs, stuff like that. When I was a teenager I started getting into songwriting-y stuff… I kind of felt like it was something that I would love to do, but, you know, I didn’t play an instrument.
When I went to university it slowly started happening. I picked up guitar, and I used to write a lot of poetry as well. I went to university wanting to be a writer, and then people started saying to me ‘Why don’t you start playing? Why don’t you start singing?’ So I picked up a guitar and taught myself how to play guitar. And the songs started forming, you know? It wasn’t until about five years ago [that this happened] – I was living in a cellar, this basement, in a town just near Margate… and I kind of started developing this style, and now I play it… I call it ‘dream folk’… and yeah, [I] started developing this new… thing.
Yeah! That’s really cool. So what kind of music did you listen to growing up? Does it influence you now?
Well, when I was growing up, it wasn’t a crazy musical upbringing. But I would always have the staples. Like, I would always listen to soul – Stevie Wonder was really big for me, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and then Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan.
And then when I was a teenager I got into the ‘freak-folk’ bands like Antony and the Johnsons – Antony and the Johnsons were probably my biggest influence in terms of sound – Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart…
Basically, the way I want it to be is, I want my lyrics to be formed and informed by the old guys: the Bob Dylans and the Leonard Cohens. Obviously that’s a really high bar to set, [and] I don’t hope to ever achieve that, but, you know, you’ve got to set the bar high! I believe you’ve got to set your sights high… And then, in terms of sound, I really love spooky, eerie freak folk sound, you know? Antony and the Johnsons being the most important [influence].
Yeah. Is there a song that you wish you’d written? Any song that, if you could, you would go back and write it or go back and take credit for it?
It would have to be Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, if I could write any song. Because it’s so textually rich and so full of that Biblical imagery. It’s also just such a sad, beautiful story though. And I think basically the strength of it is that it explores failure in a really beautiful way. But yeah, that would have to be ‘Hallelujah’.
Yeah! I think that’s a really good selection. So how did you write your song ‘Wales’?
‘Wales’ was an interesting one – it’s one of my oldest songs. And of all the songs perhaps the closest to traditional folk storytelling. It’s a little bit more eerie and freak folk-style, but essentially it’s just… I was with a girl, I was really in love with her, and it kind of ended on my terms. We broke up because I knew we couldn’t be together in a couple, it was a destructive relationship where nothing was going right even though we knew we wanted to be together but we were just sort of tearing each other apart. And it’s just the story of realising that it had to end, and that’s alright, and while it lasted, it was really lovely, and being able to realise that she didn’t do anything wrong and I didn’t do anything wrong, we just couldn’t carry on hurting each other… You know? I feel like I’m not being that clear! [Laughs]
No, I think that’s very clear! So, you’re recording your album right now – what’s the most difficult part of doing that? What’s the difficult part of doing such a long project?
Um… Because it’s so new to me, I suppose. Like, I’ve written songs, more than an album’s worth… I think the most difficult thing is actually whittling it down to what is gonna be on the album. Because, each time you write a new song, you kind of fall in love with it a little bit, and think ‘Oh, it has to go on!’ But then there’s all this other stuff, and they’re all kind of vying for the spots on the album. So I think that’s gonna be really hard.
I think the most difficult thing [about making an album] is actually whittling it down… Each time you write a new song, you kind of fall in love with it.
But I suppose [viewing it] objectively is quite hard. I’ve always got quite a lot of vision about how I want a song to end up, and one of the things that has been difficult for me about – not difficult, because it’s actually been a really illuminating process – is going into the studio with a producer, my producer, Dan Brown, who’s absolutely amazing, and trying to allow the production to take its course, in a way that is quite natural instead of trying to be really totalitarian about it like ‘No, this is how I want it.’ You know? Like, having an open mind has been difficult but also rewarding as a writer.
Yeah, definitely. What are you most looking forward to that’s coming up in the next year? Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions for your music or anything, or is it just: write the album, get it out there?
Well, the album’s written, so the final goal is just to keep writing because that’s the aim, you know? The more I write, the more I learn, the better I become. It’s just such an amazing outlet of emotional… you know, anything you’re going through. I can’t remember who it was who said… I think it was Wordsworth, but don’t quote me on that! [Laughs] … But poetry is emotion reflected in solace. It allows you to order your thoughts, to make sense of abstract things you’ve gone through, you know, as you’ve gone along.
That was Wordsworth, you’re right.
It was Wordsworth?
Yeah… I really find it therapeutic – the more I can write, the more I’m learning about myself and the better I become. That’s my only goal – to keep doing that, and keep learning and keep becoming better. ‘Cause I feel like I’m literally just beginning. And all the hard work has just begun. And I think that if I keep going the way I’m going and I keep spending the same amount of time as I am writing, and mak[ing] myself a better artist… only good things can come of it, you know?
But yeah, I’m very much looking forward to having the album out and seeing what the responses are to that critically and seeing what people think of it.
Thanks so much, Luca!
Listen to Luca’s single ‘Wales’ below.