Daily Discovery: Luke Cunningham, “Songs About California”

Luke Cunningham Songspace ImageIndependent songwriter Luke Cunningham is an artist who has managed to work his way up in the industry, touring with such acts ad The Fray and Gin Blossoms. His 2012 album Heart Pressure turned the heads of many listeners. You can check out his live shows here.

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ARTIST: Luke Cunningham

SONG: Songs About California (feat Cary Ann Hearst of ‘Shovels & Rope’)

BIRTHDATE: January 15th



AMBITIONS: To continue making a living writing/playing music while one day supporting a family by doing what I love.

TURN-OFFS: Chronic name-droppers. Store-bought moonshine. And people who ask “Where’s the last place you had it?” whenever you lose something.

TURN-ONS: A Telecaster through a Fender amp. Truck stops that sell t-shirts. Accents—regardless of where they are from. Fellow Cracker Barrel enthusiasts. Word association and pun-centered humor. And any country song possessing a storyline instead of some guy telling you how ‘jacked up’ his truck is.

DREAM GIG: Ryman Auditorium. I grew up outside of Nashville so obviously the sheer greatness & unparalleled history of that room has delightfully haunted me since childhood.

FAVORITE LYRIC: “If heartaches was commercials, we’d all be on TV.”-John Prine

CRAZIEST PERSON I KNOW: A guy I knew while living in LA called Cracker Watch. He was convinced there was a phone booth in West Hollywood that could teleport him into Lindsay Lohan’s living room and that the Griffith Observatory was secretly being used to turn humans into commercial dog food. Did I mention he wore a saltine cracker permanently rubber-banded to the top of his wristwatch?

SONG I WISH I WROTE: ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ by Ryan Adams. Aside from its geographic references that hit home for me, this tune–and many of his others–go to show how you can manage to tell a damn good story with just a few simple chords.

5 PEOPLE I’D MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: Mark Twain, Elvis, Abe Lincoln, Paul McCartney, Teddy Roosevelt

MY FAVORITE CONCERT EXPERIENCE: Sitting front row at City Winery in New York City a few years back watching Steve Earle perform. It’s a smaller venue, the setting was more akin to a ‘listening room’ type atmosphere and the laid back format of the set made it feel like I was watching him play in his living room. Hearing him tell the stories behind the tunes was pure bliss for a chump songwriter such as myself.

I WROTE THIS SONG: On a bar napkin in Los Angeles. I’d just flown in from New York after fruitlessly spending every last dollar I had trying to salvage my relationship with a girl living there. Broke and heartbroken, the only thing that made me laugh was the thought of how cliché I probably looked sitting there that day drowning my sorrows in a dimly lit bar on Sunset Blvd. I eventually grabbed a pen from the bartender, yet sadly everything I seemed to write down was absolute crap.

‘What’s the use?” I thought. “There’s already too many damn songs about California.”

Right then it clicked. That was the song.

By the time I had written the rest of it, my mind was already dead set on Cary Ann Hearst of Shovels & Ropesinging on the track with me. Aside from being one of my favorite people and one of the most talented folks I know, there was also something about the story and feel of the tune that simply belonged to Cary Ann from the beginning.

Unfortunately for us, at the time Shovels & Rope were out on the road. And though there was brief talk of someone else possibly singing on the track, the idea was quickly put to rest—instead we patiently waited for Cary Ann to get back. I’m glad we did. The song would not be what it is without her.

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