Luka Bloom is Irish and while his name looks Irish it always feels like it couldn’t belong to an Irish man, it sounds too cool almost. Maybe that’s why Barry Moore chose it? He is of course a brother of Christy Moore, perhaps the definitive Irish artist of the last 20 years in the sense that he has been able to define Ireland better than anyone else, most famously through his storyteller’s lyrics. Luka is the quixotic one it seems even though his home town, Newbridge in Co Kildare, is a town still struggling to escape a dullness that belongs to the 1960s. Luka escaped all that years ago and he took the time to tell Three Monkeys about his musical journey since
Let’s start by outlining briefly your career to date from when you first started out as a professional musician through to the present day, mentioning a couple of high points and low points along the way.
I started writing songs in Newbridge county Kildare around 1972. I made my first record in 1978; recording three records under my real name.After much struggle, I decided to go to America in 1987, where after 18 months I recorded my first of three records for Warner Bros. Then I made a record for Sony in 1996. Since then I have been an independent singersongwriter, recording eight records and one dvd. I sell these records on my website www.lukabloom.com. All this time I have toured constantly in the US, Australia, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Finland, and of course the UK and Ireland. Its a beautiful life.
One thing that would standout straight away is your name which seems to have a lovely rhythm to it almost sounds like it could be the name of a song! How did you come up with the name and why?
I wanted to have the feeling of being a complete beginner in 1987, and I knew the beginning would happen in New York. So I chose a name which had a New York connection and an Irish connection. ‘My name is Luka’ had just been released in America by Suzane Vega, and Bloom is from James Joyce’ Ulysses. It has a nice, memorable ring to it. And it has been a very lucky name for me in my work.
Sometimes people think I did this to escape from myself or my family. Nothing could be further from the truth.I love my family, and in fact having a stage name has helped me overcome shyness about expressing myself on stage. It’s all good.
a downside is the prevalence of people singing only about personal feelings, and a scarcity of people with any questions or visions for community or society.
I recently watched a documentary about Christie Hennessy in which you were interviewed. The general consensus seemed to be that Christie didn’t get enough recognition or that he got it too late in life. Is there a feeling that artists like yourself, who would be considered in the same genre as Christie, don’t get the credit they deserve?
If I were doing this because I needed recognition I would have quit a long time ago. It is such a privilege to be able to write a song, and to sing it for people. I am grateful for every person who comes to a show or buys a record. Just because I choose to be a singer songwriter, it doesn’t entitle me to any recognition. I never felt that Christie Hennessy himself felt that he lacked recognition. I felt he loved his job, and was extremely grateful for any success he had. Me too.
Famously you’ve covered a lot of songs over your career, including I Need Love by LL Cool J. At the same time you’re a songwriter. Do you prefer taking on someone else’s work or doing your own?
I learn other people’s songs sometimes for fun. Writing my own songs is what I do for everything!
Which is more important the performance or the inspiration?
No inspiration, no performance.
You’ve achieved a solid success over your career but never the massive success the likes of Damien Rice has and lately Glen Hansard with his Oscar. Do you feel envious of those guys, are the there things you want to achieve that they have?
Strange question. Envious? Why? I have had so much success in the past 20 years. I admire Glen and Damien and everyone who follows their dream at whatever level they find themselves. This is not a premiership league type life. This is a very sad question.
What role do you think Ireland and Kildare has played in your music? Is the sense of place important in what you do?
I wrote my first songs in Kildare. I performed all my first songs in Newbridge, had my first audience in Newbridge. Kildare is huge in my life. My parents lived and gave us life here. They are buried here. I love Kildare.And no matter where I go Brigid of Kildare comes with me. It is maybe more important to me than being Irish.
Has the fact that Ireland has changed dramatically as a country, the Celtic Tiger etc, had a huge impact on the music that is produced?
One of the positive side effects of Ireland’s recent history is the great confidence our young now feel in expressing themselves as Irish men and women. There is so much incredible talent flowing from our shores now. Positive people singing positive songs, free of bitterness, warfare.
Perhaps a downside is the prevalence of people singing only about personal feelings, and a scarcity of people with any questions or visions for community or society. This is perhaps a reflection of the general individualisation of life here now, and may also be a reflection of the growing Americanisation of our culture. I’m waffling…..
Your latest album is called Tribe. Why have you used that title and what does it mean to you?
The Dalai Lama suggested some time ago that the time has come for us all to loosen our passion for nationalism, and narrow national interests. Perhaps the time has come to face the planet’s many problems as one tribe, one human race. An impossible dream perhaps, but a noble one I think. ‘Who is my Tribe?’ is a question we all need to ask at a time of global warming, and peak oil. Imagine if every leader of every government in the world all sat together as absolute equals, to really address all the problems of the earth without the narrow consideration of their own nation; only committed to solving the problems facing all of the human Tribe…….
How would you describe your current album?
Happy, sad, positive, and for me, so delicious I wish I could spread it on toast and eat it.
Why should people listen to your music?
Because I’d love them to.