Wednesday morning was chilly as I searched my room, gathered a paper, pen, and phone. Seated at my desk, I looked over a few questions I had written down and took small sips of my coffee. I prepared for a FaceTime interview with Walker Lukens, an Austin based musician that had just released his new EP, ‘Ain’t Got a Reason.’
I met Walker just a month before at the Savannah Stopover Festival in Savannah, Georgia. We were in the Artist Lounge as he told me how he and his band were about to embark on a 12 hour journey back to Texas to play a show. He didn’t seem too concerned about it, revealing an easy going side of his personality. I wished him luck as we parted ways and I left thinking how it would be cool to connect with him the next time he plays in NYC.
Fast forward a few weeks later, I happened to have the opportunity to connect with him once more. On that chilly Wednesday morning I called him over FaceTime to see what was going on in his life.
Walker Lukens just released his sophomore album, ‘Ain’t Got a Reason’. For this LP, Walker was inspired by the various records of of Fleetwood Mac, ZZ Top, and the Faces. “Every song could stand on its own,” he described. He loved how each song was was heavily stylized and were able to take him to all kinds of places.
“If we like a song or connect with it, it means that we like the feeling it gives us” Walker explained , Walker says, “The feeling it gives me is unique.” To him, the connection to these albums meant that they were good art. He believes that good art makes us connect on social, political, and emotional levels
“We believe in art if it’s well made,” Walker said, “We believe in the little universe it creates.” In making this album, he wanted people to believe in ‘Ain’t Got a Reason’ like the way he believed in those classic records.
As he roamed from room to room at his house in Austin in his sun drenched house, Walker told me how he grew up outside of Houston in an artistic family, whom he describes now as ‘reformed creative people’ since they no longer pursue their art. In his early 20s Lukens moved to New York City as a singer songwriter, armed with his acoustic guitar and solo voice. Although he arrived determined and hopeful, Walker wasn’t enjoying his time performing as a singer songwriter. The experience was so unenjoyable that he was so unenjoyable that he almost quit making music altogether.
“I didn’t believe in what I was doing,” he reminisced about that time in his life. He compared playing an acoustic show to a stand up comedy performance. In his comparison, a single comedian has to coax an audience to laugh with just his jokes, just as an acoustic performer has to coax the audience to be entertained by a lone guitar and voice. It was something he didn’t quite connect with. “I wasn’t really good at it,” he recalls, “I could never get over seeing and hearing people talk while I ‘bared my soul’ for them.”
Nowadays, Walker plays with a full band and throws down a legit rock and roll show. This is his style, one that he can be confident with night after night on tour. To connect with your performing style also means growing as a performer. “A band’s show only really gets good the more willing they become to put on the same show over and over and over and over again,” Walker elaborated. “This has definitely been true for us.”
Today’s musicians have to have more than just plays on Spotify to succeed. Musicians have to bring their A-game to their live performances. According to Walker, “recorded music is just background noise for life. A show is something different entirely.”
“In what way?” I inquired, taking the last few sips of my coffee.
“Live music is even more important to people than ever,” he says, defending his view point. “It’s visceral. It’s in your face. If it’s good, it helps you get out of your head, connects you to your emotions and makes you feel rude to be on your phone in public.”
I told Walker how I studied psychology in college so I could understand people and their emotions. He wasn’t surprised, saying many people who have an interest in psychology have an interest in making art as well. To him, both mediums are ways of understanding the world. “I think we’re all trying to make sense of our reality in different ways,” explains Walker. “We need all the help we can get. Living is confusing shit.”
Many people, including myself, often turn to art to find truth and explanation. I regularly look to artists, in particular musicians, to help me interpret what I’m feeling and what I’m doing in this world. Realizing this, I wondered: If people look to art for answers, is our purpose as artists is to help others understand themselves? Understand the world?
“I don’t think artists have a specific purpose or duty,” Lukens responds, “I’ve noticed that lots of artists persist in their work despite the universe repeatedly sending them signs that it’s a hopeless affair. As I get older, I have this sneaking suspicion that this (art) brings people hope.”
After we closed our conversation with plans to meet up in NYC, I spent the rest the evening thinking about how art is such an important tool to understand who we truly are. Although at first Walker struggled to find his groove in music, his persistence led him to discover himself as a performer and artist. Walker believes in his music and that is what makes his music good. When we believe in art, it blesses us by revealing talents we didn’t know existed and emotions we couldn’t express.