Dorset singer-songwriter Roo Panes – a man who grew up just down the road from yours truly, as it happens – has taken a route to professional musicianship that could only have come from the 21st Century. Having contacted Burberry about taking part in their Sessions – and to his own surprise, getting a call back – Roo found himself with an insta-audience. And deservedly so; there’s an effortless, unassuming charm mixed with a slight awkwardness to those early recordings.
Three EPs and a full length entitled ‘Little Giant’, released in August 2014, which showcases his 12-string guitar talents and penchant for a deep, heartwrenching tale amongst his melody. Roo, in short, is well worth a tear or three…
You meld classical and folk music in your style, with the classical aspect really kicking in with the backing instrumentation. How did that develop?
I have always loved the sound of stringed instruments, for me they generate an emotive musical landscape, and I’d always wondered what it’d be like to blend that aspect into my songs. It started mainly as a flavour, but gradually grew into more of a characteristic of the music to date. Sometimes I feel like strings arrangements can carry a melody of their own in a song as well as a vocal melody and that attracted me. Classical music has often been a go to for me, I’m not very knowledgeable about it, but I just like the nature of it. It interests me how classical music sets out to tell a story without words, and I thought that could be integrated into folk music nicely, which has a storytelling culture in a lyrical sense. When the group started to grow in number we always used to joke about growing an orchestra out of our friends, but I think it’s still a little way off from that.
Tell us about your album ‘Little Giant’ – how long did it take to put together, and how did NBC come to pick up the title track?
The main legwork of recording Little Giant was done in about a month I believe, but the songs themselves were all written at different stages. I did 3 EP’s prior, and a few of the tracks were chosen from them to work on. Mainly because it didn’t feel right to leave them behind, they’d played a part in getting me there in the first place! But some of the tracks were written very close to recording. I feel like I was still writing, “Tiger striped sky” almost up until I was sitting in the recording seat! Credit goes to my team for the NBC slot, I believe my publishing team brought that about.
You play a twelve string guitar, which it’s fair to say it not your typical instrument. What can you acheive with a twelve string that’s not possible on a normal guitar?
I had a sound in mind that I originally thought would be on a 6 string, but I couldn’t find it. Then I saw the 12 string standing in the corner of the guitar shop, gave it a go and it was exactly what I was looking for. At that time I was playing mainly solo acoustic gigs and wanted something with a bit of body that could fill the songs a little more. However I also needed something with delicate high end because I do a fair bit of picking in my songs. I think that’s its main strength, its sort of shy and bold at the same time.