Luke James perseveres with “Brooklyn Love”Written by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For singer-songwriter Luke James, the last five years may as well have been a Hollywood script.
A girl and a dream led the Bowling Green native to pack his bags and head for the bright lights of New York City roughly five years ago. And while James’ tale didn’t end the way a predictable Hollywood film may have — him getting the girl and the major label deal — his time in the Big Apple and the path he’s been on since have created a different script with an exciting new beginning.
After returning to Northwest Ohio two years ago, James took the culmination of his experiences and poured them into his debut album, “Brooklyn Love,” released in December. He’s since played the album’s songs live at numerous regional bars and venues and will continue to do so in 2013, including another hometown gig at Howard’s Club H on Jan 18.
“It’s been a great experience so far,” James said. “And I’m just really happy that I finally got an album done, and I’m really happy with how the album turned out.”
James, whose real name is Luke Shaffer, has been playing the guitar for nearly a decade.
“I didn’t even listen to music really in high school, and then I had gotten a guitar for Christmas along with my brothers,” the 27-year-old said. “And my younger brother got better than me right away, but I wasn’t, like, motivated to play it at all. And then once I saw him being able to play songs and strum and stuff, I’m like, ‘He’s my younger brother. I’ve got to be better than that!’
“So I picked up the guitar and I started playing it, and I hope have since surpassed him.”
Once James got the itch, music became his vision. Not long after graduating from Bowling Green State University he moved to New York, where he was able to land a job as a waiter while he pursued his dream. However, achieving that dream wasn’t so glamorous.
“All your friends that you just made friends with because you work at a restaurant come and they pay $10 to get in for 45 minutes, and then I only get paid if there’s more than 10 people that come,” James said of playing shows. “And then I just get paid for every person after that. So the most money I think I ever made at a show in New York was, like, $20 or $25.”
In the midst of that grind was a taste of stardom. James has auditioned for “American Idol” three times, twice making it to Hollywood in seasons nine and 10.
That experience, though, is not one he enjoys talking about.
“When you make it so far and you feel good about it, but then they don’t show you on TV at all, it’s kind of like, ‘What was the point of that entire thing?’” James said.
James had hoped “American Idol” would at least show some footage they shot of him at the restaurant he worked so he could get some exposure, but it never aired.
“I didn’t have, like, a baby or one leg or something like that, so I didn’t get the air time that they want to show people,” James said. “They want to show people that have gone through tragedy, and I was just a small-town guy that moved to the big city and liked to sing.”
James didn’t let that experience sour his dream. He recorded the EP “Fresh” while still living in New York City, then made it his goal last year to put out a full-length.
Thanks to Kickstarter, an online fundraising tool for creative projects, and believers in his craft, James was able to raise more than $4,000 to help make “Brooklyn Love” possible.
“There’s been a number of things that have happened over the years that have helped me to continue, like random people I don’t know giving me motivation and encouraging me to just continue on playing music,” James
said. “And it’s always in the lowest times that that happens.”
Recorded at Little Elephant Recording in Rossford with Rob Courtney and Brian Gross-Bias, James said the environment they provided was a big factor in why the record turned out the way it did.
“They’re really cool, really easy to work with,” James said. “I had a blast doing it. We had booked out, like, a week-and-a-half, two weeks, and then I realized I was doing 18 songs and it turned into two-and-a-half months, something like that. So it took a lot longer than I expected, but I’m really, really happy with the final product.”
“Brooklyn Love” is an album that not only displays James’ chops and musical potential as a singer-songwriter in the pop/folk vein, but also showcases his ability to tell a story.
As for his own story, there are still
plenty of empty pages and new chapters to be written.
On Jan. 18, James will headline a show that also features Cape Canyon at Howard’s Club H, 210 N. Main St. in Bowling Green. James will be joined by his band Luke James & The Thieves, featuring Mark Williams (drums) and Rory Taylor (bass). The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5. For more information, visit lukejameslive.com.