You may remember that we all went gaga over Luke Winslow-King‘s album The Coming Tide about a year ago. This gent is brilliant, and we still haven’t gotten over it. So, of course, we had to snag an interview with him this year at his showcase at the Bloodshot Records Yard Dog Day Party to talk about what he’s got coming out next, his New Orleans influence and his fashion inspirations! Enjoy!
Vinyl Mag: So what exactly [brought you to move] to New Orleans? I heard the rumor that it was a crime.
Luke Winslow-King: Yes. After high school, I went on tour with a few friends from Earth Work Music in Northern Michigan, and we were on a tour around the country playing a Pete Seeger compilation of Woody Guthrie’s songs and stories. We went to California and Texas. We played the Old Settler’s Festival on our way to Louisiana, and we went to Festival International in Lafayette. Then, when we got to New Orleans, I was staying at my friend, John Butae’s, house, and we parked our car in front of The Pink Hotel on Ursaline Street in New Orleans. We woke up and found broken glass on the sidewalk where our car was. All our instruments were still in flight. I stayed in New Orleans for about two or three weeks after that and fell in love with the place. I auditioned for the classical music program at the University of New Orleans then went there for school for the next few years. I kind of fell in love with the place. I moved to New York for about a year and then came back to New Orleans after hurricane Katrina and stuck around. I love it there; it’s great.
VM: Can you tell me more about how you got into music?
LWK: I picked up a guitar when I was five or six years old. I always had instruments around the house and was always interested in it. My dad plays Bob Dylan songs and Neil Young, so he was always playing around the campfire growing up. I grew up in church and was always singing. I started taking the guitar seriously and taking lessons around 10 years old. I started my own band when I was 14 and played gigs in my hometown. I started Winslow-King Blues Band when I was 15. So, I’ve always been into it since I was a child and have just gone on different tangents of rock and roll and classical music; I was really into bebop jazz in high school. Then I got into Chicago Blues, and then Delta Blues and New Orleans…jazz.
VM: I actually went down to the Delta for a trip and hung out with the B.B. Kings in Indianola. The Delta is really like a hotbed of American music. It’s really unique American cultural form.
LWK: Yeah, jazz and blues are really the only original American forms that were created in America, as far as music goes. Then rock and roll, and then things come off of it. The Delta is an incredible place for rich culture, not just in music, but also in all other forms.
VM: As is New Orleans.
LWK: Yeah, it is. The heritage there goes really deep, and it’s a great amalgamation of cultures. It’s been really inspiring for me, and I think it’s a great city that I can play original blues, and jazz, and rock and roll, and folk music and blend it together and have an audience for all of those styles. In one night and on one album, you can do anything you like, and people can really support you there. Sometimes we get the drunken tourists, and we’ve just got to keep them entertained, but we also have some really great listening audiences in New Orleans, too, which we’re really lucky to have. Sometimes it’s hard for people to play country or folk music; it doesn’t always go over as well in New Orleans, because people are expecting to hear the traditional roots music. We’re really lucky that we marry those two things – we write original folk songs, but we also play traditional jazz and blues. In New Orleans, we have a special niche that we can write new music but have this old sound that people are looking for when they’re on musical, tourist trips. We try to keep the old styles alive and also breathe fresh air into the old styles but also try to be creative and write new things and not just be playing traditional material.
VM: What projects do you have in the works right now that you’re most excited about?
LWK: We have a new album that’s most of the way finished. It’s coming out in the fall, and we’ve been working really hard on that in New Orleans. We’re doing a bunch of projects like touring and playing music. I’m going to some other recording projects with other artists that are coming up this year. I’ve been doing a couple “side-manning” things but mostly just focusing on that new album that’s coming out in the fall.
VM: Are you more of a taco or a barbecue man?
LWK: Wow. I would say I’m more a barbecue person, but I hate to say in an interview – but, I’m going to – that I think Louisiana might have better barbecue than Texas.
LWK: I went to two barbecue places in Austin this week.
VM: Where did you go?
LWK: I went to Green Mesquite, and I went to another one, but I can’t remember the name. The joint barbecue in New Orleans put them both to shame, I have to say.
VM: You don’t like the brisket. I don’t even know what New Orleans barbecue tastes like.
LWK: It’s the same; it’s just better.
VM: What’s your weirdest Austin experience since you got here?
LWK: I haven’t had any weird experiences here. I think it was a weirder place for me when I was young on my first road trip. I came here before I came to New Orleans on that first road trip.
VM: When was that?
LWK: That was probably in 2001. I went to Barton Springs for the first time in Hamilton’s Pool. That was pretty weird. I had a strange time then, but now it doesn’t seem that weird to me. It was weirder back then. I was more surprised by how progressive it was. I was really surprised that there was so much greenery and vegetation and beauty in Texas that I didn’t expect. I expected more desert. The whole country is special. It’s really nice. I love it. I’m glad to come and visit here, but I don’t think it’s that weird anymore. I think it’s becoming more palatable for all sorts of people.
VM: I know you’re crazy busy with your touring, but any fun you’re going to sneak in before you leave town?
LWK: Nope, we’re hitting the road. We’re going to play this show and get back home. We’ve been really busy, driving around and working on our album. We’re just really focused on getting the tour going and these projects we’re working on. We’re excited to go home and rest up. We’re playing the French Quarter Fest in New Orleans in April and Jazz Fest in May, but I am going to take a break and go to trout camp in Northern Michigan for the opening game trout season. I’m very excited about that, on a side note. It’s where you camp out, and then you go trout fishing.
VM: [Is trout fishing] a Michigan thing?
LWK: Yeah, there’s no trout in Texas.
VM: What inspires you fashion wise?
LWK: Thank you. My fashion icon is also a Texan. His name is Mance Lipscomb. He’s a great Texas songster. If you hadn’t heard of Mance Lipscomb, you should check him out and also check out his great style. He wears a lot of clashing stripes, and I like that.
VM: You look like a professional.
LWK: Thank you! I like to take my job really seriously as a professional, and I appreciate it when people dress up on stage. Your audience gets a sense of what you’re about when you take your appearance seriously. Every time I’m on stage, I try to think about what the audience is looking for while being yourself and being honest to you and your music. That’s what it’s about, is satisfying your audience and bringing something that’s valuable for them. If you’re just up there for yourself, then it’s really not that fun to watch.
VM: That’s a very humble attitude for a musician.
LWK: Thank you! I think it’s a really important thing to keep insight. Thank you!