In collaboration with
- Words Jamie Wilde
- Photography Gavin McCourt
Get to know Luke La Volpe, the Bathgate-based singer-songwriter and winner of this year's Male Breakthrough Award at the Specsavers Scottish Music Awards.
As part of this year’s Specsavers Scottish Music Awards, Notion are proudly sponsoring the Best Male & Female Breakthrough Award categories. The winner of this year’s Male Breakthrough Award is the Bathgate based singer-songwriter, Luke La Volpe.
Having performed alongside and been hailed by the likes of Tom Walker and everyone’s favourite, Lewis Capaldi, Luke believes that his dedication to music since the age of thirteen (while pretending he was eighteen) is finally starting to pay off. With his dark and tender track “Dead Man’s Blues,” Luke achieved his first Scottish #1 chart success this year and judging by his confidence in his abilities, it doesn’t look like it will be his last. He’s also announced a new single titled “Stand Up” which is set for release this Friday – the same day as the SMA live ceremony.
Returning as a virtual event for the first time ever, this year’s SMA’s will also be helping to raise vital funds for music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins. 2020 marks the 22nd year of the awards which celebrate the biggest and best in Scottish music. This year’s event will be hosted live from Glasgow’s SWG3 by Edith Bowman on Friday 27th November.
We caught up with Luke La Volpe for a chat about the notable fundraising events he’s organised this year as well as his chart success and, of course, Scotland making it through to next year’s Euro championships.
Before we talk about your music, describe your emotions when David Marshall put Scotland through to the Euros for the first time in over twenty years…
Aww, unbelievable man. It was some dunt.
Do you think your live rendition of the Tartan Army anthem “We Have a Dream” proved to be a good luck charm?
Yeah, so I’d obviously done the live recording of the song and I was getting loads of belters from folk being like, ‘you’ve ruined the original’ and all that. When it was 1-0 in the 89th minute, I thought this was gonna be alright, everyone is gonna think I’m a good luck charm, this will boost my career! Then when Serbia scored in the 89th minute to make it 1-1, I shat myself. But aye, it came through in the end so it was alright.
Has it been encouraging to have been hailed by the likes of Tom Walker and Lewis Capaldi as one of Scotland’s newest upcoming talents?
I’ve known Lewis for a long time, since I was younger. He’s given me a few support slots in his time and been spot on with that. Those kinds of opportunities have put me in front of the right crowds at the right time, and it’s just all about getting people to hear you. I know I’m good at what I do, but it’s just getting people to hear my voice and hopefully, they’re into it, you know.
Like so many other artists, you’ve missed out on some amazing live opportunities this year due to the pandemic. How have you adapted given the circumstances?
To be honest, at the start of lockdown I felt terrible. Things were all just starting to kick off for me; I’d sold out King Tut’s in a day, I was meant to be playing TRNSMT, but then a week later lockdown happened. So, I thought the best way around it was to keep myself busy because if I didn’t then I’d end up in a pretty dark hole thinking my life’s fucked here. So, I tended to the part of the garden that I could touch, used my time wisely to write, record, and get as much stuff out as I can. And it paid off when I got #1 in Scotland with my EP, so that was brilliant.
You organised the Sofathon Singalong in aid of the Music Venues Trust earlier this year. How important was it for you to be able to help out the live music sector in this unprecedented year?
Definitely. I thought if I’m feeling really down, then there’s gonna be a lot more artists that are feeling alienated. I made this online festival where people could go up and play and even just chat – it was a good space for artists to meet, speak to each other and make them feel less alone. We did 24 hours one night with folk playing at like 4am and all that. I’ll not be doing that again I don’t think though!
You also released your ‘Terribly Beautiful’ EP this year. Can you tell us about the creative process behind it?
Yeah, so I’d already written two out of the three tunes on the EP when I was younger which were “Dead Man’s Blues” and “Familiar Bliss”. But for the EP, I felt I needed at least a third track. I met Kyle Falconer (The View) through the Sofathon Singalong, started chatting away to him and he was telling me he had this idea for a song, which turned out to be a few verses for “Terribly Beautiful”. I’ve not got a great setup in my room, but I managed to write and record the song at home. Actually, the vocals on the track were recorded with a Guitar Hero mic plugged into my laptop – it was a bit of a Frankenstein job. People seemed to enjoy it though, so I think it paid off!
It’s been mega stressful recording in lockdown though with people sending all their different parts and then trying to jigsaw them all together. Hopefully, I won’t have to through all that again, but saying that I’ve already done it all again though with a new single I’ve got coming this month (laughs).
“Dead Man’s Blues” brought you your first Scottish #1 single this year. How did you come up with the lyrics for the track?
The track’s about one of my mates that I lost. He was in a bit of a hole with drugs and all that and he ended up committing suicide. I think it’s so prevalent at the moment with lots of people; nobody really speaks about the effects that drugs are having on people that can lead them towards committing suicide. A lot of people blame social media for drug use but there’s just a lot of folk taking drugs all the time – that’s what it is. However, with the track itself, it’s great to be able to take a positive out of it with it reaching #1 definitely.
How does it feel to be nominated for the Breakthrough Award at this year’s Scottish Music Awards?
It’s unreal. I was at the ceremony last year to pick up Lewis Capaldi’s award, and I said as a joke on stage ‘see yous next year, I’ll be coming back’. Everybody was looking at me like who the fuck’s that? (laughs) But aye, it’s good to get that recognition. I’ve been properly gigging since I was about 13 and I played in pubs pretending I was 18 and it’s smashing to know it’s all been worth it, you know. All the hard nights of being skint and having to borrow money off people, folk telling you to go and get a proper job, it’s pretty bangin’ for somebody to say that you’re this year’s breakthrough act because that’s what I’ve worked for since I’ve been wee. It’s just the start of something really good.
Are you excited to be sharing performances alongside the likes of Lewis Capaldi and Texas at the ceremony?
It’s quality aye, feels mad to see my name alongside acts like that. All of those people are me but just a few years ahead, and the next guys that come up can be like ‘I’ve just played alongside Luke La Volpe’, you know.
Is there more new music currently in the works?
Yeah, I’ve got a new single coming out on the 27th called “Stand Up” to coincide with the Scottish Music Award nomination. I wrote it a few months ago and it’s a message to musicians, and everybody really, that it’s time to stand up, don’t listen to these politicians that are telling you to re-train into different jobs because they’ve not got a fucking clue what they’re talking about. Then next year, I’ll be looking to get some songs together for an album hopefully – and some gigs. I’m itching to get oot this hoose.
Do you have any advice for young artists looking to break into the music industry today?
I know it sounds a bit cheesy but when it feels like you’re at your worst or lowest point, just keep plowing forward. There have been times where I’ve felt like that; I’ve nearly moved to Australia, I’ve nearly got a ‘normal’ job and I thought, ‘nah, this isn’t for me’. So, with the music, I’ve just kept doing it and doing it and finally, something’s broke. If you keep chappin’ enough doors, somebody’s bound to answer one.
What does 2021 hold for Luke La Volpe?
I’m looking to keep adding to what I’ve already built. If I’ve managed to win this award and bring out music that I’ve recorded in my bedroom during lockdown, then I’m gonna be an absolute animal when the lockdown’s lifted and I could do what I want to do.