Meet the Essex-hailed soul maverick making waves with his unique sound.
At a first glance, you might be forgiven for thinking that Luke Burr doesn’t match up to his vocal output. But that’s the thing about the soul singer: there’s no pretence, just his self-assured ability.
Hailed from Essex, his early inspirations included the likes of Stevie Wonder, George Benson, Luther Vandross and Earth Wind & Fire, all of a sudden obvious when you hear how his effortless gritty croon dances upon his minimal compositions.
And “Heaven,” his recently-released gospel track, has no doubt sealed his position as an industry disrupter. We chatted to the artist and talked inspirations, five-year goals and his biggest pinch-me moment so far…
How did you get into music?
My dad used to play me his old soul records and for some reason I was drawn to them. No one in my family was particularly musical so it took a while for people to realise I could sing! But one day I was singing in the car, and my dad said “I think he’s pretty good”. I had a few piano lessons as a kid but got bored of what we were learning so I just started to try and learn my favourite songs. At about 13/14 I entered a talent competition at the local pub and felt out of my depth compared to the other performers who seemed so polished. I won that competition and haven’t really looked back since! Nothing else has been able to give me the high that performing gives me.
Who did you listen to growing up?
I was really into James Morrison early on and as I wanted to develop my musical ear more, John Legend was a huge influence on me.
Where do you get your main inspirations from?
I’m naturally an obsessed with making the best of myself (which is good for my career but has probably been a little unhealthy in my mind at times) and so the drive to learn and grow is constantly there. When I was younger, I couldn’t work out why the songs I was writing didn’t feel special. I thought the harder you work, the more successful you are; but creativity and music don’t work like that. I learnt that living and taking myself out of my comfort zone and experiencing life fuel my inspiration. I try to pick up on things daily that may spark inspiration. Sometimes, it doesn’t come but sometimes it does.
Where did the idea for “Heaven” come from?
I wrote Heaven when I felt in a really good place (both personally and musically). I had gone through some lows after no longer being signed and I suddenly felt confident again. “Heaven” is about wanting something for so long and feeling like you may be on the right path to getting there, but also praying that it feels as good as you dream it will. I have huge dreams of having my music connect with people all over the world but I hope it feels as good when I get there! For a long while (when I was signed), I’d been writing songs which didn’t feel like me. Looking back, I didn’t have anything of real substance to say and musically I had a strong idea of what I wanted, but writing in that environment meant we were chasing the wrong things. After this song, I felt I had the sound and really knew who I was as an artist.
How do you want people to feel when they come away from listening to your music?
I want my voice to unlock a part of people. I want people to believe it. I’ve always wanted diversity in my music too. I don’t want to be ‘the guy who makes you cry’ or ‘makes you dance’. I want each song to make people feel a different way. I want a live show of mine to take the audience on a whole journey of emotions. But I want it to feel real.
What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received on your music?
I received a message on Instagram once from a girl in Australia. She told me how her boyfriend had heard a song from me on the radio out there and he called her up so excited. I believe he’d been struggling to find motivation for what to do with his life but always had a passion for music and singing. And hearing my song, something clicked and made him call his girlfriend and say, ‘that’s what I want to do. I want to sing. And Luke Burr is the benchmark.’ For my voice to have the power to spur someone on to chase their dream is such a humbling feeling.
What festivals are you doing this year? Do you prefer recording in the studio or do you like the buzz of performing live?
I’ll be at Sundown, Great Escape, and will be confirming a few others soon too! For me, nothing comes close to the feeling that performing live gives me. Recording is fun, especially when collaborating with talented people you can learn from, but ultimately, the best stuff I make in the studio I want to perform live; to feel the reaction of people towards the song. My belief in a song is heightened by a response to it at a gig. I fear I’ll be chasing that high all my life.
I saw you’ve been splitting your time between London and LA – where do you prefer? How does the music scene differ?
London has taught me so much and I’ve had the opportunity to work with great people, but at the moment, LA really does have my heart. It’s a combination of a few things, but I feel my productivity and growth rate is quicker out there. Being away from home and out of my comfort zone definitely enhances my creativity. But there seems to be more opportunity out there. I think a big factor is people are more willing to collaborate out there. If you’ve got talent, they don’t ask questions and really do shoot for the stars. Most people in LA aren’t from there and they’ve gone there to make a dream come true; so everyone’s in a bubble wanting to collaborate and grow. I feel like London can be a little more cliquey at times and maybe a new environment has just inspired me. If I lived in LA, I might think that London was more appealing though!
What’s your five-year goal?
World domination. Joking aside, I just want to make the most of every inch of talent I have. I want to improve at every aspect of being an artist and put out music that connects to people. I want to put on shows that entertain and really touch people. As long as I’m working my hardest, trying every possible avenue that feels right, I’ve got to believe that more and more people will connect. I’d love to be able to tour the world and have fans in every continent that sell out venues to watch me perform. This industry is so full of ups and downs, I don’t know where I will be in 5 months let alone 5 years! But that unknown is the beauty of it. 8 bars of music can change your life.
You’re only 23 and have achieved so much, do you feel older than your years?
I don’t feel like I’ve achieved enough to be honest. It’s only when people say that, that I actually stop and think “you’re doing alright”. I am grateful for what I have and what I’ve done, but I’m constantly looking forward. It’s a blessing and a curse! I’d like to think that music has given me so many experiences and introduced me to all sorts of people that have made me ‘wiser’ and I think I give pretty good advice (even though I don’t take my own). But I’m still just a kid chasing a dream. I wish time would go slower.
What’s been your biggest pinch-yourself moment so far?
Last year, Rudimental called me up out of the blue and said they needed a singer for a tour. A few days later, I’m backstage at an MTV festival in Australia getting ready to walk out to 20,000 people. It was such a blur, I didn’t know I’d done any good until I watched the videos after!
What’s next for you? What are you excited about?
I have a headline show at St. Pancras Church on the 19th June (go get your tickets) that I’m really excited about.
This year, I plan on releasing music consistently and am collaborating with some very talented people too.
I’m trying to be as creative as possible and produce exciting content with every release that I hope people enjoy.