InterviewSinger-Songwriter Luke Friend: "Jack Sparrow is my style role model"Von Lara Schwitalla Düsseldorf.
Dreadlocks, a craggy voice and a contagious laughter: If you don’t know the name of Luke Friend yet, you better listen up. After he finished up in third place on the british X-Factor he toured through the country – sold out venues included. On April 8 2016 he signed up to the German music label BMG, thereby joining with musical legends like David Bowie, Janet Jackson or The Rolling Stones. On August 10 he released his new single “Take on the world” which simultaneously will be the soundtrack of the German cinema production “Antonio, ihm schmeckt’s nicht”. Together with the German band Silbermond he will start touring through Germany as their opening act. We interviewed the rising star at the premiere of his movie in Düsseldorf and found out what’s behind his charming smile.
styleranking: You have been writing your own songs since you were 12 years old. How did you find your connection to music?
Luke Friend: I think I kind of stumbled across it with my parents having a great musical background. They listened to bands and artists like The Rolling Stones, James Brown and all the old classics. Ever since then I have started to create a musical interest. When I was a kid my friends were listening to very immature, childish songs while I listend to Paul James. I joined a choir when I was 8 years old though I never took that very seriously. It all became more serious when I joined a band together with a couple of my mates and we started playing around different pubs. Then we got asked to play in more and more locations and suddenly it hit us that people actually like our music.
styleranking: How does your typical development of a song look like?
Luke Friend: It depends. Travelling actually helps me a lot to write songs. I like visualizing everything and write a lot about first loves. I know it’s kind of typical for a musician to do that, but my songs often stem from topics like that. I like to write about things that everybody can relate to – whether someone in family sadly passed away or someone just got married. It’s all about the different kinds of emotion through life that I write about. I’ve been looking to have enough stories to be able to put them down onto paper and record them. I’ve been very lucky with that because my life certainly hasn’t been boring - there has been a lot of drama to write about.
styleranking: Your voice kind of reminds me of Steve Winwood from the Spencer Davis Group. Do you know him?
Luke Friend: Yes, that’s funny, someone else has told me that before, too!
styleranking: If you had the chance to travel back to the sixties, would you take it?
Luke Friend: Yes! I already look like a dude from back then. I would love to. But wouldn’t you take the chance as well?
styleranking: Yes, of course. I know the stories of my family about the sixties and they say there is no chance they want to be missing those days.
Luke Friend: My parents say the same thing. Nowadays it’s just not as great as it was back then. But don’t worry, we’ll bring the sixties back!
styleranking: How much does your outer appearance and fashion mean to you?
Luke Friend: I love fashion and I always wear whatever I want to. I don’t set myself any boundaries. If I would want to wear a skirt I would. I have always been doing the things I wanted to do. That’s hard sometimes because it might not be the right thing. But I’m not afraid to say that I wear women’s jeans because their skinnier than men’s. Actually I think the pair of jeans I’m wearing today are the first pair of male jeans that I actually wore in a while.
styleranking: Do you have a style role model?
Luke Friend: I don’t really know. On Instagram there is a guy called Jack Greystone whose style I like a lot. I obviously like Jack Sparrow and the whole Pirates of the Caribbean look as well as maybe the style of Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger.
styleranking: On X-Factor you were singing many different genres of music. Will we be hearing different musical styles on your album as well?
Luke Friend: I think many of the songs of the album are a lot different to the single which is out now. I kind of spread out to different genres because there are so many sounds I like which makes it really hard to put myself in a certain place. If I ever did that I’d feel like I’m limiting myself. I’ve had the best three years to write whatever I wanted to in any kind of style. The songs of the album will have a symmetry and relate to each other. There will be ballades where it’s just me and the piano, while others are actual live recordings. One of the songs which is called medicine has been recorded all in one take because I just had the right feeling at that time.
styleranking: Is your guitar part of your look or do you just grab it for certain songs and then put it away again?
Luke Friend: I guess the guitar helps with the look but I simply can’t think of anything worse than singing to a backing track. In my opinion there’s no way you can move with it by going slower or faster. As soon as I’m playing the guitar I’m in control of that. I think that’s why I love it so much. I got a band as well and they all kind of follow me and my speed. We get inspired a lot by James Brown and the way he as the front person controlled the band. It’s strange because it’s almost as if I was in charge of the drum beat instead of the drummer himself. It’s something that we’ve been practicing for a long time. If I’m playing all by myself I find it a more personal experience. A place like today at the premiere in an open air cinema is going to be really interesting and it’s the first time people are going to hear my new song so I’m really looking forward to it.
styleranking: Was your band involved in the production of the album as well?
Luke Friend: Sadly, I wrote and laid down the track before I put the band from my hometown together. I’m originally from Leeds but I moved to Devon when I was about 12 years old. As soon as I moved I met some friends who were interested in music, too. I used to have session musicians, but I didn’t enjoy that as much as playing with my mates. Having friends around you and being able to take them on this journey is pretty incredible. Hopefully they will be over here soon playing with me together.
styleranking: So you didn’t forget them now that you started a solo career?
Luke Friend: Of course not, no! I definitely at some point will bring them with me. They’re just such amazing musicians and we play great together. I’m hoping people will be really impressed by it.
styleranking: How did you react when you heard that a German cinema production wants to feature your single as their theme song?
Luke Friend: It was awesome! I mean, my German is not very good in terms of speaking or understanding it. But to have 20th Century Fox on board with my song on the film is just huge. I just met Christian Ulmen at the hotel and he is such a lovely guy. We met in the lift and it was like that typical really awkward lift moment – he knew who I was, I knew who he was. But we broke the silence and it was lovely to meet him. I think it’s great that we met in that kind of situation because it broke the ice.
styleranking: You also worked together with Ellie Goulding and Seal. What was it like to meet such successful musicians?
Luke Friend: It was amazing. Ellie was so lovely - originally there was this massive drama that she couldn’t play the duet with me on X-Factor. She had something going on for a different TV program. So she cancelled all of that to be able to perform with me. Seal took me into his studio. He is one of my biggest idols! Having two hours in the studio together with him was just intense. I look up to him a lot.
styleranking: How did these experiences influence your musical style?
Luke Friend: I think it was the reality about the job. If you’re not a musician and look at it from a fan’s point of view, you only see the great things. But behind the scenes you have got a lot to do. Seeing them go through their everyday business made me realize how much I have to work to be successful. You can only manage that job if you love music and luckily I do.
styleranking: Do you have a role model in music?
Luke Friend: Yes, it’s Eddie Vedder who is the frontman of Pearl Jam. He’s probably my idol of music because of how much raw emotion and energy he puts into a song. After he and his band were playing the biggest festival they ever did, he came off the stage and fainted because he was exhausted from pouring out all of his heart. That inspires me to make sure that I play the music I love. Sometimes people get cornered to do music they don’t want to…
styleranking: So you wouldn’t commercialize your music?
Luke Friend: Well, it’s not so much about commercializing. I don’t think commercializing your music is a bad thing. It’s more important that the musician knows he is doing the right thing. I love all the music that I’ve got ready right now and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.
styleranking: What kind of role do social media play for you and your career?
Luke Friend: It’s very important! It almost makes your whole thing solid and it’s a great way to interact with fans. I love that and always have good fun with tweeting people. Even a happy birthday wish can make someone’s day. I quite enjoy that. And your fans and followers return your favor by promoting your music. I think from that point of view getting in touch with them via social media is incredible.
styleranking: How will you “take on the world” in the future?
Luke Friend: I think it will start here tonight and we just have to see what happens afterwards. I’m looking forward to going on tour with Silbermond. It’s going to be my first German tour. They’ve been amazing in welcoming me into their musical family. I can’t wait to properly meet them and go on the road for the tour. It’s like the big launch pad for me together with movie that is giving me great opportunity. It’s all going to be surreal but I can’t wait.
styleranking: Thank you very much for the interview!