Posted On 14 Aug 2017
With excitement towards the release of his Ain’t Got A Reason EP, Walker explains, “This is my little love letter to all the songs I heard on classic rock radio while driving around in the backseat of my parents car: Elvis, Springsteen, ZZ top, Fleetwood Mac, Bowie… Jah Bless not having a choice over the music you listen to as a kid. Changed my life.”
Walker Lukens has been called “one of the best songwriters in Texas” (Free Press Houston.) The Austin-based, Houston-bred singer, multi-instrumentalist has been called “wonderfully inventive” (NPR World Cafe,) a “non-sexually intimidating version of Prince’” (Austin Chronicle,) and a “veteran balladeer with sudden indie rock ambitions” (Indy Week).
In 2013, Walker released his first full length record Devoted, garnering praise from outlets like NPR’s All Songs Considered, American Songwriter, Austin American Statesman, Austin Chronicle, and Billboard. The word spread far and wide, taking Lukens all over the US with his backing band The Side Arms, made up of Kyle Vonderau (guitar), Zac Catanzaro (drums, percussion), Mckenzie Griffin (vocals, keyboard, percussion), and Grant Himmler (bass, vocals).
After meeting Spoon drummer Jim Eno in a bar, Walker & The Side Arms started recording new music at with him at his studio, Public Hi-Fi. Their first collaboration, ‘Every Night,’ has been streamed over a million times now. Their second collaboration, ‘Lifted’ from Never Understood EP (Modern Outsider) spent 11 weeks in total on the specialty commercial radio charts, including 5 weeks in the Top 5 and 3 weeks at #1!
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Learn more about Walker Lukens in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it? What’s a song you loving these days?
I’m sitting in my living room listening to the new JAY Z record. I think it’s the best thing he’s done in a decade. If you like Lemonade or Kanye, It seems like his attempt to respond.
How is 2017 treating you so far? Did you approach the start of this year any differently then you did last year? What have been some of the highlights for you this year?
As the world slowly crumbles around us, I am quietly having the best year of my life. Opening for Spoon at their album release show during SXSW was a highlight. We played this BBQ festival in NYC a few weeks ago and they gave us, like, $200 to sample BBQ from the best pitmasters in the country, a hotel room in walking distance. Pretty decadent for a group of bottomfeeders.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Was there ever a time where you thought about doing something completely different?
My earliest musical memory is singing ‘Love Shack’ in the backseat of mom’s suburban. I really loved Seinfeld when I was 9 and wanted to be a comedian. My older brother was in bands and, in some sense, I was Inceptioned into this music life.
I always like to know how a particular city has influenced an artist. I am such a big fan of Austin where you are a based now (I would love to live there one day!) so I’m curious to know how it has influenced you as an artist? What was it like moving there from your home of Houston?
I lived a handful of places after Houston (including nowhere) before I settled in Austin. While it’s getting more expensive, there is a really supportive culture for musicians. There’s a non-profit called, HAAM, that subsidizes musician’s healthcare. There’s another organization called the SIMS Foundation that subsidizes the cost of mental health services for musicians. I got a grant from this really rad organization called Black Fret. They give grants to working musicians.
In most parts of the country, we go play for little enclaves of hipsters. In Austin, the age range is a lot wider.
How did your band, The Side Arms, come together? Why do you think you all work so well together?
There’s a tight knit music community here in Austin. Every player was recommended by someone else. I think we work well together because we work really hard at it. Being in a band is like being married to a group of people plus booze and non-glamourous travel minus the sex.
Let’s talk about your recently released EP, “Ain’t Got A Reason.” Can you talk about making this EP? What was the inspiration for these tracks? I love that you call it your “little love letter to all the songs I heard on classic rock radio while driving around in the backseat of my parents car.” This is really a testament to how we are so influenced by the music our parents play while we are growing up. How did those songs specifically affect you?
There’s a good Keith Richards’ quote where he says that everything we’ve ever listened to will come out in your music. I think that’s true. I passively consumed a lot of music in my early years, which formed the basis for what is normal to me. I wanted to make a record of songs that didn’t take itself very seriously, like a lot of 70s rock records.
What was it like working with Spoon drummer, Jim Eno on your newest EP? How exactly did it go from meeting him to working together? Did you form an instant musical connection?
I think there was an instant music connection because I love his band and lots of records that he’s worked on. I trusted Jim right away to do right by the songs. That’s not always the case.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since your debut album, “Devoted,” was released in 2013? What has remained the same about your style of making music?
I trust myself more. Devoted was made in a room with a producer for the most part. It wasn’t made with a band or for an actual audience. After going out and touring and actually putting together a band to play those songs, I learned a lot about what kind of music I wanted to make. Nowadays, you have to get on the road to make a living in music. I didn’t really think about the Devoted songs from that perspective. I’ve thought a lot about the show with these songs.
Do you have plans to play out live this summer? What’s a typical show experience like for you? What do you think makes for an ideal show for you?
We just got back from a month on the road. We’re gonna hit it again pretty hard in the fall and winter. We try really hard to put on a great show. You should come check it out. Recently, I played a show with just an acoustic guitar. It was really enjoyable. I think it might try and do that again soon.
Where do you think you are happiest- on stage performing, recording music in the studio or elsewhere?
In the studio, working on songs with musicians I trust and admire.
What artists have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
There are certain artists I go back to again and again: Prince, David Bowie, Nina Simone, Bill Callahan, Willie Nelson, Joni Mitchell, Four Tet. There are new ones that I’m really into these days: Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean. I would love to work with all of these artists.
What advice would you give to a young person who is considering getting into this music career path?
Play the game. Whatever you think you don’t have to do, you probably have to do. Play the game.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
I don’t care how my songs get to people or what it means to them. I’m flattered by your interest and sustained attention.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
With all the time spent reading this, you could have been listening to the songs!! Reading about music is like talking about change. Go do it!!