While states are slowly opening up following the Lockdown, people are being advised to continue social distancing. With strict limitations on live music venues, artists are missing out on the live performance experience. We checked in with Luke Carlos O’Reilly to see what he’s up to, how he’s adapting and to get his recommendations on music to raise the spirit.
How have you and your family been adapting to the “stay at home” order and the current ease on some restrictions?
My family and I have been making many necessary adjustments due to quarantine, social distancing and COVID-19. As is the case with most other Americans, we have come up with a very different daily schedule that includes; Cooking several times a day, family work outs such as biking and walks, reading time, family time, and isolation time where everyone has their own space. The girls finished school online, which was a fairly easy workload for them, whereas my fiancé put in more work than usual to finish her teaching for the school year.
How have you personally been spending your time?
Due to the many changes we have been forced to make in our lives, my daily routine has also changed drastically. On a positive note, I now have more time to commit to practicing and writing music. Since my days aren’t filled with gigs, rehearsals, recording sessions and driving to and from the fore mentioned events, I find myself at the keyboard more often than normal. Unfortunately, I have not laid my hands upon an actual piano in nearly 4 months, as I do not own one. A keyboard is a much different instrument for a trained pianist. In addition to music, I find myself cooking more often, and forcing myself to be physically active. Sitting in the house for hours on end isn’t good for your mind, body or spirit.
What is the “silver lining” you’ve experienced from this situation?
The Silver Lining has definitely been the practice time as well as the time with family. Never have I ever had so much time to devote to relaxing and enjoying the company of those who live under the same roof. It’s surely a blessing.
What do you miss most about performing?
I miss performing terribly. I miss playing music with other musicians, and also the camaraderie and fellowship that happens when sharing a stage. I am very close to many of the musicians that I work with, so I miss just being around people that I care about.
You recently received a grant from the Painted Bride in support of your work on a Black Lives Matter musical suite. You had been working on this piece for months in advance of the death of George Floyd and the current worldwide street protests. When you embarked on the Black Lives Matter suite, did you have a particular goal in mind as an artist?
I’ve been working on my Black Lives Matter Suite for almost 3 years now. It’s the most important piece of work that I have composed to date. Years ago, I stepped back and took a look at the albums I had recorded and the projects that I had been a part of up to that point. Although I was proud of the work that I had done and the music I had made, I knew that I wanted to do something that meant more. Not just a fun remake of a song I like, or new composition with a clever melody. Jazz, the genre of music that most influences me and my writing, has a long and strong history of artists that reflect the times and demonstrates the human struggle in their music. In the spirit of Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, John Coltrane and the thousands of other musicians that came before me, Black Lives Matter is my next offering to the world and collection of stories and experiences of being black in America today. With all of the discrimination, hatred, death, abuse and injustice that we are concerning ourselves with today, unfortunately there is an endless supply of inspiration in order to create new music for this suite. I hope that it helps aid in the fight against racism and police brutality.
How has the current situation impacted on your work on the project?
Quarantine during COVID-19 has negatively impacted millions of people, myself included. However, I must say, it has been the best thing that could have happened for my Black Lives Matter Suite. I’ve had nearly unlimited time to revamp and improve upon songs that I have already written as well as devote time to new compositions. I have 4 new songs that I have added to the suite from the past few months, all thanks to the extra free time I’ve been granted.
Can you recommend some songs for your Mole Street Artists Spotify Playlist by any artist in any style that people should listen to now? Tell us a little about each track and why you chose it?
‘Am I Black Enough for You’ Billy Paul – Great under appreciated Philadelphia artist I had the pleasure of touring with for several years. He lost much of his fan base and popularity due to this song that was considered too political for Mr. ‘Me and Mrs. Jones’.
‘Them that Got’ Maceo Parker – One of my favorite alto saxophonists of all time! He was a long-time member of James Brown’s band. I started playing saxophone when I was 11 years old because of his music.
‘In Time’ Sly and The Family Stone – This is one of my favorite funk and soul bands of all time. This track is about as funky as it gets. The lyrics are worth listening to as well.
‘Jesus Children of America’ Stevie Wonder – My favorite artist/songwriter, Mr. Stevie Wonder! This song is a somewhat forgotten gem in his immense catalogue. Although not necessarily a ‘jazz’ artist, his name should be included with those of Nina Simone, John Coltrane and the numerous other artists that wrote, performed and recorded music that was very pertinent at the time, and still valid today.
‘Compared to What’ Roberta Flack – Roberta Flack is an amazing artist that I have not fully explored. This is a cover of a great Eddie Harris/Les McCann song that I’ve always loved and is a jazz staple.
‘Inspiration Information’ Shuggie Otis – Shuggie, who is still alive but has not been performing much recently, was a guitar prodigy in his day. This is one of his most well-known songs, and I personally think it’s his best.)
‘Wish I Knew How It Felt To Be Free’ Nina Simone – Nina was an AMAZING artist and one of the most active leaders in jazz during the civil rights movement. This is her rendition of the classic Dr. Billy Taylor composition. The title of the song and the lyrics say it all.
‘We’re a Winner’ Curtis Mayfield – Curtis was another artist whose music was very much for the empowerment of his people and this song is as empowering as one can be. His music though very thoughtful and insightful was still extremely musical and always soulful.
‘Give Me Some Skin’ James Brown – Although James Brown was always funky and his music danceable, he too was very active and vocal about black empowerment and black love. Where songs like ‘Soul Power’ & ‘I’m Black & I’m Proud’ are better known, ‘Give Me Some Skin’ is just as funky and a fun lesser known track.
‘Trouble Man’ Marvin Gaye – Marvin, although a king of croon and sensual soul, was EXTREMELY socially active during the 60s and 70s. His songs talked about war, racism, acceptance, government, poverty; all topics that still remain quite relevant today. ‘Trouble Man’ is the black man’s blues, and a great track as well.