This month’s #MyMusicMaps comes from none other than Roo Panes. Roo started from humble grassroots – gigging every tiny club he could find and self releasing his music. My first experience of working with Roo was technically as his label but really it was as his producer and making those early recordings in various houses and studios with a whole host of musicians was a lot of fun. He may not have had the music lingo at the time but he certainly had a singular vision. Roo casually dropped into conversation over a bowl of soup the other day that last year over 10 million people listened to his tracks on Spotify. Not bad for a man with a guitar and love of melody.
Tell us about who you are and what you do
My name is Roo Panes and I’m a singer-songwriter. My music is usually described as folk music because the focus is on the lyrics, melodies and stories.
How did music get you to where you are now?
There are a lot of levels to that question! It has taken me on a number of journeys. On a practical front, I began to book my own shows in London and collected all the songs and material I had into a set list which I started to play for club nights or supporting other bands. I shared the music I recorded on YouTube and recorded an EP called ‘Once’. Everything progressed again when I met my record label. They got me thinking about albums and at that time I was also offered an opportunity to write music for a worldwide Burberry campaign. This gave me a great platform and led me in the end to meeting my manager. We’ve all been releasing albums together to this day. So it’s been quite a journey to this point!
Why did you choose to work in music?
I’ve always loved music. When I was young I dabbled with a few instruments – one of my earliest memories was my grandmother playing the piano. One thing led to another but taking it forward in life was actually quite a surprise to me. I was prepped for a very different life! It sounds cheesy but I was following my heart. I never really intended it as a career, I simply loved making music and sharing it. Then it felt like something that I seemed to have was actually quite rare. It felt like music was a wonderful avenue to do some good in the world, to empathise, encourage, and to see and meet others.
What advice would you give to the parent of someone learning music for the first time?
There are many different ways to go about music and many different roles. I always admire classical musicians for the amount of practice they put in. A number of them had parents who really helped them be disciplined however I think to be creative with music it has to be enjoyed and treated as an adventure. I’d urge parents to encourage their kids and remind them that music is an amazing thing. It’s not just a discipline or a route to fame. It’s inspiring and something to be enjoyed and experienced in its own right – that’s when it comes alive. My parents were always really good at that. They’d take time to sit down and listen to things I made and encourage me, and let me know that my musicality was valuable and exciting.
Name a piece of music that inspires you and why
I’ve always loved Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Part. Not for any highly academic reason or anything very clever – I just love the simplicity. In a world of noise it’s very refreshing. Often with making music an easy trap to fall in is to think of all the space you’re going to fill with up with instruments. Actually there’s a lot to be said for the amount of space you leave and this piece proves this for me.
Where is the most exciting place music has taken you?
I love the memory of playing on a hotel rooftop in Rio de Janeiro. There was something so colourful about that experience. But then I’ve also loved played up in Inverness in the freezing cold with the raining pouring down. All the places I have played have their individual charms and I’ve worked with a lot of great people so wouldn’t want to choose just one.
What made you choose your instrument?
I think it was the fact it was easy to practise and live alongside. I used to play trumpet which I found hard to play and practise freely because it’s so loud! With a guitar you can just quietly plonk yourself in a corner and play and I still very happily plonk myself in a corner and play.
What is the best piece of advice you were given by a music teacher?
I had a music teacher who saw I couldn’t really connect with reading music from a sheet. I might be imagining it, but I think he was quite excited by this! He taught me to improvise and most of all, to enjoy my instrument.