Musician on a journey
The first time I saw Luke Winslow-King live, I swear I was watching the performance on scratchy sepia-toned film and not right in front of me in the year 2013. Winslow-King and his wife and musical partner, Esther Rose, evoke that vibe with their throwback Americana music and sharp fashion and hairstyles that harken back to the past – not in a gimmicky way, though. Winslow-King has fans around the globe, but he’s done plenty of time closer to home in tiny Frenchmen Street clubs that don’t always have the most decorous audiences. His fourth album, Everlasting Arms, came out at the end of September, and when I called him he and Esther were visiting family in Michigan before returning to New Orleans to release the album.
What was inspiring you and going on in your life that informed the creation of the latest album? Wow. I guess there’s a lot of travel in it, and also getting married in December had a lot to do with the inspiration for the album. Just having a life event like that can kind of change your perspective. But also it’s a lot of traveling in the songs, and a lot of love and family, and I’m definitely always inspired by nature and the many people we met along the way. With this album we tried to really go a different direction musically, expand more upon the genres we attempt and have a little broader scope as far as the music we cover; and also with the production and sound of the album. I think we have a broader spectrum of sound.
You married your musical partner, Esther. Does navigating your relationship as both creative and romantic partners come naturally to you, or do you have to compartmentalize things? It’s definitely not without its challenges, but it’s an incredible blessing to be able to be on the road and travel with your wife. There’s so much traveling that we’re doing right now that I don’t think we’d be able to do without the other one present. It just seems like when your whole life and family can go on the road, there’s so much more that you’re capable of. We were on the road from Jazz Fest ’til last week, pretty much, we went to nine or 10 countries and went all over Europe and all over the states, and if Esther was home waiting for me I don’t think I would have as much travel stamina.
Both you and Esther have great style and fashion sense. Is that something you’ve always focused on, or is it something that’s developed from being a performer and being more conscious of how you dress? I’ve always been interested in fashion and clothing. I don’t like it to be a focus of my show or career, but I always feel better when I’m dressed well. I have a passion for fashion but it’s not a focus of mine, whereas Esther is a fashion designer in her spare time. She’s actually at a studio in Michigan sewing right now.
It seems from your aesthetic and the kind of music you play that you have a love for the past. Have you always been that way? I guess I’ve always been into older music, but the vintage ragtime Americana thing really started to affect me around 2002 or ’03 when I started to really get into New Orleans culture while I was studying at UNO. I feel like the traditional Americana sound has kind of become a vocabulary; me and my band kind of speak with it very naturally at this point. I guess not like we’re forcing, trying to play old-timey music … all of my friends play in traditional jazz bands, Delta blues bands, it just seems like the natural language for us at this point. So when we’re writing new material, we have that as a base, this roots Americana sound is our base, but we don’t limit ourselves to that and we’re not purists. We just use that vocabulary to create new music. I feel like on this album we really liberated ourselves to like, use that traditional sound but also not be afraid to push in a new, modern direction. And the production of the album is the same. There’s a lot of old microphones and old techniques for recording, but also it’s very hi-fi and modern and has a really wide spectrum of sound like a more modern album would have. We’re always trying to strike that balance of … this is our vocabulary, but we’re also living, breathing artists creating music right now. … We’re trying to push it in a new direction while always paying homage to our roots.
NAME: Luke Winslow-King
Age: 31 Born/Raised: Cadillac, Michigan Resides: Old Arabi Education: Interlochen Art Academy, University of New Orleans Favorite movie: Dead Man
Favorite TV show: “The Daily Show” Favorite band/musician: Abner Jay
Favorite hobby: Trout fishing Favorite New Orleans restaurant: Lüke’s 50-cent oyster happy hour Favorite book: Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan Favorite vacation spot: Puglia, Italy
I have a stamp collection