Catching up with Luke ConcannonFeature
As I'd been in contact with Nizlopi singer/guitarist Luke Concannon regarding the release of his brand new solo album 'Ecstatic Bird In The Burning' (which comes out tomorrow: check out our review at http://www.hotmusiclive.co.uk/article?article=12874), it seemed a great opportunity to catch up with him & find not only what he's been up to but how he sees the world at the moment. Much as I'd like to have popped over to Vermont for the chat, you'll be pleased to hear that we opted for prudent social distancing (just over three thousand miles' worth).
Good morning Luke, I was wondering how have you & yours been keeping during the last peculiar year? It looks like you have been living in idyllic surroundings.
"Yes, in the ‘valley of the blessed' is how it feels; my wife and I moved in to a Vermont farm house in the woods in November 2019, just in time for some country quiet in pandemic times… I've actually loved the peace and simplicity and it's really allowed me to focus and progress with music and my career… Now I feel kinda tired and like I need to connect to my deep self, nature and loved ones..."
Your new album 'Ecstatic Bird In The Burning' has been described in "Hot Music Live" as "arguably his best work to date": It seems to have taken you quite a while to craft: it sounds like a labour of love?
"Thanks for that review! I agree :) Yes; falling in love with an American and moving here, getting married, those things filled up some space and, I started studying with a music teacher; and integrating those learnings in to what I do; and finding the right band here… All took time! :)"
The songs, as they so often are with you, are a fascinating blend of deep concern with the state of the world yet also a deep joy & optimism: do you find that a fair comment?
"Yes… I love to sing, and was given some sunny enthusiasm by my ancestors… my parents, and, for sensitive souls these times of climate and social chaos can feel like a meat grinder. So yes; the world is still so terribly beautiful and terribly unjust to so many… A lot of change needed, and I hope music plays one part… I like that as a form of activism; it can really be an inside job, the way a song can make you feel so alive, or so moved, it does change us… It's such a privilege to inhabit music, to get to really go in to it… I like what Tolstoy wrote about periods of crisis and famine in Russia; he would go off to serve those in need because they mattered more than his fictional characters in his novels… Although it helped that he was rich! :)"
You also focus very much on the sense of community in your songs: how do feel about how the idea of community has shifted in the last year with people unable to meet up in person but instead over the internet?
"Good question… You know there is such a yearning for intimacy in folk; like really connecting and feeling heard, accepted, loved, and loving, and there is a huge need…. That's probably the centre of our learning as a species now; how do we love our selves and each other, and grow the fabric that lasts… I've been hosting a call each Tuesday that seeks to give a space for this kind of connection.
Details here: https://lukeconcannon.com/weekly-gatherings/
That's the pearl of great price; the quality of our interactions… And wildly enough it seems as though that can happen on Zoom or in person. I do feel a little bit of social malnourishment though… Probably as much from being locked down on this album as the pandemic!"
You seem to be working with some very talented artists: what is the music scene like where you are now based?
"Oh! Well…. Boston was our base till a year ago, and you have Berklee College of Music there, and New England Conservatory… Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble doing free gigs… And down the road 'The Burren' putting on the best Irish acts who are touring… So it's a musician's paradise in some ways… and; I'm very lucky with the way Nizlopi is a calling card… Darius Christian who played and arranged the horns on the record is a go to guy for the world's largest touring acts, and he called me!?"
Do you manage to keep up with the Warwickshire music scene? If so, is there anyone you've been enjoying or could recommend to our readers?
"Well my Brother John Parker is still right there in it… So I hear about things through him; Stylusboy, Wes Finch and Eleanor Brown"
Any artists from the wider world scene you can recommend?
"Best records of recent years: ‘Hadestown' from Anais Mitchell (the Broadway one), Declan O'Rourke's ‘Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine', ‘Hamilton'! and loving Abida Parveen's singing, particularly earlier stuff..."
I'm guessing from your normal philosophy that you are generally optimistic over how music will emerge from the pandemic?
"Well optimism is blind, hope is practical…That's how I look at it… I think the central thing for us as artists is to be devoted to our practice and our community… our dear ones; and growing that the art that really nourishes comes from love of the people and the land, and if it really serves the need in a community it will live and thrive; so as artists how can we give life to those who need it? Speaking to the times… in service of the world that is calling…'