Interview: Luke Roberts

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Singer/songwriter Luke Roberts has one hell of a story; “I was raised in a cult,” he begins, much to my surprise.  “In the late 70s and early 80s, there were three blocks of houses in my East Nashville neighborhood owned by people who all went to the same church, it was like city commune. Around the time I was born, everyone was planning to leave Nashville and move to Jerusalem for the end of the world. Those plans fell through,” he says with a laugh.

Roberts’ household environment was also very restrictive; as a result, he developed a serious rebellious streak, running away from home, riding the rails, and hitchhiking across the country. “Train hopping wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but I didn’t like any of the other options I had when I was young,” he explains. “One of the first movies I ever saw was Oliver Twist—there’s a scene where the runaway kids in the movie are doing a pickpocket routine, and I decided I was going to learn how to pickpocket so I could survive on the streets. I never did learn how, but I was a hustler and a thief,” he admits. At 16, Roberts was involved in a horrible car accident; his family, relieved to finally know  where the youngster had landed, retrieved him and took him home to heal.

Still searching for direction, Roberts moved to Olympia, Washington in his early 20s. “I started going to punk shows, and I got really into that scene, playing in bands—punk and screamo music was it for me. I got a job, and grew up some,” he recalls. “I realized music was my path.”

In the early 2000s, Roberts began pursuing music full-time, and released two albums before wanderlust overtook him again. “After my second record came out, I left the country for the first time and toured Europe; when I came back home, all I wanted to do was go back overseas, it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he says with a smile. “I ended up falling in love—we ran away to Asia, and lived in Africa for a while. I had put music on hold at the time, but it was all I could think to do.” Shortly after, Roberts’ first child was born, and his storied life was forever changed. “The music just started pouring out of me,” he recalls.

On October 14th, he will release his third album, Sunlit Cross, via Thrill Jockey Records, which features a collaboration with Kurt Vile. “The whole reason I write music is because I want to leave something behind for my son,” he says. “I had to get this record out so I could capture this time for my son.”

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Susan Hubbard

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