- Chris Corona / provided
- Walker Lukens
Walker Lukens loved his last show in Oklahoma City. Luckily, he gets a return visit to the city May 17 opening for Austin, Texas, colleagues Spoon at The Jones Assembly.
Genre-bending singer-songwriter Lukens’ last gig in OKC was in March as a headliner for Tower Theatre’s 405 Pitstop South by Southwest Festival preview series. While he plays the undercard role for his date with veteran indie rock unit Spoon — known for founding members vocalist/guitarist Britt Daniel and percussionist Jim Eno — Lukens’ impressive songwriting talent and inventive style are more than enough of an attraction on their own.
Doors for Lukens’ return visit with Spoon open 7 p.m. May 17 at The Jones Assembly, 901 W. Sheridan Ave. Tickets are $30.
Aside from a touring relationship with the band and being based in the Texas capital city, Lukens and Spoon are connected through Eno’s production work on Lukens’ most recent album Tell It to the Judge, released in September. Partially through Eno’s influence, the album carries a bouncier and more rhythmic groove than Lukens’ more ballad-heavy previous release.Most recently, Lukens made headlines with his Song Confessional project at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival. Fans entered a mobile recording booth and shared their stories, which were then turned into songs on the spot by expert songwriters, including Lukens, Major Grizz, Bright Light Social Hour, Israel Nash, David Ramirez, Riders Against the Storm and more.
The project, originally a one-off idea, was so successful that Lukens plans to make it into a touring project set to premiere at a later date.
Oklahoma Gazette recently caught up with Lukens about his album, the Song Confessional project and his past experiences in the Sooner State.
Oklahoma Gazette: I know you’re from Texas. Growing up, did you get to trek through Oklahoma very often?
Walker Lukens: All the time, dude! Home to the biggest McDonald’s in the world!
OKG: It’s nice to hear you shout out Vinita.
Lukens: Oh yeah. The biggest McDonald’s in the world — and it kind of lit up my little 8-year-old world. I have family that lives in Minnesota, so I drove through it a few times on family trips.
OKG: I’m sad to report that since then, there have been at least one or two restaurants that have unseated that McDonald’s as the very largest. But it’s still a sight to behold.
Lukens: Not in my house, dude! Still the biggest one in my house.
OKG: What’s it like touring with Spoon as opposed to doing a show where your band is headlining?
Lukens: It’s a whole hell of a lot less worrisome. For one, they have a huge fan base already and most of the promotion is being directed towards them. When you do a headlining tour, I would say the biggest pain in my neck is all the promotion you have to do for the tour. It’s a lot of work, so to get to just go to a show in a town and play for other people’s fans is great.
OKG: You put out Tell It to the Judge last year, and that album has a connection to Spoon because a few of the songs were produced by drummer Jim Eno. What’s the story behind meeting Jim for the first time and getting to do music with him?
Lukens: We have a mutual friend, and she works for Jim helping out at his studio. One night, back when Spoon was kind of taking a break, she was like, ‘Hey, I’m at a bar with Jim Eno, and he was asking what bands in town he should look into recording. I told him about you, and he pulled up his Shazam app and had Shazam’d your song earlier that day.’ I was like, ‘Whoa,’ and she said I should come there. I asked her where she was, and I was just two doors over.
I walked over there and sort of had the awkward introduction conversation. This is like summer 2013. At around the same time I met Jim, Spoon decided to hit the studio again. I just stayed in touch and didn’t push too hard. He basically said he was too busy to do an album, but he said he would do a song. I was on tour when I sent him the demo for “Every Night,” and he said it was awesome. When I got back, we did “Every Night” and planned to do a few more after that. It just sort of worked out.
OKG: You’re known for blending a lot of different styles within your music — particularly your recent work. Is that a conscious decision? Do you enjoy bringing components of different musical traditions together?
Lukens: I think it’s a conscious decision not to shy away from it. A lot of songwriters I know, they actually do that a lot. They’ll write some songs and maybe one of them is in another style and they’ll say, ‘Oh, well that one doesn’t really sound like us.’ For me, I really like to just go for it, maybe at my own peril. There was someone who wrote a review of our show in New York last week, and they said, ‘I’m not really sure what it is, but I really like it.’ That’s kind, but at the same time, it’s like, ‘Yeah, you’re not alone.’
OKG: I’ve been reading about your Song Confessional project, and I want to know what the origin of that was and what the execution of it was like.
Lukens: Well, first off, I want to say I’m going to be bringing it to Oklahoma before too long.
I think there are a lot of origins to the project. Probably the biggest one is that so much of my creative energy is tied up into the record you heard. That record was finished in 2015, and then I had to be really patient and wait to put it out the smart way. There’s all this artifice, all these layers in releasing music that get really tiring. And if you want to be really serious [about music], there’s just no way around that; it’s just the way it is.
The other thing that happened is that last summer, someone reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, my fiance really loves one of your songs. Could I hire you to play it for our first dance?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure. That’d be awesome. Are you sure you only want me to do one song?’ And he said, ‘Well, I’d really love it if you could play my favorite Frank Sinatra song.’ And he starts telling me about his favorite Frank Sinatra song and it had this really deep meaning to him, but the thing I realized in talking to him is that he didn’t know Frank Sinatra didn’t write that song. He had this whole meaning he had given to it.
It just got me thinking about what if there was a world where someone was like, ‘I want you to write a song for my wedding that you’re going to sing about my wife and it’s about my wife because I told you everything there is to know.’ That’s really where it started for me. It turned into this South by [Southwest] project, and I think it’s turned into something we’re going to spend the next couple of years doing — just doing events where people come and tell stories and me or whoever is around makes songs out of it.
OKG: I’m excited for you to bring it through Oklahoma.
Lukens: I’m sure we will. It’ll be cool.