One of my favorite places to visit at the Twin Towers was the Borders book store [5 WTC]. The magazine section used to be near the entrance, right next to where Krispy Kreme was. And the escalator would take you downstairs to the Warner Brothers store.
I’d spend hours and hours in that store reading magazines, books on screenwriting, books on music, and sampling tons of music. I’d seen Willie & Lobo play live there. I remember a lonely book signing – young cookbook writer sat by herself at a table, her books spread out in front of her. No one stopped at her table. Felt bad for her.
It was at that store I listened to Luka Bloom’s Keeper of the Flame, his covers project. I couldn’t get enough of it. Kept listening to ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Wishing on A Star’ over and over. Still loop them, always together.
All these years later, with him not knowing how I made my first connection with his music, here’s my interview with the man himself. Take a couple of more minutes and listen to the beautiful Sunny Sailor Boy at the end of the interview.
LB: People singing in my house; my mother at the piano. We were always singing.
G: When did you first pick up the guitar? Do you remember what excited you as well as frustrate you during the first month of learning? Any tips on practicing?
LB: I remember the first time I held a guitar. I was about 8. It belonged to my brother Christy. I had a strange sense of belonging and of the world suddenly making sense and being a good place. I’ve been recreating that feeling every day ever since. Tips on practicing? Eh, let me see, do it!
G: What do you remember about the first song you wrote? What was the process like? Has the process changed over the years?
LB: I remember the first song I wrote in open tuning on the guitar. I t was called ‘Jenny of the sun’, and was about an autistic girl who lived some miles away. it was my first sense of the perfect relationship between guitar sound, guitar chords, guitar picking, lyrics, and of course, the singing voice. This was possibly the song that sealed my destiny, because it revealed possibility to me.
G: Your version of ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Wishing on A Star’ are two of the most played tracks in the Hassan household. Why did you pick the songs you did on your Keeper of the Flame album?
LB: Ever since I covered LL Cool J’s ‘I need Love’, I was only interested in using covers to stretch myself and avoid any feeling of being in a singersongwriter comfort zone. I didn’t want to do a covers record in order to play my personal faves for people. I wanted to challenge myself to reach outside my ‘world’, and attempt to capture something special with songs from very different places in the music world. To take a Cure song, an Abba song, a U2 song, a radiohead song, a Joni Mitchell song etc. and try to express myself through these songs, meant that the covers album , while fun, was also a great challenge for me.
G: How’s Eleven Songs different from your previous albums? Is there a particular track in it that tested your creativity or discipline?
LB: Its hard to be objective about this. I genuinely feel that 11 songs is my greatest accomplishment on record. All of my records are different from each other. But this record just feels utterly complete to me. The songs, the producer, the players, the studio, the chemistry….. All the elements came together in a very easy natural way. This was a lot of fun, and again, challenging, as it was the first time I recorded live with other musicians in the same room. I called the record 11 songs partly because of my love for each of the songs on it.
G: What’s your main guitar? What hardware/software do you use most often?
LB: Alvarez Yairi black cutaway I bought in Rudi’s on west 48th street New York around 1992. Hardware? Knife and fork.
G: You are an active participant on online social networks such as MySpace and YouTube. What sort of impact have they made on your career? How much do you spend online interacting with your fans?
LB: The web is a tool to keep in touch and make it a little easier for new people to find you. I’m not that active. I have help. I answer emails directed to me whenever possible…..
G: Your most memorable moments – a) on-stage and b) off-stage.
LB: Sorry I’m a very here and now person. I don’t store up these memories. I try to let them go, and be ready for the next ones…And I’m allergic to nostalgia.
G: A young guitar songwriter approaches you. (S)he asks 3 tips each on each of the following. What would you advise?
(a) Writing (b) Recording (c) Performing
LB: Too many people making too many records too early. Too much stuff out there. So, (a), (a), and (a)….
G: What is the one new thing you’ve learned as a musician in 2008? What are you looking forward to in 2009?
LB: Leonard Cohen’s unforgettably beautiful concert in Dublin in June taught me to be patient, age is just numbers; reminded me to be humble and grateful for the gift of song. He taught me everything I needed to know that glorious evening. I am looking forward to changing the world in 2009, one person at a time.