Interview: Luke Leighfield

With his latest album ‘New Season,’ English singer-songwriter Luke Leighfield has produced a mature and an astounding record which, for fans, has delivered after a long wait. 

As always Leighfield has kept the release strictly independent. The album is released through his own label (Got Got Need Records) and was initially funded by fan donations in a campaign similar to Kickstarter and Pledge Music.

After working with producer Pete Miles (We Are The Ocean, Canterbury, Futures, Tellison) again for close to a year, ‘New Season’ has now been released and to accompany its release, Leighfield teamed up with filmmaker Duncan Howsley and Tom Price to produce a short documentary film entitled ‘Seasons.’

Already Heard caught up with Luke to discuss ‘New Season’, working with Peter Miles, album-funding campaigns, the ‘Seasons’ documentary, Christian Aid, E4 structured-reality TV show Made In Chelsea and more.

Already Heard: Hi Luke. You recently released your new album called ‘New Season.’ What is the meaning behind the title?
Luke Leighfield: ‘New Season’ is about starting over, new beginnings, moving on. The album has songs about those kinds of things, and there’s a lot of hope in there, so that’s the thinking behind it.

Already Heard: From listening to ‘New Season,’ your sound seems more organic, dynamic and even grander. What was your initial aim for this album?
Luke Leighfield: My aim was to achieve all of the things that you just said! I was trying to do something a little less polished than ‘Have You Got Heart?’ and also to just push the envelope in terms of the dynamics and the instrumentation and ideas on the record. Hopefully that comes across.

Already Heard: Compared to previous releases, how has your sound developed on ‘New Season’?
Luke Leighfield: I think it’d be a lie to say that it’s vastly different to any of my previous albums, but I think it definitely sounds more ‘mature’, as vague as that word is. I think the album works better as a collection of songs, not that it’s a concept album or anything, but I think it works as a unit and takes you on a journey – the songs make sense when you listen to the album all the way through, in my opinion. Obviously it’s a pop-rock record and some people are just going to say it’s boring and too pop or whatever, but I think that within that framework I took some risks. The end of ‘Whispering’ is a very new sound for me, and songs like ‘Do Not Settle’ and the ending of ‘Garde Ta Foy’ sound a lot more rock than I ever have before.

Already Heard: You worked with Peter Miles again for the album. What made you want to record with him again and what did Peter contribute to the record?
Luke Leighfield: Pete just gets amazing sounds. He recorded all the drums, guitars and bass on the album (all the loud stuff), as well as mixing it, and he gets great results. I love his work. In terms of production stuff, I kind of took the reigns on that side with the help of Matt Reynolds (guitar/bass), but Pete has lots of good ideas and is responsible for why the album sounds as good as it does.

Already Heard: In addition, what input did Matthew Reynolds, drummer Aaron Graham, and guitarist Benjamin Price in the making of the album?
Luke Leighfield: I’m a bit of a control freak when I’m making an album and I usually just tell people what to do, more or less, but this time I demoed the album with Matt and he helped out with some bits, questioned why I was doing certain things, and basically tweaked what I brought to him. He was a really good guy to have around, and he helped a lot in making the album sound a bit more rounded and ‘rock’. Matt’s made loads of albums over the years, and he really helped to gel everything together.

As for Aaron, he was actually drafted in to play drums a few days before I entered the studio because my other drummer flaked out, but he really brought a lot to the album. I love his playing style. Aaron is super accurate and plays super hard, but he also has a really relaxed, loose feel, which gave a less clinical edge to the record, and he played the songs like he’d known them for years. He is super, super talented. Ben played on ‘Have You Got Heart?’ and he was great just because he comes from such a different background to Matt in terms of how they play guitar. I worked on the songs with both Ben and Matt separately and they had completely different ideas and played in totally different ways, and it was a real blessing to have two incredible guitarists who both brought fresh ideas to the songs.

Already Heard: On tracks like ‘Slow Down,’ ‘Whispering’ and ‘Patience’ you seem to take a more introspective approach lyrically. What influenced and inspired you whilst writing ‘New Season’?
Luke Leighfield: I’m quite a busy person and I spend a lot of time rushing around doing various things, and over the past few years I’ve been trying to address that and calm down a bit. It’s not healthy for us to rush around and be busy all the time! I think we live in a really hectic time with the Internet, smartphones, Twitter, Facebook, etc. There’s a constant stream of information, action and STUFF. I’ve been finding it all quite suffocating and in ‘New Season’ I’m trying to encourage everyone, and myself, to take a step back.

Already Heard: Going back to when you first announced plans to record a new album, I remember you asked fans to donate towards the album with rewards being given in return. How was the response to this idea and what are your overall thoughts towards services like Kickstarter and Pledge Music?
Luke Leighfield: The response to the campaign was great, and although I didn’t raise enough money to fund the whole campaign, I did make enough to fund the initial recording – which was great! I’m not sure how successful Kickstarter et al. will be in the future – I think at the moment it’s a novelty and attracts people to contribute because of the quirkiness of it – but it’s rapidly becoming a standard thing to do. As for whether people will continue to contribute to album-funding campaigns, who knows. I don’t see how else I could fund another album, because I’m never selling enough albums or making enough money from shows to have sufficient left over to fund anything substantial. I guess we’ll see what happens in the next few years.

Already Heard: To accompany the album, you teamed up with Duncan Howsley and Tom Price to document the recording of the album for a film called ‘Seasons’. What was the initial idea behind wanting to make a film about the album?
Luke Leighfield: Lots of bands take someone into the studio to film little behind-the-scenes videos, or film something themselves, but the trouble with all of that stuff is that it’s quite bitty and throwaway (as everything is nowadays!) I just wanted to make something a little more substantial and tangible, something that took people right into the process and allowed them to see what was going on in a more meaningful way. I don’t think you can do that with two-minute teasers, but I hope that by creating a larger project, people feel more of a connection with the album.

Already Heard: I understand the film was going to originally be released on DVD but you’ve released it for free online. What was the decision behind this?
Luke Leighfield: When we were finishing ‘Seasons’, Duncan, Tom and I were talking about how best to release it, and I think that we just felt that something was more appealing if it was available to watch online, as opposed to having to buy a DVD and make time to watch it. As time goes on people are getting increasingly lazier, and we didn’t want to spend all this time making a cool project that was watched by 100 diehards who’d bought the DVD. The film is obviously there for people who are fans of what I do, but it’s also there to win over people who maybe wouldn’t have listened to the album otherwise, and we were never going to reach those people by restricting the film to a DVD.

Basically, I have music DVDs on my shelf waiting to be watched but I frequently watch stuff like that online, so we thought it was the logical decision to make. It’s also downloadable for iPhones, iPads and whatnot, which should make it easier for people to find time to watch.

Already Heard: Since the film has been released, what has the feedback from fans been like?
Luke Leighfield: People seem to like it! I think it helps people to understand the album a bit more, and people have appreciated being able to see what exactly goes into making an album, what a studio looks like, what a typical recording session looks like, stuff like that. I wanted to give people an insight into making the album, and I think we did that.

Already Heard: In the film you state your word for 2011 was ‘Patience.’ What is your word for 2012 going to be and why?
Luke Leighfield: I left it a bit late to work one out for 2012! I’m still trying hard to be patient, I guess. Not quite there yet!

Already Heard: For the release of the album, you’re offering fans a variety of packages to order. Do you think offering fans various bundles is more worthwhile than more common release methods such as single CD and digital download?
Luke Leighfield: As someone who’s an artist but also a fan, I think it works for both parties. As a fan, I like it when bands offer cool pre-order deals where you’re rewarded for buying an album early with stuff like discount t-shirts, exclusive extras, and other things like that. As an artist, it provides an incentive for fans to buy the album early, which means that I can start recouping the massive debt I’m in from making the album! I just think it’s a cool thing to do for everyone, and I don’t really understand why some bands don’t make more of an effort to offer good pre-order deals.

Already Heard: £1 from every sale of ‘New Season’ will be donated to Christian Aid. Why did you choose that charity and why should people support that charity?
Luke Leighfield: Christian Aid’s mission is to see an end to poverty, which is incredible. I love the work that they do, I trust that they use their supporters’ money wisely, and they’ve been really supportive of what I’m doing. We hear so many horror stories about charities wasting their money on various things, or the money not reaching its cause, so I was conscious about choosing a charity that could be trusted and a charity that did great work. Christian Aid not only help out in emergencies and crises, but also create sustainable projects on the ground. They’re good people.

Already Heard: Away from ‘New Season,’ in recent years your music has been used on television programmes such as Made In Chelsea. How beneficial is this type of promotion for an independent artist like Luke Leighfield?
Luke Leighfield: I guess there are two main benefits. Firstly, new people hear my songs and hopefully make an effort to find me on the Internet if they like what they hear. I know I’ve picked up a few fans like that, so that’s cool. Secondly, it means I get Facebook messages from people I went to school with who think I’m famous now or something. I’m not sure whether that’s a benefit. But anyway, any kind of exposure is great when you’re in my position, and it’s really nice of MiC to use my songs on the programme.

Already Heard: On a sidenote, what are your thoughts on “structured reality” TV shows like Made In Chelsea?
Luke Leighfield: I think it’s all a bit weird.

Already Heard: After the release of ‘New Season’ where can we expect to see Luke Leighfield in the coming months?
Luke Leighfield: In April and May I’m doing a month-long tour of living rooms and other places in Germany, Sweden, Norway, Austria, England and Ireland. So that should be nice. After that, we’ll see.

‘New Season’ by Luke Leighfield is available now on Got Got Need Records.

Luke Leighfield links: Official Website|Facebook|Twitter|Bandcamp|Soundcloud

Words by Sean Reid

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