Showman and Shaman Jack Lukeman

Irish Culture Bay Area Exclusive Interview with Jack Lukeman, by Music Writer Tom Clancy ©

jacklJack Lukeman, a multi-platinum award-winning Irish artist, is known for riveting live shows, unique vocal powers, and superb songwriting. He plays a benefit concert for Women’s Centers International at Leo’s Music Club in Oakland on July 16. Ten percent of the ticket sales will also go to the “J1 Berkeley Tragedy Fund” for families of the Irish students who were victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse.

How did you get into the singing business? Were you from a musical family?

Yes, music was a big thing in our house. The radio was always on and records were treasured. My Dad has a great singing voice so I got it from him. And music was always a passion or obsession. I was always playing gigs and busking. Music made my world make sense and I had no interest in anything else. 

Did you have any formal training? How do you keep that amazing voice fresh?

No formal training. Talking is a big grinder of the voice. Keep hydrated and get a good night’s sleep.

Not very rock’n’roll but it’s like being an athlete you have to remain fit.

Your musical tastes are very diverse, covering many genres. How did that come about?

I’ve always been obsessed with all styles of music and have just about done every style which has always been my goal. Music has so many facets between writing, playing, producing and recording. It’s a perpetual learning curve and never lets you down. 

Who would you count as musical influences?

Jim Morrison, Elvis, Nina Simone, Howling Wolf and on and on. Everything’s an influence really.

How does Irish music factor in your work? Are you a fan of traditional music?

Yes, I’ve done a lot of traditional Irish stuff over the years and hope to do a full album of it at some point.

What is it about Kildare and music (birth place of Christy Moore & Luka Bloom, Liam O’Flynn to mention just a few). Is there something in the water?

It’s the effervescent bog-lands. A between-worlds place where songs are floating around in the air.

I think it’s more to do with the air than the water.

I saw that you did a Paul Robeson tribute a few years back?

Paul Robeson’s back catalogue is an amazing bunch of folk songs, love songs, protest songs, and songs that predate copyright. I love it when songs are passed down through time and nobody knows who wrote them. That’s real folk music. And what a great man he was.

Some musicians dislike being described as entertainers but you totally embrace that role and responsibility?

Showman or Shaman it’s all the same. Music is magic and mystical. It’s a very old public service and privilege to break the 5th wall and lift people up and out of themselves with music. Hip culture is an illusion created by marketing men, it’s changing and eating itself eternally. All the greats were entertainers –even the shoe gazers.

What were some of your most memorable gigs?

Playing with the Brooklyn Philharmonic orchestra in the open air in Manhattan to 15,000 people and playing the Lincoln Center in New York with the Nelson Riddle orchestra. 

I saw this quote from you in an Irish Times piece: “I try to approach life in a Taoist style.” How does that help you with such a busy musical career?  

Well, to flow like water is a good method in any profession and that’s the general Taoist principle. Probably doesn’t help at all in the business side but gets you through tricky sound checks. 

What’s the Oakland Women’s Center connection?

Through my sister’s involvement I did a gig in Oakland in 2007 to help launch a Women’s center in Darfur.  Women’s Centers International just opened their first US site in Oakland last month –this is a great extension of that. I have family and friends in San Francisco involved so I’m more than happy to serve and help anyway I can for such a worthwhile cause.