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Behind the Noise: Interview with Luke Frees



Anna: Hello Luke! Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with me. We’ve listened to your newest single, ‘Moonshine Queen,' which is absolutely amazing!


Anna: For anyone new to your music, how would you describe yourself as an artist and the genre of music you write?

Luke: Thanks for having me, Anna! I think I’m kinda a cross between americana, indie (like old school indie, not commercial indie), and 80s music. I write lots of narrative-driven songs and love songs, and love catchy melodies, but I also don’t like it when music gets too comfortable, so I try to keep it weird or a little off-putting, too.


Anna: What made you pursue becoming a musician?

Luke: Hmmm, I mean it was really the only thing I was ever good at. There’s a picture my mom took of me when I was two, and I’m blowing into a trumpet that’s wayyy too big for me and all my toys are just in a neat, untouched row behind me on the shelf. I just was never interested in other things kids my age were interested in, so when I started taking piano lessons when I was 4, I never really looked back.


Anna: If you had to list your top three musical inspirations, who would they be?

Luke: David Bowie, Jeff Buckley, and Nina Simone, without a doubt. Bowie was the ultimate artist to me–always stretching himself and moving into new territories, and Jeff and Nina’s command over their respective instruments is mesmerizing to watch.


Anna: If you could collab with any musician, dead or alive who would they be?

Luke: I’d love to work with Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief. She’s such a phenomenal songwriter and incredible musician, and I think she’s the kind of artist that so many others aspire to be, whether they realize it or not.


Anna: What inspired you to write ‘Moonshine Queen?’

Luke: Moonshine Queen actually started as a song called Authenticity Crisis, and I had a whole other set of lyrics to it–I started writing it after feeling insecure about the kind of person I wanted to be, and whether the way I was dressing or looked was genuine. I tried four or five different versions of that song and eventually abandoned it for Moonshine Queen after I split up with someone. It still took a lot of revisions, but eventually I tied a narrative together about a breakup from a toxic relationship using the metaphor of alcoholism.


Anna: From listening to the lyrics of ‘Moonshine Queen’ alone, listeners can tell it’s a very emotional song. How do you go about conveying your emotions and/or experiences in your music?

Luke: I don’t know, to be honest. I studied songwriting at school, and I think I went through a phase there of writing a lot of third-person narrative songs where I was out of the song entirely. And I think there’s a way to do that right–I mean just listen to Tom Waits or Randy Newman–but the problem I was having was it was hard for me to write with empathy at that point in my life, so a lot of the songs ended up coming across as cold or detached. If you contrast that with an artist like John Lennon, who almost exclusively wrote from a first-person I’m-The-Narrator perspective, you run the risk of burning yourself out if you’re subjecting yourself to toxic experiences for the sake of writing songs (the “tortured artist” thing). Lately I’ve been trying to blend the two approaches, though, and maybe start with something that happened to me in real life, and then stretch it and distort it and play with the words and see if anything interesting happens. And that’s what happened with Moonshine Queen.


Anna: How would you describe your music-creating process?

Luke: I’ll usually start with a lyric or an idea, and if it has a rhythm and an implied melody to the way the words sound, I’ll go from there. I used to write lyrics first, but lately all my best songs have kinda coalesced with the lyrics and music at the same time.


Anna: So far in your music journey, what have been some memorable moments you’ve made?

Luke: I think my 2021 album, Point Of You, is a memorable moment. It features a lot of collaborations with some of my best friends, and we all spent a lot of time on the details with that one. Another memorable thing was the house venue my old band, The Cotones, used to play at. It was called The Garden because it was on Gardner Street and we played a lot of crazy shows there.


Anna: Do you have any cities or venues that would be your dream to perform at?

Luke: I’d love to tour overseas in the future! I romanticize Berlin a lot because Bowie and Iggy Pop and Nick Cave worked there, and I think playing clubs in Germany and England would be really fun.


Anna: What are some future projects and/or events you are looking forward to in 2023?

Luke: I’ve been doing this single-a-month project now since November, and I’d like to keep doing this and see where it takes me. I have a stockpile of songs written that I’m really proud of, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.


Anna: Thank you for taking the time to interview with us! We look forward to hearing more of your music soon.




 

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