By Niall O’Driscoll
Writer and singer of songs Luka Bloom returns to De Barra’s in Clonakilty on Thursday, April 21st to launch his latest record Frugalisto. This is something of a musical homecoming for Luka and particularly the album – having been recorded by John Fitzgerald in Lettercollum Studios in Timoleague and featuring the talents of locals Bill Shanley and Paula Kingston.
‘It is early days yet with Frugalisto,’ Luka explained when we were in touch recently. ‘I’ve just released it in Australia and then I’m coming home to launch it in Ireland. So far, so good. I’m really looking forward to the Rebel launch in Clonakilty on April 21st, and I’m really hoping to be joined by some of the [West Cork] stars of Frugalisto for the gig. Every year, De Barra’s is on or close to the top of the pile of Irish music venues and rightly so. It is the right and proper thing to do, to kick off the Irish life of Frugalisto in the turf where it was born.’
The album was about 18 months from writing to recording, and Luka came to Timoleague armed with the songs. ‘It was the studio itself that brought me to West Cork. Lettercollum House, run by John Fitzgerald has possibly given me the most enjoyable studio experience of my life.’
‘The album title was inspired by my friend Fergal Smith, a top Irish surfer, who’s devoting his energy to active sustainable living in County Clare. Fergal is a natural leader, who sees where the world is going. He is an inspiration to me. “Frugalisto” is a word I use to describe his active life, not enslaved to consumption nor accumulation.’ The artwork on the album sleeve features, of all things, vegetables. ‘Fergal belongs to Moy Hill Community Garden in Moy, County Clare. He donated the vegetables for the photo shoot!’
Speaking about his songwriting process, growth, change and evolution are integral. ‘I stop writing for long periods, so that I will grow and change before writing again. This means that the initial stage of writing is terrifying, because it takes me time to find a ‘new’ groove. There is no comfort zone, and that is as it should be.’
Recalling his ‘mother at the piano in Newbridge’ when he was a child, as being the first instance he felt the power of music, it seems there was never a time when a career in music wasn’t his sole focus. ‘I wrote my first songs around 1970 at the age of 15. Never worked; never had a job; never finished a course. I guess this was my destiny, and I love it more than ever.’
Like many other musicians of his generation, Luka identifies the internet as the biggest difference for musicians now as opposed to back when he was starting out. ‘The good news is anyone can make a record. The bad news is anyone can make a record. The good news is that record companies no longer have the power to really screw you. The bad news is that record companies no longer have the money to really promote you. The good news is that you can be huge on Youtube. The bad news is that Youtube doesn’t pay your bills. The good news is that we get to sing.’
And finally – Luka Bloom’s favourite musical moment? ‘Being onstage at The Bottom Line in New York in 1993 with Lou Reed, Roseanne Cash and David Byrne wasn’t too shabby in fairness …’
• Luka Bloom will launch Frugalisto in De Barra’s of Clonakilty on Thursday, April 21st, 9pm. Contact the venue for booking details.