Eighteen year old nominee of two BBC Radio Folk awards, Luke Jackson, was on hand at the marketing matters seminar to share his song writing experiences and woo the audience with his flawless performances.
Although, nowadays, Luke can usually be found performing at large gigs, he said he was glad to have the opportunity to talk about his career so far and reflect on where his songs have come from.
Like many artists starting out, Luke began with mostly performing covers. He would perform to audiences at every opportunity given. He recalls being 14 years old and performing in smoky pubs, where it’s possible that he was the only person there below the age of 50. “I tried to get my head in as many places as possible, all the open mic nights, etc. Back then I did pub gigs for a long time, but now I tend to avoid pub gigs – they love a cover, but I’m now picky because I want to perform my own stuff. But always start out with being everywhere!” he said.
It was great to see an artist with such charisma (and modesty); Luke had the whole room hooked on his every word as he chatted about his journey as an artist and joked about the days he would “travel from Canterbury to Birmingham to gig in front of three people – two of which would be talking, and one was [his] dad”.
He explained that at the start of his music career the social networking site MySpace was good for getting gigs, (where he would sell CDs for £3) but now social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are more about communication with fans then getting gigs and selling.
Inspired by acoustic great Richard Thompson OBE’s storytelling genius, Luke’s first album More Than Boys is about growing up – that’s where he is at in life, and he finds others can relate. He spoke of recording his album last year under Martyn Joseph’s record label – he wanted to make an album with a live feel and so using only a voice mic, a guitar mic and lots of takes, the album was cut in 4 days.
Luke sang seven songs in total to the select crowd in the room (it was like having our own private gig) six of which were his own, original songs (including the title track of his debut album More Than Boys) and one being a cover of John Hiatt’s Icy Blue Heart. These were interjected with funny anecdotes about Luke’s friends, tour experiences and fellow artists – and how these have influenced his song writing. It was easy to believe Luke’s admission that he favours gigs not by number in attendance, but audience response, as he comfortably made eye contact around the room as he sang.
“The way they come out is how they are meant to be, I don’t set the genre and I can’t tell himself ‘I will write a song today’ then go write it – they happen when they happen”
It was fascinating to learn about the experiences that inspired each of the songs Luke had written. From writing ‘Out of Time’ while standing in St David’s Hall in Cardiff waiting for his encore at the end of a 6-week tour with Martyn Joseph (during which he lived off of Cornish pasties and sausage rolls from service stations) – to stumbling across the melody for ‘Last Train’ during a sound check at a Cambridge gig (lyrics followed the next day while watching an old war film), Luke explained that he can’t force a song.
The session with Luke concluded with an audience Q&A. The things that stood out to me most over this were Luke’s thoughts on big labels and talent shows. Although he loves artists like Paolo Nutini and Ben Howard, and can see how a big label works for them as they continue to do their own thing, he admits that personally, he wouldn’t go mainstream if meant he had to compromise his own style. As far as X Factor type contests go? Luke wants to be around the music scene for a long time, and can’t see a sustainable career via TV talent shows.
Final thoughts from Luke
“In main stream everyone is wanting to get to the number 1 spot, but in the folk and roots scene everyone wants to help each other. That was why the Young Folk Awards was such a great experience – I made such good friends.”
With that thought in mind as he graciously thanked Helen for inviting him to be there, I can see why Luke Jackson wanted to be involved with Folkstock from the beginning – and what a great person to have onboard!