Luke began BTEC studies at Leeds College of Music and progressed to a BA Hons in Popular Music, graduating in 2009. In November 2013, he returned to the conservatoire for a Q&A insight session with our current students.
During his degree, Luke spotted an advert looking for musicians to join the in-house band of pop production house, Xenomania. They took him on as a guitarist and he has never looked back, carving out a successful career as a musician, songwriter and producer.
Fast-forward to 2013 and Luke is now the lead guitarist for Kylie Minogue's band, first performing with her spectacular 'Aphrodite Les Folies' 2011 world tour across 27 countries. Recent studio highlights include:
Kylie: guitarist, The Abbey Road Sessions (2012) – no. 2 in the charts
Rebecca Ferguson: songwriter/producer, Mr Bright Eyes (2011) – no. 3 in the charts, achieving double platinum status
Gossip: songwriter/producer, Perfect World (2011) – no.1 airplay position in Germany and France
Amelia Lily: songwriter/producer, You Bring Me Joy (2012) – no. 2 in the charts
Girls Aloud: songwriter/producer, Something New (2012) – no. 2 in the charts
Little Mix: songwriter/producer, Pretend It's OK (2012) – no. 4 in the US Billboard Chart breaking the previous record of highest album chart position for a UK girl group
Conversation with Luke Fitton
In 2011, we interviewed Luke just as he was about to embark on Kylie's 'Aphrodite Les Folies' tour. He talked to us about the forthcoming tour, his experiences in the music industry, and working with Xenomania.
How did you get involved with the Kylie tour?
A friend of mine was asked to put some musicians together for Kylie's performance on the X Factor and asked me if I was available. Luckily I was free, and from there I got to know some of the people that work along with Kylie regularly. By pure coincidence they had been looking for a guitarist. I was invited to audition for Kylie, her management and musical director and luckily I managed to win them over. I got asked to do a Radio 2 live session and once that went successfully I was invited to join the band full time. Needless to say I was overjoyed!
What aspects of the Kylie tour are you most looking forward to?
I just cannot wait to take the music out of the rehearsal room into a huge arena and see how something of that scale can travel from country to country. I personally love the excitement of being on the road and seeing how different people and places can be, yet they are all drawn to see this one spectacular show no matter where you go.
With the band Pictures you reached the finals of Sky 1’s Must Be the Music. How was your ‘TV talent show’ experience?
I loved being a part of a show that was going against the grain of what a 'talent show' is now considered to be. To be part of a competition that came down to the quality of an act as a whole (songwriting talent, performance ability, sound and image) was hugely satisfying. We were shocked to get so far as there seemed to be obvious favourites throughout the show and we didn't feel we were one of them. I am really proud of how well we did, and it's the only show that has ever allowed an unsigned act to record and release their own music and perform them on live TV in front of 10,000 people at Wembley Arena. To achieve a Top 40 single off the back of the show was a brilliantly unique and fulfilling experience.
In 2009 you were part of the band Vagabond. What lessons did being in the band teach you about the music industry?
The main lesson was that getting a record deal is very much the first rung on a very tall ladder. There are so many other people involved with promoting and marketing a record it gets hard to know where all the decisions are being made. I would definitely advise to remain in control as much as possible and be aware of the people who work just to tell their friends they work for a record company. Surround yourselves with people who are passionate about what you're doing and that way it will be a win-win situation for all involved. Vagabond was signed to a major label and the majors can live and die by chart success. For a rock/pop band this doesn’t always fit the radio playlists and the subsequent trends that dominate the charts.
Since leaving Leeds College of Music you've been involved in a number of Xenomania projects. How did you first get involved with Xenomania?
While studying in the Leeds College of Music library I spotted a tiny advert looking for musicians to work with producer Brian Higgins. It was at the time when I was starting to panic a little about what route I was going to take after university and any potential avenues that came up I was investigating as far as I could. I went down to London for an audition that lasted all of five minutes. I had no idea what I was really auditioning for, but any route into the music industry was all I cared about. A month later I received a call back for another day-long audition learning tracks and playing with other musicians. As people were being let go I found myself down to the last two players and was invited by Brian to his studio. After several meetings and trials regarding playing, recording, producing and performing I was invited down to Xenomania permanently which turned my world upside down.
Which has been your favourite Xenomania project so far?
My favourite will always be Vagabond as I got to experience and learn so much in such a short space of time. Witnessing and contributing to the recording and writing process was the biggest learning curve of my life. We toured a huge amount, supported many great acts, and played everywhere from Glastonbury to the Royal Albert Hall. We even made two music videos out in America. I learned so much as a guitarist when I first got to Xenomania, the first thing I was asked to do was record some parts over a particular backing track. I asked Brian what he had in mind and his response, 'I don’t care as long as it’s brilliant', was a reality check - I had to constantly be on top form to survive in this industry.
How did your time at Leeds College of Music prepare you for everything you've been up to over the past few years?
It gave me the reality check that a degree in music does not automatically provide a career in music. It allowed me to learn about so many aspects of music and provided the time and encouragement to try as many avenues as possible. I loved being surrounded by so many different musical people and learning from teachers that have so much experience and advice at your disposal. If I hadn't studied at Leeds College of Music I would never have stumbled across the advert for the original audition that allowed me to leave and join the industry. For that reason my time at the College was priceless.
What would your advice be to musicians starting out in their career?
Many people studying have so many plans of what they want to do AFTER they've finished studying. Do it now! Use the three years of your degree to begin trying to get work in every bit of spare time you have. If you want a 9 to 5 job in music, stop looking - it doesn't exist. Most of the available work you have to find yourself. Use what you learn at College to help you as you go. Don't confine yourself to your bedroom to become the world's greatest player that will never be heard; use the performance classes to learn to communicate with other musicians properly and musically. In my first two weeks at Leeds College of Music, a guest lecturer who worked as a producer came in and said '95% of getting work is getting along with people and the other 5% is being incredible at your job.'
Finally, you need to appreciate that to get work you can't afford to be put off if someone's not appreciating how long you've crafted your skill or the depths and inner workings of irregular time signatures and modal harmony. Work is work and it will always lead to other opportunities. Be amazing at the simple things and deliver whatever you're hired for consistently.
Interview reproduced by kind permission of Luke Fitton. You can read the full version over at Luke's website