Luke Redfield: I was off the grid for the sanity of my soul

Categories: CD Release
Photo by Darin Back
Luke Redfield is a hard man to pin down. A self-proclaimed wandering soul, the singer has emerged with his newest album, East of Santa Fe, a compilation of songs that tell the story of his travels over the last year. The record is at times so sparse that the listener is worried that Redfield could fall apart at any moment, but Luke pushes on to rebuild the pieces into a kaleidoscope of emotions.

Before his album release at Icehouse on Saturday, bringing Luke back to his old stomping grounds, Gimme Noise spoke with the singer about his musical journey out west and what drove him to write his new set of songs.

Gimme Noise: Your life has changed so much since we last spoke. Can you tell me a few of the things that have stood out for you that you feel were turning points in the last year and a half?

Luke Redfield: I don't even know where to begin. I've been in a total free fall, really -- all over the map, sleeping in the car, camping, doing a ton of busking, trying to be off the grid for the sanity of my soul, and spending lots of time in nature, while also trying to bring music to the masses. It's been a very introspective time for me. The new album has a line that goes "These are my Holy Ghost Canyon days." Holy Ghost Canyon is a place in New Mexico where I wrote the album's title track, but it's also a metaphor of beautiful dichotomy -- an integration of light and darkness, eerily comforting and haunting all at once.

Gimme Noise: You have moved around a lot recently. Where do you call home these days?

Luke Redfield: Home is where my heart is -- wherever I am in the moment. We never leave ourselves, you know? I still have an affinity for Minneapolis, and the upper Midwest in general, as well as the entire Southwest and California coast. I've been living in Austin, and it remains the most livable city for me in the U.S. People are friendly, food is great, rent is cheap, and swimming in Barton Springs is a great way to start the day. I miss Minneapolis all of the time, but I've spent seven years of my life there and feel the need -- not the wanderlust or desire, but literal need -- to continue traveling. I have nomadic blood in me and trying to stay put somewhere is just suppressing my true nature. Traveling inspires me to write. If I get writer's block, I take a trip or do a little tour, and suddenly I'll write four or five new songs. These are songs I feel have been stuck in my subconscious for a while, and I just needed the road to get 'em out of me. 

Gimme Noise: What's your favorite thing about being a traveling musician?

Luke Redfield: My favorite thing about being a traveling musician is the people I meet and true human connections I make, getting to sing songs and tell stories, making people smile, laugh, cry, inquire, as well as experiencing diversity in culture and landscape. I just had the amazing time of going to Mexico. Anytime I go somewhere new, my perspective on life, and the human condition, shift, generally for the better. The more I experience, the more I realize we're all in this together. We're all born, we all need to eat and sleep, we all long to love and be loved. We all die, we all partake in the human condition, regardless of affiliation with any religion or political ideology, regardless of race, gender, orientation, class, or status. The more we can focus on our similarities, I think we stand a chance at peace.

Gimme Noise: A lot of your songs, "West Texas" and "Fields of Idaho," talk about being on the road. When were these songs written? What prompted you to pen these songs?

Luke Redfield: It's interesting you should bring these two titles up! They're somewhat related, though only for the fact they're both love, and travel, songs. Love of the road, love of the self, love of another; both songs were written in the vicinities of where the titles suggest. "West Texas" was actually written in Austin, but with a recollection of being somewhere out where the desert and mountains meet, around Marfa and Alpine. It's a longing for a love in the northland, trying to get back to her, while not knowing if it's in the cards.

"Fields of Idaho" is as dichotomous as a song can be. It's a happy and sad song all at once, about parting ways with one you love, only to realize you'll carry that person with you in your heart for the rest of your life. The chorus goes, "We'll marry on the day we part." It's very poignant in the fact that it says you cannot own the one you love -- you cannot possess -- rather, in letting go of what isn't meant for you, you may remain as instruments of love together, in more expansive forms. The song starts with a Jack Gilbert line The Great Fires, "Love lasts by not lasting." It's pretty true of life, too. We've all gotta give this up someday.

Gimme Noise: Any favorite tracks off the new album?

Luke Redfield: Yes, and I generally don't play favorites since my songs are like my kids -- which I don't think I have, knock on wood -- but "Holy Ghost, NM" is arguably the best song I've ever written. It's the album's masterpiece, if I dare critique my own work. I wrote the song after playing a desert festival outside of Albuquerque, where the ashes of Timothy Leary are spread. A couple days later, I was shacked up in a solitary cabin near Pecos, NM, where my guitarist Glenn has family. I was without wifi and cell phone service and really felt completely isolated, in the barren wilderness of New Mexico. I couldn't get ahold of my partner at the time and just sensed that the relationship was dissolving. This song poured out of me and I couldn't stop singing it for three days. I had goosebumps all over and felt truly possessed by a ghost. Maybe it was the holy ghost, maybe it was the ghost of Buddy Holly. He'd stayed in that place before. I don't think I ate or drank or did much of anything other than sing this song for a few days. I remember Glenn saying "Whatever that new song is, I like it," because he could hear me shouting it through the canyon.

I ended up editing and cutting the first couple verses which referenced Tim Leary and Oscar Wilde, who I'd been reading around the same time. The Wilde verse talked of going where his body lies innocent, like a child, in Pere Lachaise cemetery, in Paris. There was a beautiful sense of surrender in the song. It still haunts me to this day. The recording reached my full vision when my friends Sam Rae and Elin Palmer agreed to sing on the instrumental breaks. I had originally sang the part falsetto, in a poor man's Bon Iver kinda way, but it was inconsistent. Sometimes I'd hit the notes, sometimes I'd fail miserably. The ladies came into the studio and nailed the part so well. 

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