Luke set for folk stardom

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Midhurst can catch a glimpse of one of the fastest-rising stars of the folk circuit when Luke Jackson plays The Royal Oak, Oaklands Lane on February 22 (01730 817478).

The 18-year-old singer-songwriter from Kent has already achieved a double which is believed to be unique – nominated for both the Young Folk Award and the Horizon Award at the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

He was pipped at the post for both, but clearly made a big impression on the judges – just as he has on all his audiences so far.

One way or another, it’s been a remarkable year, one which started when he signed to Welsh singer songwriter Martyn Joseph’s Pipe Records label, for the release of his debut album which came out last August.

“It has been really exciting,” Luke said. “I have known Martyn since I was 14. I went to see him in Maidstone, and I was just blown away by his set. It was not long after that that I did an opening set for him. A woman that puts on gigs knew that I sang, and through that, I did an opening set for Martyn when I was about 15.

“He has been great. He is really supportive,” says Luke, who has gone on to work with Show of Hand’s Steve Knightley, putting him in the fortunate position of having two of the best mentors in the business.

“Early last year, Martyn said ‘Do you want to be signed to this label? We will put out your debut album and you can come out on tour.’ I just went to his studio in Cardiff and did an 11-track album. The way I sound live, just me and my guitar, is the way that I sound on the album. That’s what we wanted to capture.

“The music is difficult to describe. There are a lot of cross-overs. It has got a folk feel. I grew up listening to Richard Thompson and John Hiatt. But I also listen to so many different genres. I like listening to modern folk like Mumford & Sons, and that all rubs off.

“And I also grew up listening to the way songs were written by people like Martyn Joseph and Steve Knightley. A lot of different genres have melted into one. It’s a rootsy sound, just me and my guitar.”

While studying at Canterbury College, Luke was in a band, though with the guys coming from different corners of Kent, they didn’t get to gig much: “But that was music in a different style. It was more up-tempo indie music that we were doing.”

The direction has changed since.

“I do all my own material, but at gigs I usually slip in a couple of covers, one by Martyn Joseph, one by Steve Knightley, into my sets. But I must have been writing my own stuff since I was about 13. I started learning guitar when I was ten or 11. For a year, I was learning electric guitar. I wanted to learn the solos, but you get bored of that in the end, and I moved back to acoustic guitar. I listened to a lot of rock when I was about 13, but it seemed weird to be playing that on my own. I don’t know what it is about the acoustic guitar, but it’s what I wanted to go back to.”

Last year, Luke performed live on Good Morning Sunday and was interviewed by former presenter Aled Jones. He has also appeared on BBC South East TV and received national airplay from DJs including Bob Harris and Mike Harding.

More Than Boys, produced by Martyn Joseph, has been receiving plaudits from critics and airplay on numerous radio stations including BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio Wales and was named 2012’s Debut Album of the Year in the annual awards run by the online music magazine FATEA.