Since the release of his debut EP, Land of the Living, in 2013, Roo Panes has become something of a hot commodity in the realm of indie folk. Although the singer-songwriter himself is the first to espouse that he wishes to “quietly get on” (he says as much below, in the heat of our interview), he has since garnered a cool 200 million-plus listens across streaming services – not a meager number by any stretch of the term.
Still, Panes is as Panes is, and he has humbly retained the same vision for his artistry as he’s had since the beginning. He’s a man singing and writing for his own sake, gradually getting by on his troubadour’s path and generously bringing us all along for the ride. For Folk’s Sake is pleased to have invited him to take part in our ongoing ‘FFS 5’ series, wherein we ask a series of artists, producers, and other names in folk and folk-adjacent music scenes the same five questions. For Roo, this comes hot off of the release of a brand new single, ‘Commentators’, which you can give an ear below.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. What have been your defining moments along your career path to date?
I’m not really sure about defining moments to be honest. I feel like my musical journey has been gradual, step by step and song by song. I’ve always wanted to be an artist who quietly gets on. I suppose for me a big moment was bringing out my first album little giant – I was just really proud of it and still feel years on like there’s a lot of life left in it. It opened the door to me making more albums! If it had dived I might not be making music now.
As an artist, how do you define success?
Success for me would be the art of taking personal experience at its most complex and confusing and unwrapping and communicating it on a deep and universal level that means something to someone else…! One of my favourite things about writing is opening forgotten curtains. I’ve always loved the idea of just writing, sharing thoughts, feelings, melodies, without the pressure of ambition but knowing there are people listening! That’s a great place. I like the idea of people listening years from now because there’s still depth and curiosity in the material..hopefully!
What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?
Well, I think the music business thinks differently and sometimes requires certain criteria. I don’t really want to think with criteria in mind just make whatever is authentic to me as an artist. That push and pull is always there. And you realise the industry has its own rhythms with releases, tours etc. Sometimes that clashes with your own creative rhythm – but everyone does their best! I’ve got a great team who are keen on finding that balance. Id say clutter is the greatest struggle – having your mind full of things that distract you from your art.
If you could only play ONE of your songs for the rest of your career, which one would it be?
Ah. That’s hard. But I think I’d still say ‘little giant’.
Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?
Well, I paint, get outdoors and kayak etc., go for walks, sit and think in inspiring places. Somehow I feel they all help! I’ve been quite interested in how different forms of art teach you to look at the world differently
– so painting forces me to simplify, slow down and focus on what I’m looking at – then challenges you to express it. Sitting somewhere beautiful often leads you to explore bigger questions than you do when you don’t give yourself the time. I dunno, I just think all these things widen your experience of the world. And I guess I feel like the things you take in are the things that come out in the end, especially with creativity.
09 – Dallas TX | Sons of Hermann Hall
10 – Austin TX | 3TEN ACL Live
12 – Houston TX | Bronze Peacock at House of Blues
14 – Atlanta GA | Vinyl
15 – Nashville TN | Basement East
17 – Washington DC | Songbyrd
24 – HowTheLightGetsIn Festival, UK
20 – Winterthur, CH | Casinotheater
22 – Bratislava, SK | Atelier Babylon
24 – Warsaw, PL | Niebo
27 – Berlin, DE | Lido
30 – Stockholm, SE | Södra Teatern
04 – London, UK | Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank
08 – Amsterdam, NL | Paradiso
Words by: Jonathan Frahm (@jfrahm_)