Tell us about your new single/ album/ tour?
My new album is called “Skeleton Blues”. It was recorded live on to 2 inch tape at Damien Gerard studios in November last year, just one day before the US election. I’d been listening to a lot of my favourite solo bluesmen – guys like Lightnin Hopkins, Reverend Gary Davis and John Lee Hooker – and wanted to record an album in that style: just me, my electric guitar and a stomp box, plus a few cameras surrounding me to capture it. Everything was done in one take. We went from nothing at all to a finished album in about four hours.
What’s your favourite work at this point in time?
I’ve done a lot of different projects in the last five years or so and they all seem like my favourite thing at the time. The comic side of my songwriting led to a one-man show called Chronic, which ended up giving me an active side career as a public speaker and health advocate. A couple of years ago I created a roots music show for kids called The Vegetable Plot that I’m still touring with. As far as Luke Escombe albums go I would say my 2012 record “Mantown” is still my best, but the one I’m most proud of is probably The Vegetable Plot album “Season One”. It was the most ambitious in concept (we had 9 different lead singers), the most musically diverse and by far the most fun to make. It’s also the one that has sold the most copies and been the most loved worldwide.
How would you describe your sound in food form and why?
I think its best understood as a degustation menu. There have been a few appetizers, some amuse bouches and a variety of colourful veggie dishes. Then there’s this latest record, which is a piece of steak, served bloody and rare, with no accompaniment.
Tell us a quick, on the road or studio, anecdote.
I was playing at a blues festival in Bridgetown, WA a few months ago and picked up a hitchhiker on the way into town. He was dressed in bike leathers and had a long, white, tobacco-stained beard. We hit it off and he gave me a CD as a thank you. He told me he’d recorded it in a barn with a luminous pink guitar bought for about 50 bucks from a hock shop. Just that pink guitar, his big boot stomping on the wooden floor, and his voice. He called himself “Grindhowl Screech” and the name of the album was “Inevitable Scars from a reckless existence”. I was intrigued and wanted to listen to this thing right away but my rental car didn’t have a CD player. Finally I got to listen to it when I drove my own car back home from Sydney airport. It was one of the best records I’ve heard in years. The songs, the voice, it was just magic! The guy’s real name was Leon and he’d put his contact number in the CD sleeve. I called him up and he told me his life story over the phone, amazing tales of hardship and survival – battling addiction, witnessing bikie shootouts – it was all there in the songs. Here was a true gem of an outsider artist. I asked his permission to upload his album to my Bandcamp page and send him any money I got from downloads. Currently it’s my most streamed album and has been downloaded on three continents. He sent me an old Wah-wah pedal of his as a thank you and we’ve become regular SMS buddies. I’m so glad I opened the door to him that day at Bridgetown. Good things come into your life when you’re willing to take chances.
What, or who, inspires you?
Inspiration is the most essential fuel for a songwriter. I find it all over the place, and not always where I’d expect, but I find it most in my own experiences – the major events in my life, the people I meet, the people I love and the way those things affect me. My kid’s show The Vegetable Plot was inspired by events surrounding the birth of my son Harry. I had to have a major operation just months before he was born and it ended up giving me a new lease on life. That feeling, combined with the crazy amount of love I felt for him was the inspiration for that project. This latest record, “Skeleton Blues”, was partly inspired by a mad-for-it crowd I encountered at the Perth Blues Club last year. I played that gig just solo electric and people treated it like I was playing with a full band. They got up and danced from the first song. I loved that, and it stuck with me. It made me believe in those songs and that style of playing enough to go into the studio and make this record.
Which song do you wish you wrote?
There are so many, but let’s go with Bob Dylan’s “The Times they are-a-changing”. Imagine writing and recording THAT song at a time when an entire generation could genuinely believe in its message, when it felt like the power of music really could change the course of history.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got a radio series coming out next month called “Rock and Roll Dad”. It’s based on the voice memos my Dad recorded in the months before he died. He was a rock and roll musician in the 60s before revolutionizing the rock and roll touring industry in the 70s. He recorded over 50 hours of audio, and I’ve been travelling up to ABC Lismore over the last twelve months to edit that into a 5-part radio doco with a producer up there. It’s not so much a biography as an adventure story that takes us all over the world, from Africa to Europe to Australia and back, with a killer soundtrack featuring the likes of Elvis, The Beatles and The Stones, plus some super rare records recorded by Dad’s band The Shake Spears. The first episode will go to air next month.
What’s your scene?
Upstairs and downstairs at Camelot Lounge in Marrickville. I’ve performed there 4 times already this year and never get tired of the place. It’s my favourite Sydney venue, and not just because they give me free pizzas and beers. You’ll find me there again on March 4th playing the songs from “Skeleton Blues”.
Originally from the UK, where his late father was one of the pioneers of the modern rock and roll touring industry, Luke has called Sydney home since 1999. As well as his three albums as a blues and roots artist, he is a critically acclaimed writer, comedian and MC, an in-demand public speaker, an ambassador for health charity Crohn’s and Colitis Australia and the creator of an award-winning “roots music” show for kids, families and foodies called The Vegetable Plot. Luke also once won the title of “Sydney’s sexiest man voice” in a phone-in poll on a popular radio station, but he tries not to mention that too often.
Luke Escombe is a Songwriter/ Guitarist/ Entertainer/ Speaker/ Ambassador for Crohn’s and Colitis Australia/ Creator of Chronic Symphonic and The Vegetable Plot
Find Luke Escombe’s music here.
Saturday March 4th at Django Bar, Marrickville.
Supported by Brian Campeau.
Tix $15 + BF or $20 on the door.
More info and tickets: here