Not many artists at the age of 34 in the music industry can boast a career spanning over two decades. Even fewer musicians can lay claim to child prodigy status and continue a successful career in the industry as an adult artist. Luan Parle can boast (though I doubt that she would) to have managed both and is possibly in the third phase of her professional career at present.
Much has been documented over the years in respect of her career launch age of twelve, signing to Sony Music, supporting Elton John and James Blunt, Meteor Award for Best Irish Female Artist, Tatler Woman of The Year Award, Big Buzz Most Stylish Female Award and more.
Lonesome Highway had the pleasure of meeting the unpretentious and convivial young Wicklow woman while on tour in support of her excellent EP Roll The Dice.
I get the impression of Luan Parle as an artist totally reinvigorated at present. Lots of positive energy and focus?
Yes, absolutely. I took some time out after The Full Circle before the release of my last EP Roll The Dice. It was the best thing I ever did. I was very young when I started working in the music industry, so it gave me the time and space I needed to refocus and reflect on my musical career to date. Afterwards I felt completely re-energized, reinvigorated and had a completely different outlook on the "business" side. I do what I do because I love it and I love it more now than ever. I have a new appreciation for it and feel very lucky. I have a fantastic team around me who I trust with my life - which is key.
You certainly seem to have a busy 12 months, between your live shows and TV & Radio appearances?
Yes, I've been incredibly busy. I self-released 'Roll The Dice last year and released four singles from the EP in Ireland. Between promoting the releases and the live shows it has certainly kept me busy.
How did dates in Slovakia and Finland materialise?
I have been playing the FestDobréBohunice since 2009 and building up a fan base in Slovakia. Last year I headlined the festival to 1,500 people and completed a mini tour of Slovakia last November. I was asked this year to play the Irish Arts Centre in New York City as part of their Song Lives Series which was in May. After that I was contacted by Mal Fay the organiser of the Helsinki Irish Festival to headline September 30th with Clive Barnes. It will be my first time to play Finland so I'm extremely excited.
Signing a record deal at the age of 12 reads like every teenage girl’s dream come true. How did your professional career impact on you as a teenager growing up?
To be honest not that much. My life has always revolved around music and it seemed all very normal. I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to record an album at 12 years of age, that kind of experience is priceless. I learned so much at such a young age which has helped me immensely.
To say the least, you have certainly experience the highs and lows of the music industry. From signing to Sony and Elton John’s Management Company to losing both deals. Has the experience made you stronger personally?
That's the nature of the business. I feel very lucky to have had those opportunities. I don't look at it like I've lost anything, I've gained a huge amount of knowledge. I've written and recorded songs with Grammy winning songwriters and producers such as Bill Bottrell, Chris Kimsey and Billy Steinberg to name but a few. I toured extensively with James Blunt and opened Elton John’s London shows at the Apollo Theatre. I also recorded my album Free which featured my top hit single Ghost and won the Meteor Irish Music Award. I have grown up in the industry and will continue my musical journey taking all that I have been lucky enough to learn from all of those experiences.
You have spoken on the record many times of the trauma and even guilt you suffered as a result of losing your record deal and your father’s ill health. Is that chapter closed now?
I am so happy to be embarking on this next chapter. I feel excited and very blessed that my dad is still with us to share it.
Roll The Dice has deservedly enjoyed very enthusiastic reviews. Was the idea of recording an EP rather than a full album a case of ‘dipping your toe in the water’ and seeing the reaction?
Not really, I spent quite a considerable amount of money on the recordings as I wanted to have the best product I felt was possible at the time. I was lucky to work with amazing musicians on the recordings and mixes. As the product was self-funded I needed to keep some money aside for distribution and PR.
When can we expect the next release and is it ‘same again’ with or without any re-mixes?
I'm working on the next batch of recordings at the moment and hope to have something out very soon. Whether it will be a self-release this time or not I cannot say. The remix of Roll The Dice came about after the single release so I'd never rule anything out.
Are you enjoying the freedom of self-releasing music and managing yourself rather than under the control of a record company?
I have definitely enjoyed it but it's tough going and a lot of work. At this point now I would like to hand that side of things over so that I can concentrate on the music, writing and performing.
Most of your recent tour features the talented guitarist and artist in his own right Clive Barnes on stage with you performing as a duo. Is this a format that you enjoy rather than solo or with a full band?
Clive is an absolute joy to play with. He's an unbelievable talent and having toured with incredible artists such as Eric Bibb, Joe Cocker and Taj Mahal Clive is always in high demand. We've been touring together for almost two years and it just works. What Clive brings to my songs is very special and I feel incredibly lucky to get to play to him. During the shows Clive plays some of his own material, I've never seen anyone play like him, he's an exceptional talent. We've also been writing together recently which we're both really enjoying and seemed like a natural step. I also love playing with a full band but it can be costly.
Has working with Clive influenced the material you are presently working on in terms of style or direction?
Absolutely, Clive's songs are so beautiful, poetic, melodic and inspire me to want to write songs. He sets the bar high.
I expect there is some competition on the road trips to shows as to what CD ends up in the car stereo! Clive is a man of exceptionally varied music tastes from jazz to metal!
He sure is and I'm happy to be educated by him, so he's in control of the iPod.
You are heavily involved in the Irish Music Industry both through you work with IASCA and with the various Rock School Summer camps you subscribe to. How important is this to you?
Hugely important. Music wasn't an option in my school when I was doing my Leaving Certificate so I felt a bit cheated. My guidance counsellor would constantly ask me what I wanted to do when I finished school to which my response was always that I wanted to become a professional full time musician. I was looking for some sort of guidance or a nudge in the right direction which I never got and I felt hugely frustrated. I felt that there was nobody to help me with the path I had chosen. Most musicians starting out haven't a clue how to go about things so I try to pass on a little bit of what I've picked up along the way to up and coming musicians. They are our future.
Your Summer Camps must cater for many youngsters with ambitions and dreams of a career in the music industry. How optimistic are you that the industry can offer them a viable career going forward?
You know there's never any guarantees with any career path you chose in life. You've got to follow your dreams and never give up on that dream. It's not an easy road but then is anything?
Have you set yourself career targets going forward?
Always. For the moment I'm looking forward to releasing the next batch of material. Publishing is something that I'll be concentrating heavily on next year and touring outside of Ireland a lot more. As long as I can play music and people like what I'm doing I'm happy.
Interview by Declan Culliton - July 2016