LUKE MULHOLLAND is a rare young talent. At age 19, he could easily be considered at once a guitar virtuoso, a prolific songwriter, and a vocalist blessed with a voice that sounds wise beyond his years. His music effortlessly blends the blues, rock and pop together with a phenomenal guitar style that has earned him the admiration of fans and fellow musicians alike.
After receiving his first classical guitar at age 10, Luke quickly progressed from playing “little classical ditties” to “playing power chords” in the vein of bands like Blink-182 and Limp Bizkit, to finally trying to master the guitar technique of music from his parents’ generation, such as Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. “I realized there was more guitar talent from that music than there was from current music,” Luke says. “So, I started learning how to solo and got into oldies stuff, and it just blossomed from there.”
By 13, Luke was writing songs and performing locally in Toronto, Canada. His father took him to his first open-mic – “I think I did a cover of [J.J. Cale’s] “Cocaine,” he remembers – and soon after, Luke was sneaking out of his house in the middle of the night to play only a couple songs at various open-mics before stealing back home in the wee hours of the morning, his parents none the wiser. Luke explains, “Once my father introduced me to playing live, I got addicted to it. It was the most fun I’d ever had.” Meanwhile, Luke was busy at work holed up in his bedroom, writing and recording his debut album Road Home by himself on a sixteen-track digital workstation, handling all guitar, bass, drum programming and vocal duties. On first listen to a playback, his father almost didn’t believe that the music was Luke’s.
Six years, three more albums and countless gigs later, it’s incredible to consider what this guitar whiz kid has achieved. After winning a vote-based competition on local radio station Q107 for track “Baby Stay With Me,” he opened for Bon Jovi in Toronto, playing to a crowd of 18,000 and receiving accolades from Richie Sambora for that night’s performance. He performed to a crowd of 10,000 people at 2007’s Burlington Rib Festival. He has also opened for Loverboy, late guitar legend Jeff Healey, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Blue Oyster Cult, Dickey Betts and Mountain – not to mention his headlining shows in the US and Canada. “At this point, I’d like to play live as much as possible,” says Luke. “And the shows are just getting better and better.”
Luke’s latest record, Further, represents for him “a breakthrough in all aspects of the music…the lyrics are getting more poetic, the music has more freedom and jamming, and everything else in my life is expanding, too.” The album was recorded in December 2007 in Toronto, and found Mulholland taking a more active role in the production: “I think every artist should be involved with production, or should at least have a say, because it’s their music.
I was in there the entire time with the producer, talking about how it should sound. It finally came out how I wanted it to – and hopefully that will continue.” The young artist couldn’t be more pleased with the result, which involves extended jams and psychedelic keyboard work, declaring it “the album I’m most proud of.”
The album features the single “Drowning.” The song is a jubilantly bouyant pop tune, highlighted by acoustic guitars and sly blues guitar leads underneath Mulholland’s confidently laid-back vocal. According to the artist, the song deals with “love in its most innocent form,” detailing his relationship with a girl who has been, in Luke’s words, “the best friend I’ve ever had….one who’s always been there for me and always had the right things to say.” As Mulholland sings in his inimitably gruff – yet tuneful – style, “Good friends have come and good friends have gone/I never knew what a true friend was until you came along.”
The album’s title track, “Further,” simmers with a slow Delta groove, with Mulholland masterfully exploring lower registers on his guitar. The lyrics play upon a cryptic beckoning with potentially dark undertones, as the verse refrains, “Take my hand, child/if you want to be free.” Luke explains that the song’s theme relates to his feelings about the album as a whole: “It’s all about expanding one’s mind, and exploring new territory.”
With the organ-augmented waltz, “The Last Verse,” Luke laments the disappearance of the classic rock he fell in love with years ago: “The song is about remembering a time when music was pure and true to the heart. In the lyrics, I used the metaphor of a young girl who died before her time – that’s really what the loss of that music seems like.” Elsewhere, the singer/songwriter expands on themes of unrequited love, as in “My Angel,” a bright, swaggering bluesy tune, imbued with a promise to always be there if needed – “When you’re all alone and cold/And there’s no one else to hold/I’m gonna come for you,” sings Luke.
Concurrent with his burgeoning musical career, Luke is attending the world-renown Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Luke says his attending Berklee has been “the best thing I’ve ever done….I do music for homework now, which is great!” According to Mulholland, Berklee can only help him on his musical path: “I’ve never been so immersed in music in all my life, and I’ve been truly freed up to work on my guitar playing. Going to Berklee has made me listen to the whole band; I’m listening to every instrument now, not just the guitar.”
Luke Mulholland is touring the United States alongside classic rock legends, and preparing material for a follow-up to Further, which he cheekily suggests could be called Even Further. All signs point to a long, fruitful career for this young prodigy. “I’m surprised and happy with all the work I’ve done,” he says, “but I still have a long way to go. I can’t possibly envision doing anything else.”