By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Ever since he started as a musician in 2003, Jay Luke has performed with the likes of Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses), Metal Church and Joey Belladonna (Anthrax) and slowly formed his own style.
After some time with bands such as The MESS, Sorrowsun and ReachForTheSky, he decided to put out tunes under his own name, which spawned the release of his aptly titled 2017 album ‘It’s About Time.’ His 2019 followup ‘Vandalized Memories’ took a more personal route in terms of the songwriting and it paid off, with his most notable single to date, “Keep Your Head Up Kid,” which attained streaming success.
The momentum rolls on with his latest album ‘Alone In The Crowd,’ already praised for the singles “Trapped In Your Cell” and “Killing Time.”
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with him about ‘Alone In The Crowd’ and more.
Music Bugle – What has been your biggest challenge lately?
Jay Luke – Lately, it is just a lot of the same as last year. Still struggling to perform music live and to work artistically, as we have all been used to doing. In the pre-pandemic world, it was already a difficult time for artists, so this has certainly been quite a challenge to stay afloat with the shutdowns and quarantines.
Music Bugle – Where are some of your favorite places to travel?
Jay Luke – I wish I could travel as much as I want to, but the coolest places I have been to outside of the States would be Finland, Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Music Bugle – What directly inspired your new single “Killing Time”?
Jay Luke – The song came about when I had heard some news I was eager to share with a friend of mine and it took me a few seconds to be hit with the realization my friend had passed away and at that moment, it made me think about how we always think we have endless time to do things or to say things to people we care about, but the truth is, every moment we have on this planet is precious and not to be wasted. I have a line in the song that says, “You think that you’re just killing time until you realize it’s killing you.”
Music Bugle – What has been your biggest memory involving music?
Jay Luke – There are so many odd, wild and great memories I have from performing shows, recording, partying, or even just collaborating with people I look up to. If I had to pick one in particular, I would say it was when my band got to open up for Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses. Not only was he a massive influence on me since I was a kid, but he is a rock n’ roll Hall of Famer with one of the biggest-selling debut albums ever. His status has been cemented as a legend for decades, so to be able to share a stage with one of my biggest heroes was surreal, to say the least. You’d think that someone who was in the biggest band in the world at one time would have a huge ego and terrible attitude, but he was so down-to-Earth and genuine, it was easily one of the coolest musical memories I have.
Music Bugle – What was it like making your new album?
Jay Luke – Making music and writing songs have been something I have done for so long that it is a natural part of my life, but this album has been more challenging for the obvious reasons. I was all set to release it last year, but halfway through the recording process, the world shut down. Quarantine affected so much and the recording studios were not spared. I was so frustrated in waiting for it to reopen that I was jumping out of my skin to finish the album. Finally, as soon as the doors reopened, I wasted not a second in getting this album completed. The recording process is always a therapeutic time when I feel most alive and aside from the waiting around, making this album was a lot of fun.
Music Bugle – How else have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Jay Luke – The pandemic has been very hard on me and every musician that performs live. I had 50-some gigs planned for last year that got shut down. Many venues have closed for good. To survive, I resorted to thinking outside of the box and working hard in any way I could to keep momentum up. I released a single called “Trapped In Your Cell” toward the end of May in 2020 that turned out to become my most successful songs to date, cracking over 60,000 streams. I did a lot of radio performances, television spots and web shows, which brought a much bigger audience, which was pretty amazing during arguably one of the worst years in recent history. I am grateful to have done well when so many had lost so much. Covid changed the life we knew and we are all still trying to adapt to the challenges it brought us.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need an escape?
Jay Luke – I have a lot of creative outlets, which give me some degree of escapism. I am a visual artist and when I feel burnt out from music or whatever, I like to draw, paint or write. During the pandemic, I liked to go out for eight-mile runs after midnight. It was weird and beautiful to be the only person out running on the dark streets as the world was so quiet. I found quite a bit of peace in that.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Jay Luke – There are a few that really stick out in my mind, I’ll share three. When asked why legendary cellist Pablo Casals continued to practice even though he was 90 years old, he replied, “Because, I think I’m making progress.” David Bowie also once said, “Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go in a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.” Mick Jagger also said, “Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind.”
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Jay Luke – I have been a bit all over the map lately with my music choices. I am into a Scottish band called Baby Chaos, King Diamond, The Kinks, Roky Erickson and Garbage.
Music Bugle – What’s something that you wish happened more in today’s music industry?
Jay Luke – I could probably go on and on with this one for days, but I think the biggest thing I wish would happen is that the whole “American Idol”-contest style of musician life would just die off. Music is not a contest. It is about self-expression. If music is a contest, then you are in the wrong business, because no one is winning. We are all in the same fight together. If more people thought that way, I think we would see a big change in both musicians, as well as fans. The industry is in a rough place at the moment and anytime I think it can’t get worse, it always ends up surprising me. It is very easy to call it a day or to feel defeated, but the ones that don’t give up, the ones that get up every time they get knocked down and the ones that refuse to listen to critics are the people that I find the biggest inspiration from, not from people that win karaoke contests on television.