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Luke Hemmings

Luke Hemmings

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Alice Gee | 28/03/2024

It's a tough job; I tell Luke over a call between London and LA, having to pick a cover when there are endless gorgeous possibilities. The real question is, which one do we go for? Having had what could be described as a fleeting visit to London, jam-packed with press engagements and a cover shoot in the heart of London’s music business epicentre, Kings Cross, Luke, back in LA, joins me with the approval to delve into his life for his HATC Magazine Issue 15 cover story. Being a confessed 5sos fan, it was a no-brainer that I would become a convert for Luke’s solo endeavours. Since the launch of his debut solo single "Starting Line" in 2021, he’s captured the hearts of more than just those from the 5sos band fandom. Luke’s identity has wavered from the lead singer of a boy band to, in his own right, a master of words with heart-wrenchingly open and honest lyrics and divine melodies.

Growing up in farmland in western Sydney, Luke is used to the suburbs, even now when calling LA his home. Being brought up in a working-class family, he attributes much of this to his musical influences and idols, a culture of midnight oil over real Aussie punk bands like INXS at the core. “One of the first things I heard was loud guitars. Rock music. That's where it kicked off musically for me”. Having watched his two older brothers learn instruments for varying amounts of time, it was almost a given that Luke would immerse himself in guitars that were left lying around. Obsessed by the age of ten, Luke maintains it all began hiding in his bedroom as a teen for years, emulating his idols Slash and Angus Young.

Curious about what came first, the chicken or the egg, instruments or writing, Luke explains how playing guitar felt like his thing before even starting to sing or write. “It’s always been cool to me to be able to hear a song and then be able to learn it and play it.” An outlet, I wonder? “For sure”, Luke responds. “I spent a lot of time in my room making a lot of noise,” as he jokes about how it’s possibly frustrating and annoying for his parents. “It then expanded into learning lyrics and figuring out how to sing.”

Having released his debut album in what could easily be described as extenuating circumstances during the COVID pandemic, having so much time at home had a rather important role in falling into his solo path and the experiment it first presented as. “I was trying to figure out how far I could push myself with writing and musically pulling in new musical influences. I fell in love with that process more than I thought”. With the music turning into the entirety of his debut, Luke suddenly had a choice in where he spent his time being grounded, and the band had just put out an album. “It gave me a creative outlet to get these stories out and try and expand my knowledge.”

mattyvogel_lead-press-photo .jpeg
mattyvogel_lead-press-photo .jpeg

With the release of his new single "Shakes", I am curious to ask how his debut inspired the music he finds himself writing today and the music he wants to put out into the world. “I wanted to try and make something sonically on my own. I don’t know what I expected, but I found it incredibly rewarding and fun.” Having got what, he calls an experiment out the way within his first album, it’s all about moving forward for Luke. “With these new songs, I wanted to take my favourite parts of the first album and expand on them.” It feels a bit more like a whole project and refined, he explains, “I think as an artist, the hope is to move forward and get closer to the heart of what you want to say, and I think I've done that.”

Having experienced a career rollercoaster from those green teenage years to where he finds himself now, I wonder whether he felt anxiety moving into a space where he holds full autonomy over his work and wondered how it would be received. “If I’m honest, I always self-doubt myself and what I can do.” I wonder whether it comes down to the fear of the fans or his expectations that formed the exhausting dialogue of self-doubt. “I struggle with perfectionism. Knowing internally how much effort it took to get the first album out, I knew it would be a big personal endeavour to try and do it again.”

Knowing in his own words that it would take time to get the music to where he wanted it to be, Luke explains the waiting process for the right songs to come along, “Which "Shakes" was. We (Sammy, who worked with me on the first album) went to New York to write many songs. "Shakes" is one of the first ones to come out. It was liberating, the chorus in particular. It held all the emotion and feelings I had been trying to express.” Writing "Shakes" from hotel rooms, planes, and everywhere in between the sun has had its lasting effect on the track as I tell Luke how my first impressions of the track centred around the sun and those first moments when you wake up from a haze. “I love hearing how people can attach their own stories to it.” In talking for a moment about our own experiences and how they attach to the music we listen to, I wonder how the unpredictability of Luke’s feelings plays a part in the writing and the inevitable processing of moments that can often feel overwhelming.

“Writing helps me process uncertainties in life. I think it's funny because I'm often writing in a way where it usually comes out as a word vomit, a stream of consciousness.” I ask Luke if he finds himself playing catch-up when something strikes. “Sometimes when you're writing, you don't even know what it's about until you step back, and it's finished.” In pinpointing precisely what he’s looking to say with the subconscious playing such a role, Luke explains, “Your own emotions and mental state is such a difficult thing to overcome. It’s like you’re at war with yourself. It helps me a lot with feeling out of control.” In wanting to emulate both sonically and musically his experiences of overcoming challenges with his mental health in a way others can resonate with, Luke found inspiration from feeling hyper-emotional in the most dynamic way possible.

“I think I've arrived from a place of honesty, unlike what I believe in. It's a very selfish way to write. And for people to resonate with it, attach their own stories, and find themselves in the songs feels incredibly validating.” With the first album coming out in the middle of COVID and shows not being something immediately on the horizon, Luke opens up about the apprehension behind playing his first show. “I’ve done so many shows with the band from such a young age that playing something on your own with your songs was incredibly nerve-racking. It felt intimate in ways I didn’t realise. It helped a lot to open my eyes and see the songs mean something to many people because you get lost in your own world for a little bit.”

mattyvogel_lead-press-photo .jpeg
mattyvogel_lead-press-photo .jpeg

With others being able to enjoy being lost in the music and his energy being 100% in perfecting his art, I emphasise what Luke’s priority is regarding himself and staying grounded. “That's a good question. Apart from the main things like exercise and trying to be healthy in what you do with your body physically, I think as I've gotten older. Disconnecting from the outside world helps me—turning off my phones and stepping outside. That helps me stay grounded. Over the years, there have been many cities and shows, and it's all very fast-paced. You're on your phone in a new city, and your whole landscape constantly changes and moves. So, I find putting away my phone for a few hours nice. Having nothing in the schedule was nice because everything's been so scheduled for many years.”

And in terms of Joy, I'm curious about those moments we often forget, that make our hearts feel like they’re going to burst. “For me, it’s remembering when I’m listening to something and how it moves me as much as I'm trying to move people in what I create.” Looking closer to home on what Luke explains on a domestic level, cooking with his wife and immersing himself in those everyday little moments we often lose, forget, or neglect is something he wants to savour and enjoy. It’s a stability and focus he’s all in.

Boy, the new EP from Luke, is out 26 April

Luke is set for shows in the UK, Europe and North America for his ‘Nostalgia For A Time That Never Existed’ tour later this year

Words Alice Gee
Creative Alice Gee, Nat Michele
Photography Nat Michele
Styling Chloe Oldridge
MUA & Hair Stylist Sandra Hahnel
Styling Assistants Amelia Connolly, Olivia White,
Georgina Armitage

Jeans, Gant. Jacket, Italian Vintage Sylk. Necklaces, North Cross. Rings, Rat Betty and Pyrrha.
Hair & MUA, Augustinus BAder, Glossier, Caia Cosmetics, Quai and GHD. Suit, Gianni Versace. Vest, Holzweiler. Shoes, Dr Martens. Jewellery, Capsule 11.

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