I've been lucky enough to have known and heard Luke Jackson for such a longtime, heading back to the days when his dad, Paul, used to have to drive him to gigs because he wasn't old enough to drive. Luke has a number of studio recordings under his belt, but recently released his first live album, "Sole¦Duo¦Trio" which as the title suggests sees him start out on his own and then bring in some of the artists that play alongside him. I can't recall another live album that builds the same way, so it felt like a natural first question to ask him where he idea came from when I caught up with him recently.
"A couple of things really. I play in a number of different formats and I wanted to take that beyond the idea of just an occasional video on YouTube. Dotted around the internet are videos of me with a drummer, then not with a drummer, with a bassist, without a bassist, both neither. "This Family Tree" was recorded solely as the trio. We almost called that the Luke Jackson Trio, but on this I wanted to be clear, that I can be heard in number of ways." That sort of begged the follow up as to the temptation to have Amy Wadge on the album as well, Luke again. "I would have loved to have had Amy on it, but she's the busiest woman I know.
Me and Amy have been talking about recording for such a long time. It's crazy to think we've spent weeks and weeks on the road as songwriters and never sat down and written a song together. The tours we do are strange. Amy is so busy anyway and I normally go straight off to appear at the Folk Alliance, it puts us on a very tight schedule. We try to fit as many shows into the window as we can and we end up exhausted. We just want to collapse in a heap so we never find the time to write a song together. She sang on the "Tall Tales And Rumours" album and I would loved for her to have come and sung on "Sole¦Duo¦Trio". I'm lucky I get to tour with such amazing people, it was strange not touring with Amy this year due to her not being well."
As mentioned Luke does tour and play with Andy Sharps and Connor Downs, both separately and together on an irregular basis, "I've known the boys for about eight years, actually I met Amy for the first time when I was fourteen and I'm twenty three now so I've know her for years and years. With all of them it's great fun being out on the road. "
Like many artists in the acoustic genres, Luke has been spending more time on the continent. The feedback from musicians I've spoken to is that it's a more open, more professional set up in Europe, something I was keen to get Luke's thoughts on. "It surprised me, I went out there a few years back with Connor and I remember conversations about it being our first time over there and probably having to start all over again. We ended up going to these gorgeous venues with beautiful stages and full houses and I just didn't get it.
I ended up asking people after the gigs how they ended up seeing me and it was like, 'we heard there was live music on so we came along'. Being from the UK helped as they felt we had made a big effort to be there. People over there are still excited by live music, like that there is a day in the week that they can go out and discover new music. I live in Canterbury so it's really easy for me to get across there. I've always had a great week of shows or couple of weeks whenever I'm out there. I don't know what they've got right that we haven't or not in the same way. It seems to be very welcoming over there. It's not just the venues, the people that come along want to listen to the music. They take the time to be interested in what you're doing. The story songs go down really well because although English isn't the first language they take the time to listen to the words. "
As well as performing live, like a lot of his generation, Luke spends time making bedroom recordings of songs, both original and covers, for the internet. It helps keep him in the public when he's not on the road or doing festivals. It's an area I wanted to explore. "I went through a stage that whenever I did a new song, I'd do a video of it and put it out there. That's changed now that I'm releasing albums….I don't want to give away a new song before it's ready. I don't think a song is complete until you've played it live. A song feels different if you are playing it for a real audience. I hold back on that with new songs so they are fresh when the album comes out so I started doing covers.
Primarily they are songs that I've enjoyed, but once I sent out a mail on Facebook saying I was going to do a cover a day for a week and asked people to send in the songs they wanted me to learn. It introduced me to a lot of music and really helped me. I enjoy doing covers, I like making a song my own, I enjoy playing around with it, making it sound different."
It occurred to me, actually Luke had mentioned it earlier, at twenty three he's already been performing for ten years, he was one of the youngest artists ever on the Fatea Showcase Sessions, which sort of brought as back to the why now for the live album. "I don't know really every album I've done made sense at the time and I toured the albums and included earlier songs in the gigs and some of them have changed. I recorded my first album very live, but in the studio. The second album had a bit more production. Then I did the mini album with the boys, then I'd written the new album and it made sense to get that recorded. It was a toss up between a live album and a covers album, then before I knew it the venue was booked, the idea for doing "Sole¦Duo¦Trio" was there so we just rolled with that."
There also seem to be so many opportunities to capture live music now, so many internet sessions that you can do, but one thing that really stands out about "Sole¦Duo¦Trio" is the feel, I don't think I've heard such an authentic live album, at least not for many a moon.
"It's incredible the platforms, especially on social media that are out there and I get a lot of invitations to do them. It's very easy to interact with people. For that night, we just got about eighty people in and it was pretty much a one off for that night. The big thing I wanted to capture was the atmosphere the room had great sound, it was packed. A lovely cocktail bar called Bramleys in my home town. It was a hot sweaty night full of people that wanted to be there. I wanted that environment, I didn't want a live album that's polite. I wanted the perfect imperfections the coughing the chair moving, creating an atmosphere, they are like the fourth member of the band. They were loud and present and a special mention to Jack Harris who really went for it."
Taking the album back to the road, do you think you'll ever do that, or just change the relationships with the songs to match the formation you happen to be in ? " It's not something I've really thought about. We recorded the album, released it and didn't really have anything planned. Depending on availability, the venue, the festival, I will be doing all three and will sort out what we need. A lot also depends on what the promoters want. It does keep us on our toes and keeps us fresh. Sometimes it's as simple as who can get a day off work. I'm not sure we could do it live again because I like that all of our shows are different."
All of which begged the question, what left for 2018. "I'm doing a series of house concerts, which I picked up through social media so there's a run of concerts playing in front rooms, then off to Europe before festival season kicks off.
I'm also back writing in a big way after a couple of quiet months, the all seem to be coming at once. I keep waking up with more ideas in my head and starting to bring life to new songs which I always find an very exciting process."
All of which seemed like a great and positive point to finish the interview. We will be catching up with Luke as the year goes on, watch this space.