Cool Hand: An Interview With Jack Lukeman

Cult crooner Jack Lukeman on his cracking new album, reaching artistic maturity and remaining optimistic in the current gloomy political climate. By Roisin Dwyer

“They wanted to turn me into a Michael Buble-type person. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it just wasn’t for me!” laughs Jack Lukeman.

The Kildare singer is seated in Dublin’s Library Bar with Hot Press discussing his career and latest opus Magic Days. Conversation has turned to the late ’90s/early ’00s when, as Jack L, he sold out five nights in Dublin’s Olympia and played the Point Depot. The big figure offers were coming thick and fast, but Lukeman stood firm and chose the independent route to ensure his creative freedom.

Since then he has retained his status as one of the country’s finest performers, and regularly sells out Fringe events in the US, UK and Europe. Although he has released many fine collections in the last decade, including a couple of tribute albums, his last full-length original LP was 2006’s Broken Songs.

“You don’t feel time go by,” reflects the singer. “I have been involved with several other projects, but I knew it was time to get an album together. I have a home studio and I record a lot. I live in the middle of nowhere and I find being surrounded by nature rejuvenating. I’m continuously creating music, which can be both good and bad, because you do accumulate a lot of songs of many different styles. And this is a diverse album – I find if songs want to go in a different direction you just have to let them go.”

The tracks span a plethora of different genres, from the brassy swagger of lead track ‘King Of Soho’ to tender ballad ‘Till I Saw You’. A recurring theme is optimism – even in Lukeman’s more wistful musings, he lets a chink of light shine through.

“Music has always given me great hope,” he notes. “It was just a magic thing that got me out of the mundane everyday world. Also, it’s easy to write pessimistic songs – you just start in E minor (laughs). My music has always included melancholic elements, but I always like to offset that with positive affirmations.”

Magic Days also delves into political territory on tracks such as ‘Sweet As Freedom’ and ‘Sky News Blues’.

“We’re all bombarded by doom and gloom now,” says Lukeman. “I used to go to a gym in town every day and it would always have Sky News on. I remember I asked the guy to change it once and he said he couldn’t as that’s what people want to watch. It can’t be good for us. The human mind is not meant to be bombarded with negativity.”

Magic Days is dedicated to Trish Kavanagh, Lukeman’s co-manager, mentor and the late wife of Martin Clancy, who has also managed the singer’s career since the early days. Trish sadly passed away during the album’s recording.

“She was such an inspiration,” says Jack. “She just kept going, always kept her best side out. When something like that happens it makes you realise how short life is. A lot of the album was written with that in mind.”

Does Jack himself have a long-term plan?

“I was never a careerist,” he shrugs. “I never thought about it – I just wanted to write and perform. To be able to make a living from it is the dream.”

Magic Days is out now. Jack Lukeman plays the National Concert Hall, Dublin on April 8 as part of his Irish tour. For full details on Jack Lukeman's tour, click here


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