Dean Luke Questions What He Knows On His Debut Single

Dean Luke
Solar-powered journalist with a love for live reviews and the challenge of describing sounds with words. Always: cooking, often: thrifting, sometimes: playing the piano, rarely: social, never: late. Living abroad in Japan.

Think of an action familiar to you – something instinctive, second nature. Walking a dog, riding a bike, reading a book. Now do it backwards.

It should feel slightly awkward, or near impossible even. Right? That's exactly how Australian singer-songwriter Dean Luke composed his debut single. "I always come up with the music first, then let that inspire the lyrics. But 'What Do I Know' was interesting because it spilled out of me words first," he explains.

"It was during a six-month depressive period brought on from a break-up, and moving to a new suburb, and feeling disillusioned with my job, and not being fulfilled by the people I was hanging out with. I had no intention of writing a song – I was writing as a form of catharsis."

Dean was sitting in the back of an Uber when he jotted down the first line: 'Jung, Freud and Wittgenstein – I'd read them and reread them if I just had the time'.

"That's how the song was born, as a poem in the Notes app on my phone. Then I sat with my guitar and looked at the lyrics and came up with a chord progression to pair with them," Dean reveals. "I wrote it in reverse – fitting music to words, instead of words to music."

Those words are melancholic, detailing his existential despair and confusion. Though the nihilistic lyrics are juxtaposed with a jangly, major-toned melody.

Introspection comes quite naturally to Dean, who spends "a lot of time in his own mind". His words are painfully honest and deeply relatable – breaking any barriers between the artist and the listener.

"I'm not necessarily sharing my inner thoughts and inner feelings and inner turmoil with everybody, all the time, but music feels like a very natural platform to be more open with people," he shares.

Sound wise, 'What Do I Know' resembles '90s alternative, indie-folk favourites such as The Cure, Pavement and The Sundays. Dean is also inspired by Wilco, Father John Misty, Paul Dempsey and Yo La Tengo.

"I think there's a renaissance of indie-folk music right now, thanks to bands like Boy Genius, and artists like Phoebe Bridgers and Alex G."

Songwriting wasn't always the primary focus of Dean's musical career. Originally, his intentions lay on becoming a professional lead guitarist. "But I always wrote songs, and I always sang, and I had a growing repertoire of original music.

"Eventually, I realised that I WAS a songwriter, and there was no point trying to pretend otherwise." He received his first guitar as a 14th birthday gift from his parents. Though even his earliest memory is music-related: dancing to rock & roll records from the '50s.

"I'd come out of the bath, and towel-off in front of the heater, and then put on my pyjamas, and then I'd dance with my parents and siblings to 'Rock Around The Clock', and 'Johnny B Goode', until we were so tired that we'd just drop.

"My parents would scoop us up, and carry us into bed, and we'd sleep through the night like logs," Dean reflects. "Music was always around, and I do wonder: 'Would my life be different if my parents didn't listen to it?'"

Dean composed 'What Do I Know' just before the 2020 COVID outbreak. Now, after three years passing, Dean says its awaited release feels "surreal".

"Once the song is out and the film clip is out, I want to perform live as much as I can," he says. Songwriting is something that just feels RIGHT – maybe more right than any other musical pursuits I've had."

Dean Luke plays Tramway Hotel (Melbourne) 31 July.

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