Next week sees the release of the much-anticipated debut single from The Lake Poets. Katy Wheeler caught up with the unassuming singer songwriter behind the band’s tracks.
HAUNTING, evocative and deeply entrenched in the home town that informs their sound, The Lake Poets’ music is making people sit up and listen.
The man behind the music is 23-year-old Martin Longstaff, from East Herrington, who performs both solo and as the The Lake Poets.
Eighteen months ago he played his first gig at Independent at Holmeside in front of 20 people, now he has had record labels eager to sign him up and is opening the main stage of this year’s Evolution Festival on Newcastle Quayside.
So, what went right for this trainee teacher who juggles Sunderland University work with gigging to an ever-increasing crowd?
The key to his burgeoning success seems to be a simple honesty to his music which shines through in every chord.
Take debut single City By The Sea.
Released on Monday, it’s an earnest anthem that reflects the former Farringdon School pupil’s affection for Sunderland which is accompanied by additional track Small Town, another ode to his hometown.
Martin, who describes his voice like “Damien Rice with a Mackem accent” said: “The songs are based on Sunderland I guess. I am proud to live here and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but it could do better as a city.
“We’re looking forward to releasing the single, but it’s scary as well, as primarily we are known for being live. We did 60 gigs last year and people kept coming up to us and asking if they could buy City by The Sea, but we only had demos to give them at the time.”
He added: “My songwriting is quite serious, it’s not about love, more about issues. There’s no party songs on there or me singing about being ‘in da club’.
“It’s about growing up and how we make sacrifices to become an adult, how we have to give up on our dreams to live in the adult world.”
Martin usually gains inspiration for songs from the world that passes by him when he’s sat on the bus. It can come from something as simple as a pair of glasses and what’s been seen through them in their lifetime.
Next week’s release comes after The Lake Poets signed to independent Gateshead-based label Tiny Lights.
“We had a few labels interested, a couple from Newcastle, one from London and even one from Australia,” explained Martin. “We went with Tiny Lights because they love music as much as we do.
“It’s an independent label as well which we wanted because they give us the chance to do what we want.”
When The Lake Poets perform as a group it also consists of David Ellwood on bass, Callum Hulsmeier on electric guitar, Liam Longstaff on acoustic guitar, Steven Calder on harmonica and banjo and Daniel Laidler on drums.
They worked with Martin to record the tracks at The Miners’ Hall in Silksworth, a century-old former meeting place of Sunderland’s miners, which now functions as a recording studio.
By chance, The Miners’ Hall was also where Martin’s grandparents first met, while his grandfather was singing on stage.
Next week also sees the band play their first big headline gig at Sage Gateshead, which sold out in two weeks.
Martin said: “I was at uni and busy so didn’t pay any mind to the ticket sales then next I knew it had sold out. I couldn’t believe it.
“I’ve been gigging for about a year and a half now and have experienced the ups and downs that go with that, such as playing to three people in a room, so this is amazing.
“It’s such a great venue which was designed around its acoustics, so it’s perfect for an act like us.”
Martin first began to take his music seriously following the death of his grandad Jock Hudson.
“My grandad worked exceptionally hard on the shipyards,” he explained.
“I used to spend a lot of time with him and he taught me many life lessons. When he died I wanted to do something to make him proud.”
No doubt he would be proud of the act who have festivals snapping at their heels to perform.
One of the biggest dates this year is Evolution Festival over the Queen’s Jubilee bank holiday, warming up the crowd for the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Deadmau5 and Noah and the Whale.
Martin said: “I played Evolution Emerging last year and then the next day played the Generator Emerging stage. From that I got asked to play this year to open the main stage which is a massive honour.
“It’s absolutely mint, but a lot of the time you don’t think about it because it messes with your head. I used to go to Shiney Row College and when Pure (a bar in Park Lane ) used to be open, my dream was just to play Pure, now we’re opening the main stage at Evolution.”
Other gigs lined up this year are Kendal Calling, Willowman Festival in North Yorkshire Liverpool’s Sound City as well as a BBC gig in Oxford.
The Lake Poets will also play The Polite Room at Durham Gala Theatre on May 3 l To listen to The Lake Poets and for more details log on to www.thelakepoets.com