The Frenchmen Street fixture talks about how Woody Guthrie, Bob Seger, Sibelius and more led to The Coming Tide.
Luke Winslow-King has dubious luck with cars. He was stranded in New Orleans in 2002 when the one he and friends were traveling in - the one that had their gear - was stolen, with only some broken glass to mark where it once had been. Now, we're stting behind the PJ's on Magazine Street discussing his new album, The Coming Tide, when he bolts up at the sound of a truck's backing beep. "I've got to make sure I'm not getting towed," he says. "I'm parked half in front of a driveway."
He landed on his feet in both occasions. The beeping vehicle wasn't a wrecker, and his stolen car gave him a reason to hang around for another couple of weeks while he waited for NOPD to find it - which they did in New Orleans East, emptied of all musical equipment - and an opportunity to audition for the UNO composition program. When he got back to his native Cadillac, Michigan, he learned he'd been accepted and returned.
"My dad's record collection was my first inspiration," Winslow-King says. "I got a hold of his collection at 13; I started playing at 15. He had a lot of good ones, a lot of bad ones." His father's collection turned him on to Bob Dylan, which turned him on to Woody Guthrie, and it was while touring a show of Guthrie songs that Winslow-King came to New Orleans. He couldn't share his parents' affection for Steely Dan and Jefferson Airplane, though, and they didn't get his love of jazz. "I took this course from Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix and followed it to the Chess Records of Chicago, which was a direct line to the music down here."
He enrolled in a jazz studies program in Michigan, but found its focus on bop a problematic. "I was inspired by the freedom and exploration of modern jazz, but I was really turned off by the sophistication and the music-for-musicians element of it," Winslow-King says. When he found himself backing the jazz vocal choir at Western Michigan University as it sang "Georgia on My Mind," he knew things had gone awry and quit to sing Woody Guthrie songs.
In New Orleans, he got a varied education, taking composition at UNO during the day, playing in bands on Frenchmen Street at night, and busking when he wasn't playing. The latter taught him a number of important lessons, starting with "melody, melody, melody," Winslow-King says. "And don't stand too close to your own tip jar. If you're too close to your own tip jar, they don't want to come within two feet of you. They want, like, five feet."
Luke Winslow-King talks about folk music, classical music, The Coming Tide, classic rock and more in today's podcast.