Luke Roberts is a musician, father, traveller and man of few words. In so few words he can convey an immense message. Similarly, his music does the same. It is rich, supple, stratified and stunning. His search for somewhere began at a young age. He began a habit of trainhopping which he has somewhat continued into his adulthood spending time everywhere from Paradise Valley, MT (near my home of Bozeman, MT) to Kenya (where his latest record, Sunlit Cross, was born). I hope you enjoy Luke’s answers to my questions as much as I did. They are beautiful, just like his music.
MFL: It sounds like throughout your life you have found peace in never settling down, always looking for the one place you fit in. Have found the place you were looking for? And, is truly a “place” or is your “place” being in constant motion?
Luke Roberts (LR): The thing I’m looking for is the thing that’s looking.
MFL: I read that you spent some time in a trailer in Montana. Being a Montana native myself, I’d love to hear about this experience in as much detail as you’re willing to share. I grew up in Missoula and have been in Bozeman for the last 10 years. It’s a beautiful state! I hope you had a positive experience here.
LR: I just like the mountains out there a lot. I lived in a mobile home in Paradise Valley, near you. And in the parks. I had two cats that followed me around everywhere and I was kind of lonesome. I worked in an Italian restaurant to save enough money to leave and play some shows when my second record came out.
MFL: How old were you when you started train hopping and was music part of your life at this point?
LR: I was 11. I liked hair metal at that point.
MFL: How did you choose your geographical destinations? Did music dictate these choices or did your location dictate your music? Perhaps both?
LR: I had no idea where to go so I just guessed. I went to Florida and New Orleans. It was pretty random.
MFL: Has any one place you travelled tugged at you more than the others? Is it difficult to extricate yourself from these places or is there always a right time to leave?
LR: I always go back to Nashville and New York. Now I just call my family home.
MFL: What was it about Kenya that made it the birthplace for Sunlit Cross and where does the name of your album come from?
LR: The people in Africa reminded me of what music can be.
MFL: The pedal steel appears multiple times on this album. What is it about this instrument that is appealing to you? What does it add to your music?
LR: John Neff plays it beautifully on the songs that call for it.
MFL: How did Kurt Vile end up on Sunlit Cross and is there anyone else special you’d like to credit on the record?
LR: I met him online. I played him the track and he wanted to sing on it.
MFL: The songs on this record are stunning. “Untitled Blues” is a gorgeous piece with a sense of lament while “Silver Chain” has a sense of adventure, train hopping if you will, about it. I love the harmonies, lyricism and the thoughtfulness within each song. Does each song stand alone or are they all connected by a common thread? If there is a connection, what sews them together?
LR: I like that question. I’m not sure what it is but the meaning of it all will change over time.
MFL: Pick one track on this record and break it apart. What were you doing when you wrote it? What were your surroundings? What is the song about? Who are the characters? Are they real or fiction? Etc.
LR: The album came together right after my son was born. My attitude changed and I decided to put music out again. I wanted my son to have music to go to sleep to and know his dad with. And in case I die too soon I wanted to show him how to be an artist. And a storyteller.
Thank you Luke for answering my long-winded questions and thank you to Pitch Perfect and Stephanie Bauman for connecting us for the interview. Sunlit Cross is due out October 14th on Thrill Jockey and can be pre-ordered on iTunes now.
Photo Credit: Andrea Behrends