Name: Luke Leverett
Hometown: New Braunfels, TX
Resume: 2007: Zack Walther and The Cronkites Live at Tavern in the Gruene, lead guitar and harmony vocals
2009: Zack Walther and The Cronkites Ambition, guitars, vocals, keyboards
2010: Luke Leverett The Critic, vocals, guitars, keys, songs
2010: Javi Garcia and the Cold Cold Ground A Southern Horror, lead guitar on select tracks
2011: Little Brave Wound and Will, lead guitar on select tracks
How do you describe your music?
The snarky answer is "pop music for smart people." I like to think that my songs are broadly catchy but also have some kind of substance that makes them special..
How is your new album, The Critic, being received? Did everything come out the way you wanted it to?
I am just grateful that it exists, I really needed to make it. That being said, I put the cart before the horse by making a full-length album and putting it on a dying medium before there was any demand for it. (laughs) It was recorded in secret, I was still playing guitar in Zack Walther and the Cronkites at the time, and I didn't even hint at it's existence until I quit the band and it was halfway done. There was just a lot of fear in me when I started, so sometimes I wish I had made the record with more confidence. On the other hand, I really needed to make the record to develop that confidence, so I'm mostly very satisfied with it. It's time to make a new one.
Explain the title, "The Critic".
That title came to me from other people's perception of me. A lot of people used to refer to me as a critic, because I was always analyzing my hatred for something. It bothered me at first, but once I realized how apt it was, it quickly went to the top of my short list for possible titles. In the most negative sense of the word, a critic is someone who judges but doesn't contribute anything. I had grown much more comfortable as a critic of the world than I was putting myself out there. So, my album is kind of a confession of that.
Is there a particular concept to this album? How did you arrive at the 10 songs and their sequence on the record?
Well, I guess the concept is that I took a journey from a more fearful way of living and thinking, the way of "The Critic" to a more positive one. I remember that halfway through the recording process, I was out on a date with my girlfriend Lacy. We were listening to the latest set of rough tracks from the studio, and of course I was analyzing the songs in my usual way. Lacy however heard something new. She told me that all of my songs were about people leaving somewhere, or getting ready to leave, but not neccessarily arriving at their destination. The character was always in limbo somehow. I realized that my character in the album really needed to find resolution, and just be more sure of things. So that's why songs like "You Make Me New" had to come later, because that song in particular really brings the protagonist home, if I can put it that way. Also, there are actually 11 songs on the album, one of them isn't listed.
You mention on your website that pre-2009 you were "wasting your life." What were you doing / not doing?
I wasn't doing what I set out to do with my life. I was a guitar player in a band, putting on entertaing shows, so in some ways it seemed like I was following my dreams. It took a while to realize that I was actually just taking the easy way out. I was playing in a band that I hoped might be popular and profitable, but I wasn't playing music that came from my heart or expressed things that I wanted to express. Really, I was just playing for the first team that picked me, and it was hard to let go of it. I had always been a songwriter, but I had gotten myself really scared to just do my music and be my own artist. I aborted two full-length recording projects of mine before they could be properly finished or released, so I was really discouraged about that. Becoming a lead guitarist was a good way to get a taste of the spotlight without taking on the risk of fronting my own band, so I gravitated towards it. I wasn't recording and performing my own songs because I was scared of being judged. That's not a good enough reason not to do it, so I've tried to follow my heart more and not let the fear win.
Who/What has been your biggest musical influence?
I have to say that Richard Thompson has had a greater impact on me than other single artist. He's a legendary British singer-songwriter-guitarist that my brother introduced me to when I was 16. I owe him one for that. I really started to become a more interesting songwriter after watching him perform live. Second and third place goes to Tom Waits and The Beatles.
Your music is best enjoyed doing what?
What are the best lyrics you have ever written?
I feel strongly about the lyric of Maybe I Might, especially the second verse: "Anyone can walk the sidelines and never step inside of the ring. Keep in mind your simple guidlines, then you'll never have to feel a thing." Those words convict me everytime I sing them, and I've gotten to where I kind of preach them to the crowd when I play the song live.
What instruments do you play?
I'm primarily a guitarist, but my original first instrument was the piano. I don't perform on keyboards very often, but I do still write on the piano when I can and I play keys in the studio sometimes.
Some artists give sentimental names to their instruments. What about you?
I never do! The way I tend to abuse my tools, it's just better for me not to.
What else are you into?
I'm a big fan of stand-up comedy and movies. They provide a lot of inspiration when I'm burned out on music.
In a movie about your life, what actor would play you?
Though this could never be, I wish that I were older than Phillip Seymour Hoffman because he could portray the shit out of me.
What's is your take on the current music scene in New Braunfels?
I have hope for it. I used to be so annoyed that New Braunfels has a great scene for Texas Country and nothing else, but I realize that the only way for there to be any other kind of scene is for someone to build it. Someone has to volunteer to go first. I call dibs. (laughs) On a serious note, I think it's time for artists and music fans to expand from out of the bar scene. More people should be hosting their own private concerts and other alternative shows. Not everyone wants to go out to a bar anymore, you know? I've been branching out into alternative performances, and I've been surprised by the effect that an unusual show, like a house concert, can have. So hopefully we'll see more of that happening, and more artists will take initiative and expand their comfort zones in a bit.
What is the Folk Union?
The Folk Union is and was a collective of local songwriter/musicians who like to put on shows together. Stephanie Briggs, Daniel Thomas Phipps, K Phillips, and I are all card-carrying union members. In my mind, we're just good friends who want to help each other grow as artists. We sometimes still play "Folk Union" shows, but what's most important to me is the camraderie that we have.
What's next on the horizon for you?
Well, on May 29 I'm debuting the Power Trio version of my band at Oma Gruene's Secret Garten. Chris Compton is on drums and Deric Garza is on bass. We've not done a show with that format before, so it will be exciting and different for us. Also, I've got lots of great work happening at home in my teaching studio. I've been teaching guitar lessons for years, but lately my teaching business has begun to grow into it's own. I also want to make a new album soon.
Thanks to Lacy and Willow for loving me back into the world, Thank You to Tracy and Paul at Oma Gruene's for being so generous to me, Thanks to all my guitar students and other "employers" that keep me going.
*Visit Luke's blog at www.lukeleverett.com