West Lothian is where it’s at and where it has been in Scottish music for some time, with Bathgate boy Lewis Capaldi taking on the world, Whitburn quartet The Snuts topping the UK charts with their debut album WL and an honourable mention for Susan Boyle, who continues to live a modest life in her native Blackburn despite being regarded as a pop oracle in the US.
Bathgate native Luke La Volpe is looking like the next commercial contender, having scored a Scottish No.1 with his single Dead Man’s Blues and won Male Breakthrough Artist at the 2020 Scottish Music Awards. The 25-year-old singer/songwriter has supported other guitar-toting troubadours such as Tom Walker, Jake Bugg, Tom Grennan and his childhood pal Capaldi, with whom he shares a friendly rivalry and a booming voice.
La Volpe learned his vocal chops from his grandfather Richard, who introduced him to Sinatra and other swing artists, and he has adopted some of that storytelling melodrama in the songs he has been writing for the past decade. By early 2020, he was starting to build his own momentum, selling out Glasgow’s legendary King Tut’s in a day.
When lockdown slammed on the brakes, La Volpe quickly organised an online concert series called Sofathon Singalong, building to a 24-hour marathon session to raise funds for the Music Venue Trust. He’s now a patron of the charity alongside Sir Paul McCartney and Billy Bragg.
The Sofathon also yielded a fortuitous connection when one of the performers, The View frontman Kyle Falconer, suggested they collaborate on a song. The result, Terribly Beautiful, became a streaming hit and a signature tune for La Volpe, who performs a solo acoustic rendition for the Scotsman Sessions, recorded “at my pal Cameron’s house - because he has better recording gear than me and knows how to work it!”
“It’s been a bit of an anthem for me over the last couple of years,” says La Volpe. “When I play it live, there’s always a big singalong and a bit of a tear in the eye. ‘When I’m alone I feel nothing, when I’m with you I feel something’ has a lot of meaning for folk I think. It really reflects what we were all going through at the time, bad and good.”
La Volpe is quite happy to use that apposite cliché “emotional rollercoaster” to describe the last two years. “I’ve had some dark times as well as great moments,” he says. “Having to keep postponing gigs was heartbreaking, and I had to pull out of the big one at TRNSMT because I got Covid.”
La Volpe gets to play a TRNSMT rematch this summer, on the same bill as one of his musical heroes, Paolo Nutini. Other summer bookings include the Belladrum Tartan Heart festival, Linlithgow’s Party at the Palace and supporting his mucker Capaldi at the Lytham Festival, all hopefully preceded by a new five-track EP. “Feels like maybe we’re through the dark tunnel now and back out into the light,” he says.
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