Interview By: Selena Cintron
Pairing up with Jim Eno for the past year, the hungry drive Walker, his band and Jim have been grand. Tell It To The Judge is expected to be an accumulation of what they have been working on since 2014 until now. Without taking a break, Walker has every intention to keep moving forward with their writing process in order to develop new songs for their supporters worldwide.
BT: Hey there! How much do you have left of your tour?
Walker Lukens: Well, we have a show tonight, then we’re done next Monday.
BT: Before we jump into your album releasing in September and for the readers to get to know you, who are your musical influences? And how long has music been your passion?
Walker Lukens: I don’t think there are a lot of musicians that influence my music, but I have been exposed to a lot of music by my dad, which filtered down to my older brother, which got to me. So people like Led Zeppelin, Elvis Costello, The Beatles, and bands like that I was exposed to early on. Those bands formed the basis of the music I got into. There is also a lot of 90s and early 2000s Indie Rock that is important to me as well as Hip Hop. I am the youngest of three kids. When I was really little my mom went back to school to be a music teacher and so we had a piano in our home and my brother introduced me to Nirvana and played in bands, so music was always around. I remember playing guitar, but either way I think I was always meant to play an instrument because one was always around.
BT: What’s your favorite instrument?
Walker Lukens: I use the piano the most. I use it a lot when I’m writing. It’s a good way to get your ideas out. Piano has such a huge range of sound it’s amazing.
BT: With your music having a classic rock, pop, and country feel, how do you manage to balance the sounds so well? Is that difficult?
Walker Lukens: I don’t think that music is all that difficult. As different two songs from two different genres may sound, at the base they are more similar than people think. So combining my influences it happens more naturally over time and maybe a little harder to discern, but the song is the mannequin and the clothes you put on it changes how you look at it, but it’s still the same thing.
BT: That’s a nice way to look at it. What is your relationship like with Jim Eno? How has working with Jim affected your music career?
Walker Lukens: Jim is a producer and it has been great working with him. He’s a great producer. He has been working with us for the past year and will be working with us for the rest of the year. He has been really helpful having a producer with a higher profile. Jim has made it all better from the collection of songs and he has been really gracious with his time and his connections with showing his people.
BT: Do you plan to work with other producers in the near future?
Walker Lukens: Sure! I am pretty open. We are kind of more focused on playing shows, but I love working with producers. For my songs in particular, working with producers who have strong ideas and likes being instrumental is an essential quality to the music
BT: You have dropped one album in 2013 and since then only EPs. Is there a reason why?
Walker Lukens: I felt like the music industry has shift a lot in the last 5 or 6 years and nowadays if you are an up and coming artists people don’t have the appetite for records like they used to. If you look at the latest Kendrick Lamar record “DAMN,” folks aren’t even really talking about it anymore and it came out two months ago. He is one of the biggest artists in the world so at some points it doesn’t feel like the best use of your time to be pouring your heart and soul into dropping records people don’t have the attention span for.
BT: Yeah, I think his album was great but under appreciated.
Walker Lukens: I am not judgmental and I don’t want to clement the process, but it’s all shifting and people don’t have the appetite for a full length record these days. I am sure it’ll shift back, you know. Until the late 60s, early 70s people didn’t listen to albums, only singles. It comes and goes so we’ll see where it is at in a few years. Might be totally different than this.
BT: For the people who have familiarize themselves with your music, how do you think you have been perceived to them?
Walker Lukens: Well I think a lot of people who have gotten into my music have seen me and my band play. So if people have seen us play they have seen a full on rock show that is crazier and more in your face than normal shows are. It is a lot more dynamic and for the people who are discovering it online I think we are like a new take on an old thing. That’s how I feel about the music I make. I really wouldn’t call it retro in any way, but I really hope that my songs can become important to people and their lives. My goal is to make my music an essential thing and become that important to someone else.
BT: For the people who have not listened to your music, what can they expect to get out of it?
Walker Lukens: I mean I don’t know what they can expect. It’s only 3 or 4 minutes of your life, but our bass player calls it “Blue wide soul from the future.” That’s what he calls it, you know like high concept bar rock. Those are good descriptors of what it is. We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, we are just putting a slightly different turn on it that’s all.
BT: To get more insight on the rest of the members, how did the five of you end up coming together?
Walker Lukens: So I put out the record “Devoted” in 2015 and I put together a band to play and promote the album. That’s how I started playing with Kyle the guitar player. Then about a year after it came out that’s when Zac the drummer joined. Shortly after that Mckenzie who plays keys and sings was added to the fold. About a year and a half ago we started playing with Grant the bass player. Being a developing life and a touring artist is a tough job so there’s been turnover in band artists but it comes with the territory.
BT: As a group, how well do you manage? Are there any challenges you face? How would you describe your chemistry?
Walker Lukens: About six or seven years ago people would tell me that being a touring musician is a lifestyle as much as a job and you really have to want it and put it first as a priority. Sometimes it gets really hard to keep doing that, for some people, but for everyone I play with no it is definitely a priority. They have other things going on in their life but they know how to put the important things first. I don’t know anyone who travels as much as we do while having a full time job outside music. Sometimes you have to get scrappy with how you figure out money stuff, but yeah it’s complicated, but it comes with the territory so it’s part of the job. Jim, for example, Jim had a full time job the whole time we were working together and he would take a leave of absence every time my band going on tour for the exact amount of days he needed so that he wouldn’t lose benefits or get fired from his job. We have had some challenges, but this year we are trying to be more strategic with how we plan things. We thought that going on tour in shorter bursts like in 2 weeks instead of 4, which is such a more manageable situation. We all have dogs, so finding someone to watch your dog when you leave can be the hard part.
BT: Do you have anything big planned for the rest of 2017?
Walker Lukens: Oh yeah! We are finishing the tour next week and then we are putting out a full length record in September which will be 11 songs.
BT: That is a good number of songs to stay close to while having an appropriate balance so listeners stay tuned throughout the entire album. Who’s idea was it to keep only 11 songs?
Walker Lukens: It was kind of my idea from the beginning to make a shorter record with a lot of hard hitting singles. I wanted it to be a collection of each song being it’s own little world. “Devoted” was like 37 minutes long, so my goal was to make this record under 30 minutes.
BT: What is going to be the title of this upcoming album?
Walker Lukens: “Tell It To The Judge.”
BT: What made you choose that title?
Walker Lukens: It comes from a conversation with a friend. We sort of had a joke that we wanted to make a soundtrack for an Elvis movie. The movies are a vehicle for Elvis to sing so if you watch a few of them they are structured the same. There’s an intro song, a song that’s fun, there’s a song where he falls in love, when he falls out of love, and it goes on. So, we were joking around about making a record for an Elvis movie that doesn’t exist. He came up with that idea which I thought is such an awesome sentiment.
BT: Awesome! Are we going to get introduced to any new sounds from “Tell It To The Judge?”
Walker Lukens: Some of the songs have come out on these EPs in the last few years, but I think it is a culmination of what we have been doing as a band for the past year or two. So if you have seen us play live then you may have already heard some of the stuff that’s coming out.
BT: What was the writing process for the album?
Walker Lukens: All of the songs on the record came together slowly in 2014. At that point I was living in a house and I had all the music stuff in the garage and I made it a point to go out 3 or 4 times a week to really work on songs. That’s when I started playing with Zac, Kyle, and Mckenzie. I was writing a lot of songs and we were all picking and choosing which songs we wanted to stay. We did one song with Jim and when we decided to do more songs it motivated me to write more and more songs which lead to having a lot of songs that Jim helped me out with. I am writing all the time. Not even just sitting, but walking around putting things together in my head. There’s this song “Lifted” which is an EP we put out in the fall. The first thing you hear is a voice memo I put on my phone. It’s amazing what you can do with an iPhone. I have this app that’s a drum machine which helps me get some ideas too.
*Pulls out iPhone and starts beating on his drum machine app*
BT: Once your album is done are you going to take a break from writing?
Walker Lukens: I’ve been trying to get better about carving out time when I’m not working. I don’t really want to stop. I don’t want to have a sort of 9-5 life, with no objection to it. I have friends who work a lot to go on vacation with their friends and family, which is awesome, but I never really wanted to live that way. I am happy working all the time because doing music doesn’t really feel like work.
BT: Do you have a specific writing process you follow?
Walker Lukens: A lot of times the way people talk about inspiration it sounds so magical. I don’t really think it is a very conscious process, you know. One of my favorite quotes from the Keith Richard’s Biography, “Everything you listen to will come out in your music,” and I definitely think that is true. You can’t stop that from happening. I might sit down at the piano or pick up a guitar and get some ideas from the chords, or I might write down lyrics. It comes in all ways and then when I get with the band I ask how do we want to shape this. I have made a conservative effort within the last couple of months to really make the music I write have a really good groove to it.
BT: When putting together the album, did you solely create the 11 songs or did you have to narrow it down?
Walker Lukens: We started with like 30 ideas or little beginnings of songs, then we started working with 20, then we finished 15, we recorded 13, and now we’re putting out 11.
BT: Do you have a favorite song out of the 11?
Walker Lukens: No, it’s impossible to choose. Each song has a part of my soul. We shot a music video a few weeks ago and i’m excited to put it out.
BT: Where do you see yourself in the next 3-5 years?
Walker Lukens: Well, I hope I am doing exactly what I have been doing. Beyond that I hope more people are really into my music so I can keep putting out. It’d be nice to get to the point where I can do this all the time because my job is super fun.
BT: Any artists or producers you wish to collaborate with in the future?
Walker Lukens: That’s a good question. There are a ton of bands I wish we can open up for. We just played at FireFly Festival in Delaware, saw the Weeknd which was an amazing show. We saw Ke$ha which was amazing too, and we saw Cold War Kids which I would love to open up for them. There are a ton of bands we would love to open for. We love opening for bands! Headlining is a little more nerve wracking but with opening you just show up and do your thing. As far as artists I would like to collaborate with, I would love to collaborate with Beck and David Byrne. A lot of my favorite artists passed away, otherwise I’d say more. I’d love to work with Kanye, The Rizzos, Dan Auerbach, and Richard Swift. He is an awesome producer and his records are so cool sounding. I’d love to do another record with Jim, and Dave Fridmann. Yeah there are a lot I would love to work with.
BT: Do you plan on staying in a band for the rest of your career? Have you thought about ever going solo?
Walker Lukens: Oh I much prefer working with a band. Going solo is like playing tennis with a wall. When I started playing under my own name I was playing alone. It was really me and my guitar. I enjoy aspects of it, but it’s pretty boring. It’s not my favorite thing to do at all and I want to keep playing with these guys as long as I can.
BT: Well that concludes my questions. Thank you so much for taking the time to sit with me. Good Luck on the rest of your tour and I hope your September record does well.
Walker Lukens: Thank you!
Last modified: July 21, 2017