Andrew ‘Roo’ Panes says the opening track on his new album sending a message to himself.
By Michael Smith
Back in 2014, talking about his debut album, Little Giant, Dorset-born singer-songwriter Andrew “Roo” Panes admitted to one journalist that, in retrospect, he’d written the songs during times when he was feeling vulnerable “and I’m trying to send a message to myself.” Four years on and the opening song of his latest and third album, Quiet Man, opens with a song titled ‘A Message to Myself’.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Panes chuckles. “I suppose I do do songs a bit like that sometimes, but not all the time. They’re kind of like unpacking your thoughts really and capturing things that matter to you, so in that regard you’re capturing lessons and trying to remember them in music. So they are kind of messages to yourself.
“I wasn’t actually sure whether I was going to be doing another album or not. I wanted to take a break, a bit of a creative step back. I felt like I’d written a lot of music up until the end of Paperweight” – and he has, with three EPS, 2012’s Once, 2013’s Weight Of Your World and 2014’s Land Of The Living, and now three albums, Little Giant, 2016’s Paperweight and Quiet Man, all within six years – “and so I actually intended on not writing but I ended up writing a lot of songs and they all just kind of arrived in their own time, over the course of about a year, without me sitting down thinking I’m going to write an album. I think for me, I just love songwriting so much. It’s such a natural process for me.”
While the press release for Quiet Man quotes Fanes as feeling the album has a general theme of encouragement, he’s also suggested it’s all about contentment, which might seem a bit odd when most songwriters say they tend to write out of discontent and despair, usually around heartache and heartbreak.
“That’s a really interesting point actually,” Fanes admits. “I had a conversation with someone who’d met a well-known songwriter who said ‘Oh no, I mustn’t be content, ‘cause then I won’t be able to write,’ because they’re so often bouncing off other things like, as you say, heart stories. I think you can still do that from a place of contentment. Some of the songs are still grounded in real stories – and in order to tell real stories, you have to also talk reality and reality can sometimes be quite hard, so I don’t avoid that in my writing. When I say contentment I guess it’s like what I was saying about not really intending on writing songs, and actually they just all arrived.
“And also I took this period of time to look at life a bit differently, to be happy with simplicity and not think too much about where things go or how well things go or anything like that, and just be, and so it was a bit of an exercise in simplicity, and I guess I mean that by contentment as well. All those songs were written from a simple, fundamental place.”
Neither a schooled musician nor a particular avid consumer of music, Fanes has nonetheless managed to create some of the most strikingly evocative and intriguing music around, the dynamics sweeping around within each song, from the profoundly intimate to the grandest of orchestral passages, one minute vast and spacious, vulnerably intimate the next, which might seem to belie the idea of simplicity.
“I just want to choose one or the other sometimes, but I basically like everything, so it’s quite hard sometimes to choose one thing. If I did just a really spacious song, I’d quickly feel I’d want to communicate something really intimate. So it’s one of those things where I often end up doing both in a song. I just think of it in terms of communication. I just think about how I can use all those elements to express the things I’m trying to express. ‘A Message to Myself’ I think can be quite a good example of that. I actually felt that the size of that song was very important to communicate the intimate idea of the song, because it’s all about thoughts, all about what it’s like to be sorting something in your head and that feeling of so much going on, so many voices. The end section was written, arranged and designed in a way where it was really spacious and free but also a really busy cacophony, which explains the intimate part of the song, the verses, which are much more up close, the song opening up at the end.”
Despite having had all his guitars stolen just before our interview, Panes happily announced his next UK tour would feature 13 musicians helping him to the capture that idea of symphonic simplicity.
Quiet Man is available now.