Having been part of the ‘Take Back The City’ initiative in Dublin, and written a song about it, as well as playing over 250 shows in a single year, Luke Clerkin‘s exploration of the Dublin music scene has been thorough, political, and at times extremely full-on.
Having used his experiences as both lessons and fuel, Clerkin’s now back with his EP ‘What Little Time We Have’, in which he tries to condense his fast-flowing, emotional take on life into a lively, poppy style.
Ahead of the launch of his single ‘Nocturnal’, Clerkin talks me through the journey so far…
Can you tell me a bit about ‘Nocturnal’?
Nocturnal was written over two years ago, months after I stopped seeing someone that I’d been seeing for a while. The song explores the initial moments of nervousness and lust that were involved in the beginning, and then it moves on to the feelings of regret after it finished.
The regret comes from myself, wondering if I should have given more time and energy on ‘a love that was distant but almost near’. This song is my first step into releasing something with real pop elements, and it also shows me with a full band energy that I wouldn’t really be known for.
What will be the themes of ‘What Little Time We Have’ when it arrives?
WLTWH explores the themes of mental health, love, regret, closure, and the question of love itself. These themes are things that constantly come up in my life, so putting them together made sense to me, and putting this out will essentially be my closure on the situations that inspired the songs.
Deeply personal songs seem to be a theme with your music. Is there an element of self-therapy to it all?
Absolutely. Writing music is part of my self-care routine. When I’m feeling emotional about something, or if I’m feeling hurt or annoyed, I’ll pick up my guitar and I’ll write about it. Honestly, there is no better feeling for me than finishing a song that is about something that has affected me badly.
How much does the chart success you’ve had matter to you – does it make a great deal of difference?
It doesn’t really matter to me when I’m writing a song, I don’t release music to get it charted, but when it does happen, it’s nice knowing that people are supporting what I’m doing. I like knowing that people might be finding comfort in the things that I write about, and knowing that songs I’ve written in maybe my darkest hours, may be helping people in their own struggles.
Tell me about the 250 gigs in a year thing – how was that psychologically, and have you learnt a lot from it?
I initially aimed to do 300, and then when I reached 250, my voice gave in. I wanted to do as many gigs as Ed Sheeran did just before he got signed. I also wanted to catch up on the years I missed out on when I stopped playing music as a kid. Looking back on it, I was quite naive, I was stubborn, my mental health suffered a lot, but I persevered until I could no more.
Do I regret any of it? No. I learned everything I know about performing live from doing it, and now I can play in front of any kind of audience, and I know how to handle anything situation that’s thrown at me.
Has playing that many shows impacted on how you look at this period of shutdown?
Honestly, I just moved back from Germany a few months before, where I was playing a lot of gigs, so it was kind of a welcome break from it all. Initially, I hated it, but it’s become one of the most productive periods of my life. I’ve been able to concentrate on all the things I wasn’t able to concentrate on when I was focused on gigging.
I’ve been getting really into production, and I’ve been writing a lot! I’m also running songwriting and poetry workshops online, and that’s been keeping me active. On a personal level, I’ve started to concentrate on my fitness, I’m doing a couple of 5k jogs a week, and walking every day that I’m not jogging. Before the lockdown, I could barely run for the bus, haha.
How are you expecting the Dublin music scene to look when this is all over?
Who knows, man? There is just so much uncertainty with the social distancing measures. The Dublin music scene is one of the best in the world, and the community that surrounds it is incredible. So no matter what happens, I think we’ll all just stick together and work towards a future where we can go back to how things were, or we’ll create something better.
How does playing places like Germany and the US compare to your shows here in Ireland?
As cliche as it sounds, home is where the heart is! Nothing compares to an Irish crowd who are really feeling what you’re doing. Irish crowds are always up for a sing-song, and when they sing, they really sing.
In saying that, I really loved playing in Germany because of how quiet they can be when you’re playing. It can be quite intense at first, but when you have them on board after a few songs, they can be as loud as the Irish!
I have just one experience of playing in the US, and it was at Youbloom LA, which is a showcase festival that runs between there and Dublin. Of course, my gig would be in an Irish bar, so you can’t get as close to home as that. The crowd was lovely, and I even had one of the other bands get up and sing with me at the encore.
What’s been your favourite moment as a musician so far?
That’s a hard question to answer, but it has to be when I played ‘Take Back the City’ to a crowd of over 10,000 people at the 2018 National Housing Protest in Dublin. The song was written after I’d been involved in the movement of the same name. I took the chants we shouted at the protests and put them in the song. So to do that on a stage like that, and to have that many people chanting back at me is something I’ll never forget!
What are your plans for the future?
It’s so hard to plan for what’s uncertain, right now, so I’m just going to continue doing what I’ve been doing. I’ve always wanted to write an album, that’s what WLTWH was going to be in the beginning, but I just didn’t think I was ready. But, now maybe that’s what I’ll aim to do next. Then when the world opens up again, maybe I’ll go back to Germany, and also tour places I’ve never been. Who knows?