I’ve been listening to a new version of Get Lucky. Daft Punk’s original is pretty good but this summer it’s all about Martynas’s performance of it on YouTube — played on the accordion.
Squeezeboxes have never been regarded as the route to mainstream success, but Martynas Levickis (pronounced “Levitskis”) is changing that. Earlier this month the “adopted Londoner” (he moved there from his native Lithuania five years ago) had his debut album go straight to No 1 in the classical charts, outselling Katherine Jenkins. And he’s only 23.
His album includes songs by the likes of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, but also Bach and Vivaldi.
A beam spreads across his face when I congratulate him on the No 1. “It was the evening Andy Murray won the tennis and somehow I felt British about it and proud.”
His musical career began when he was three and saw a piano recital on television. “It was my dream to play that huge instrument. But it was difficult to afford. My godfather gave me an accordion instead and I started to play, singing along to Lithuanian folk songs.”
When Martynas was eight, he and his mother left the small town of Tauragé so that he could go to music school in tSiauliai. “Nobody in my family is musical. My mum left her job and went to a city where she didn’t know anyone, mostly so I could study. It was sad for her but she got another job in a kitchen. I don’t think she regretted it.”
Coming to London was difficult. “My mother cried a lot when I got into the Royal Academy, aged 18, because she knew she wouldn’t be able to help me financially.”
At first it was “stressful”. “Back home I got attention. Then you come to a huge city and realise there are so many talented people.” The language barrier didn’t help. “I couldn’t understand anybody. I am still trying to achieve as smooth an accent as possible.”
“Lithuania used to be a closed country in the Soviet Union so it’s important to open up. The other people come here for work and a better life because they struggle a lot back home. I wonder if they achieve that better life. They have to work really hard here.” • Martynas is out now on Decca Classics. www.levickis.com