A lot happened to Roo Panes in an incredibly short space of time. Two full length albums, three cherished EPs, 160 million Spotify streams and countless, countless live shows across Europe and beyond. It’s fair to say, then, that he’d earned a break – so when he was offered the chance to recoup in the English countryside he grabbed it.
“I felt like… wow, I’d written a lot!” he laughs, looking back on that breakout spell. “I felt that I had reached the top of a hill, and I just wanted to take a breather. I wanted to stay in love with writing. I just really wanted to live a bit, in between.”
Choosing a base in Dorset, he went on long country walks, switching off from the high velocity world of the London music industry and allowing himself to bathe in subtle introspection. “I went back down to the countryside and stopped thinking about releasing records, really, and started thinking about different aspects of life. And it was really cool,” he smiles. “I guess that’s the kind of writer I am. And if you’re always racing to the next thing it’s quite hard to get to that place in your mind.”
What followed, though, was some of the finest, most natural music Roo has ever written; song after song poured forth in an ecstasy of creation, until he had a notebook bulging with new ideas. “It was actually not from a place of trying to write songs, it was from a place of just living,” he explains.
New album ‘Quiet Man’ is the product of this inspired period in Roo’s life and work, a collection of superb, meditative tracks that push his music in fresh and inventive directions. The folk-hewn charms which drove his opening two albums are in place, but the songwriter’s rural idyll is also soundtracked by heart-searching elements of modern classical, and his burgeoning love for the piano.
“There’s something to be said for simplicity,” he says. “I like writing subtle things, if I can. But sometimes there’s something really nice about simple things that people can just sit in and go with.”
While the writing sessions that forged ‘Quiet Man’ were essentially restful, the studio period was tightly focussed by this meticulous, patiently driven artist. Working at Deep Litter Studios, Roo chose producer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Bond to oversee the recording.
“I think he brought a real empathy to the kind of music that I want to make,” Roo recalls. “Chris saw things, and felt like he could encourage and enhance those. So for instance, there’s a lot of Hammond organ on the album and a few synths and organs – things that I hadn’t played with before. It gave me a greater palette to work with.”
Musically broad but aesthetically focussed, remarkably insular but wonderfully open, ‘Quiet Man’ could be Roo Panes’ finest achievement to date, the moment where this inquisitive soul locates some form of peace. “I think the album is about stillness, and the things that give you confidence. It’s about the beautiful thoughts, the beautiful things that give you life. And so from that comes strength.”
Listen to 'Ophelia' - the new single from Roo Panes' acclaimed album 'Quiet Man'.