American roots rocker Luke Elliot may not be on your radar, but he should be. And quite frankly, we’re betting that his presence in the world music is about to change.
Following what must have felt like years of obscurity, something many folk musicians learn, Elliot had a chance encounter with a Norwegian journalist in the backstage area of a Jay Farrar concert turned all of that around.
How can you plan for international acclaim before national acclaim? You don’t. You let things happen and continue to create. And that is what lead us to Elliot.
On a cool October morning, Elliot shared his thoughts on love, musical greatness, and his first US tour.
GSLM: You have said that you are a very superstitious guy. Halloween is coming. What are you most superstitious about?
Elliot: I’m superstitious in the way that I usually have routines…like I count things or don’t step on cracks. I wish I had more interesting superstitions regarding to Halloween, but they usually don’t pertain to holidays. (Laughing) The are more generalized neurosis.
GSLM: In the history of our planet, those who travel have always been the most well rounded. How has the acclaim given to you in Europe impacted your view of the world music? Of the world?
Elliot: I had never been to Europe before I left to go on tour there. It is an enormous world out there. It is so much bigger than people think. It has affected my view of music immensely. At the center of all of it is American music. Everything is centered around what America is doing, which is fascinating to me. And we are not centered at all around European artist.
Often times in Europe, they have a better idea of what is going on in America than Americans do. They are more familiar with country music than people in New York or the East Coast.
GSLM: I guess it is interesting from afar, because you can’t put your hands on it. It is not tangible.
GSLM: You’ve been compared to a lot of musical greats. Who are your musical influences? First time performing?
Elliot: There are so many. Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Louvin Brothers, Carter Family, Leonard Cohen, Dylan, but a lot more of the old country folks than are ever mentioned in the press like Jonny Cash. Especially people like the Louvin Brothers and Carter Family.
GSLM: Now that you say that, I can hear it in your music.
It’s funny, a lot of people, especially in the younger generations, seem to have forgotten where music came from. And if you play them a song, the assume that whoever the last person to play it, is who created it.
Elliot: That’s really unfortunate. That’s not the way that it is. Even on the record, I do a rendition of “Reason to Believe,” and everybody keeps saying, “that’s a great Rod Stewart song.” And no, it is a Tim Hardin song. (Laughing) People don’t even bother looking it up, which is very strange to me.
GSLM: (Laughing) And in society, there is this amazing tool called Google. You can know everything about it. But, “That’s enough. I know enough.”
Elliot: And we have such easy access to it. You just look on your phone.
GSLM: Literally it is in the palm of your hand.
GSLM: Do you remember your first time on stage?
Elliot: I remember being nine years old and doing a piano recital in front of about fifty people, and fucking up terribly. (Giggling) I remember that I just blew the recital. But I remember laughing, and I just scratched my head and went on to another song. And everybody laughed. And my teacher said to me, that is the exact way to handle it. So anytime I screw up on a song now, I just laugh and go on to the next song, and people don’t seem to mind.
It was interesting that it came naturally to me. A lot of other kids, when they screw up, they just run off stage, but you screw up and you go on to the next thing.
GSLM: I saw Eddie Vedder do a solo show the other night (at Pilgrimage Festival). He had grabbed an old ukulele and it kept coming out of tune in the heat. And he just laughed and said something to the extent of, “I may try this again later, if someone can get this tuned.”
GSLM: In “Let it rain on me” you wrote “Anyone can be trusted when there’s love in our hearts.” Given the way our world is turning, is love truly enough?
Elliot: I have no idea. I am not a fortune teller. What I am writing is not a prophecy, but I tend to believe that in my own life. If people are essentially good, or have good intentions, things turn out that way. So, I hope it is enough. I don’t know. It is a strange time.
GSLM: A friend of mine told me about an author that they heard speak. They said that we tend to live in blocks, like in the suburbs. They all believe the same thing and live life the same way. And it turns into, “I don’t like this thing or this person.” And when they experience being around those things or those people, they are like, “this is nothing like I thought.” Eyes open, you know?
Elliot: I think that is true.
GSLM: Imagine that at the end of your current tour, and you are sitting around with friends. What is your, “I can’t believe that this happened.” moment.
Elliot: Right now, it is I can’t believe we finally got to tour America, because it has been so European focused. Just the fact that we are doing it, is a thing to be tremendously grateful for.
Currently Luke Elliot is on a run through the United States. Fans can catch him through the end of October, when he will wrap up his tour in New York at the Mercury Lounge. A full list of dates and a sampling of his incredible music can be found below.
Luke Elliot Tour
10/4 Local 506 – Chapel Hill, N.C.
10/5 The Foundry -Athens, Georgia
10/9 The Back Corner – Nashville
10/12 Uncommon Ground – Chicago
10/15 Vaudeville Mews – Des Moines, Iowa
10/18-20 Front Street – Lake Orion, Michigan
10/20 Cafe Nine – New Haven, Conneticut
10/23 Wonder Bar – Asbury Park, N.J.
10/24 Mercury Lounge – New York