Alex Luke: Find something to express how you feel in a healthy way
By Sonia Hadj Said
Photographs by Olivia McDermott
While we can agree that all creative millennials are pretty much screwed, there is no denying that the younger ones – also known as generation Z (starting at 1995, but “experts” keep arguing about that one) – have their shit together. Unlike gen Y before them, they already know the struggles of internships and unpaid work experience, university not being enough, and the importance of networking through social media and self-promoting. It should be no surprise then, that Alex Luke, a Manchester-based musician and songwriter already has some pretty good advice to share, despite only turning 22 this July.
“Manchester is a great city, especially music-wise, it's got a lot of heritage,” Alex says. “I don’t feel like I fit into the traditional Manchester style, but there is this Northern Soul type of vibe as well, and I could fit into that type of genre.” While some people still question whether high university fees are worth it, he believes that studying songwriting at Manchester's music college, BIMM, took him to greater heights: “it allowed me to develop as a writer and an artist, there's lots of different people, drummers, bass players, a lot of writers there, so you can cooperate with people. It’s good to be around all these creatives and like-minded people, it pushes you.” Not that Alex needs a push. He's been so busy studying and doing gigs all over Manchester with endless optimism and patience, one would think he’s an industry old-timer.
Alex has simple rules when it comes to representing himself as an artist: “just don't be a dick,” he says, laughing through the phone. “You have to be nice to people. A few teachers taught me that.” He also knows that “networking is the most important thing. Approaching the managers, the promoters of the venues, seeing if they're looking for any support acts…”, and reassures that “your confidence increases the more you do it.” He's been doing it so much, that his first official release 'Miss You in the Morning' earned him a headline at Jimmy's in Manchester on 27 May this year.
"Just don't be a dick.You have to be nice to people."
A smooth and dreamy single, it talks about missing someone who's not around anymore, and about how the only way to see them again is in one's dreams. It can be interpreted in many ways, but its roots are much deeper and darker than the sound might suggest. Written by Alex at the end of 2015, this was an unimaginably difficult time in his life. “My brother passed away when he was 21, so the same age I am now.” Being only 18 at the time, Alex picked himself up and poured all of these emotions into his music: “grief and loss and loathing, and these happy times, and these sad times. I remember I'd go to sleep and dream of my brother and I'd wake up and remember, 'oh no, what's happened?'”
Alex takes a lot of his inspiration from Amy Winehouse and her “honesty about love, affairs and anything in general.” Now, with 'Miss You in the Morning', he's on a mission to do the same with his music. “I realized, before something tragic happens to your family like that you don't think about these things much, but then there are so many people in the world with things like this going on.” The song is not the only memento, as Alex has decided to use his brother's middle name – Luke in his art. “It allows him to live through my music. I think my brother would've liked that,” he says.
To know Alex Luke's background and hear his cheery voice on the phone would make anyone feel like anything is possible and the best way to get through something is to embrace it, learn from it and then keep on growing. “I was lucky because I had music to turn to,” he says, but to see this kind of light while going through a heart-breaking experience is a testimony to how strong he is. How does he do it? “It's important to find something to express how you feel in a healthy way,” Alex explains. When asked about the future and university stress, he simply says: “Hopefully I'll be okay.”