Though music isn’t a new love for Luke Hendrickson, pursuing a career in music still is.
Three years after taking the leap, Hendrickson now has two releases under his belt. His most recent, One Night at the Crystal Lounge, released in February, serves as his first fully-produced project, and also introduces him as a reliable source for honky tonking, lyric and steel-driven tunes.
We chatted with Hendrickson about his diverse influences, many of the songs on One Night at the Crystal Lounge and what he hopes listeners take away from it, his plans for new music and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your early musical influences who had an impact on your sound?
Luke Hendrickson: The turntable was constantly spinning my entire childhood; everything from the Grateful Dead to Jethro Tull to old blues to a little Johnny Paycheck.
PC: At what point did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in music?
LH: It was three years ago, the winter of 17/18. A bunch of personal stuff happened that made me realize I and my family were much happier when I was playing music instead of punching a clock.
PC: You got your start in music as a bassist in a metal band. Can you talk about making the transition to country music and what drew you to the genre?
LH: There was definitely an overlap. When that band would get done with rehearsal, I would stay behind at the drummer’s house and sing old country songs while he played acoustic. I had been heavily into listening to classic country for quite a bit at that time, so when he and I realized we had that common interest, it all kinda fell into place.
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release solo music for the first time with your debut EP Comfort Food in 2018?
LH: I was overflowing with excitement and anticipation at that time. Not necessarily because of that recording, but because it marked a big turning point for me personally. I had started gigging very regularly, and that recording was what I could do at the time to sell at shows and show a little bit of what I was making.
PC: “Good With a Gun” was released in 2019, and served as the lead single of your debut full-length album One Night at the Crystal Lounge. What went into the decision to release that song first from the record. What has the response since its release meant to you?
LH: I had commissioned a good friend to draw some artwork that coincided with some of my songs. The drawing she came up with for “Good With a Gun” just floored me. It put a visual to an already pretty pointed story. After that, it made sense to showcase the song ahead of the album release.
PC: “One Night at the Crystal Lounge” is one of our favorite songs on its album. Why did you decide to make that song the title track of the record?
LH: I’ve secretly been waiting for someone to ask this question.
I guess the main reason is because the one night I actually spent at the Crystal Lounge was ultimately a big part of my turning point from weekend gigging to a more career-minded approach.
I was on my first small out of state tour with a good friend, really drunk and eating mushrooms in a very loud and colorful place. We discussed plans and really soaked it all in. I even talked with my mom on the phone while I was there. It was a pretty intense and important night for me.
PC: What went into the decision to cut “Locomotive Breath,” originally recorded by Jethro Tull, and include it on One Night at the Crystal Lounge?
LH: My explanation has been that my country record needed a train song, and since I don’t have any history with trains, I’d just take a song that already exists. That seems to work well enough. Plus, Jethro Tull is one of my all-time favorite bands.
PC: “If You Think I’m Crazy” is the closing track on One Night at the Crystal Lounge, and talks about the struggles of artistry. Can you talk about the inspiration behind the song?
LH: It’s probably basically the same story as anyone else who is pursuing something so personally fulfilling, but in doing so, is forced to be apart from their loved ones. It’s always bittersweet.
PC: Throughout One Night at the Crystal Lounge, you tap into honky tonk, outlaw country, and at times, rock and roll sounds. Is it at all important for you to showcase that level of sonic diversity and pay homage to those influences?
LH: It wasn’t a conscious thing. Those songs would likely have a different feel if I had worked with other musicians or just kept it stripped down like the first EP. It’s a snapshot of the time it was recorded.
PC: Do you have a favorite song on One Night at the Crystal Lounge? If so, why is it so special to you?
LH: I tend to go back and forth between “Good With a Gun” and “If You Think I’m Crazy.”
“Gun” because I think it tapped into an emotion that I think I had previously had much difficulty with, also because I’ve gotten some really heartfelt feedback about it from listeners.
“Crazy” because it’s just so different from the rest. I tend to really like “epic” songs, for lack of a better word, with long intros and twists and turns. Plus, that guitar solo from my pal John Nietz is just ridiculous.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from One Night at the Crystal Lounge after listening all the way through?
LH: I just hope they feel enough from it that they want to listen to again and again.
PC: 2020 has altered most of the plans of artists so far. Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
LH: My wife and daughters and I just got our Christmas tree up, so making sure the kids have a great holiday experience is my focus for now, but I do have some songs in the works.
PC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
LH: A million thanks to Justin and Pro Country. Happy holidays, have a great new year and happy jamming. Peace! You can find my album and other merch at lukehendrickson.bandcamp.com.
*Luke’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*