It was a couple of months ago that I was watching videos on youtube for Leonard Cohen, possibly Chelsea Hotel No. 2 and after the song played another version of the song began to play. It was by a man with an accoustic guitar putting his unique interpretation on the song. I dived deeper watching several of his cover songs while with my wife for a couple of hours. He wasn’t just covering folk songs. He had covers of Neutral Milk Hotel, even Slipknot, Death Cab For Cutie, Wilco, the Lumineers & more. I wondered why isn’t this guy more known. He had to have been in bands when he was younger. He has a youtube channel, just him, his guitar, his stories & the most dynamic find of all. He has wonderful original songs. He comes across very humble. He’s done hundreds of cover songs & originals for years & just loves playing music. He’s not looking for fame and money it seems. He’s doing this out of the love of making music.
I would just ask how long you’ve been working on your own songs & how do you decide which songs to cover? Frank: I have been writing songs ever since I picked up a guitar, nothing any good, I still don’t think they are that great now but that’s just me , most of the covers I do are requests, I would try anything if asked ,i still do them now but the list exceeds 1500 , so the chances are getting slimmer for those that request them , I was told I should do a Patreon account and people pay for them ,but that would then seem too much like work and i also can’t cover everything ,I’d get stressed out too much ,it’s also not about the money for me I just like what I do right now.
1. Do you enjoy writing songs more than covers? What are some of the songs you’re most proud of? Frank: I think i like writing my own songs because even if they are vague I know the reason I wrote it , I am not good enough a musician to play a cover exact that is why I simplify them , I have always said don’t let your inability stop you from what you enjoy ,you can only get better,
Who have been your biggest influences, or musically who are some of your favorites? Frank: Basically all the older types like Dylan, James Taylor Ralph McTell , it goes on , I like almost anything acoustic ,but i also like a good song no matter what genre .
Does it take you very long to write a song, and do you enjoy the process or feel hurried to get it done? Frank: Some songs take a few days on and off but they are mostly the ones where I came up with a melody first then try to put words to, others can take as little as 20 minutes for the lyrics as they seem to write themselves , then I just put a basic tune on them , it’s the ones that are started and finished in less than an hour that seem to go down the best.
I have only began listening to your stuff about a month ago, so I haven’t seen every video. Whereabouts in the UK do you live? I have many great poet contributors to my poetry endeavors. It is refreshing to know it still seems relevant unlike in the U.S. as much the arts, the poetry, the music. Frank: I live in a town called Huntingdon ,about 12 miles from Cambridge.
Have you played in any bands while younger? Frank: I have never played in a band and i haver never played live anywhere , I have no desire to either ,I’m not a stage performer I dread the thought , sitting at home with a cat and dog as my audience is one thing ,standing up in front of others is another ball game, I just mess around writing or covering a song post it on you tube and set it free , I also have no desire to record them in a studio despite the requests to, I think I’m a what you see is what you get person.
Do you enjoy poetry or particular writers or authors? I don’t mind listening to the occasional poem but I’m a terrible reader, I struggle to read a book because my mind wanders and before i know it I’ve forgotten what I’ve just read ,thank God for audio books , I can put on headphones and be in another world.
How were you encouraged to try out the youtube process, and did you use any other internet avenues prior to youtube? Frank: I put some very old songs on Soundcloud to begin with , then one day just to see how easy it was I posted a song on you tube ,easier than I thought so kept on posting , I certainly didn’t plan on the reaction i seem to be getting, I haven’t pushed myself in any way at all , it was supposed to be a bit of fun with one or two subscribers.
What have been some of your other hobbies growing up? Frank: I honestly don’t think i had any other hobbies ,I used to work almost every hour i could and the only thing I did in my spare time would have been play the guitar for an hour or two.
Have you done much traveling and where are some of your favorite places you’ve visited? Frank: I have done very little travelling abroad ,a few times to Euro Disney with the family , and a visit to Cyprus to see my daughter ,but I do travel all over the UK I like to go to places then leave the main routes and discover places myself.
Just performing songs my way ,nothing too serious, we can’t all be polished professionals but that shouldn’t be a reason not to sing. if you really want to donate then here is a PayPal link ,i’m quite happy either way . https://paypal.me/pools/c/8uPISeE6aB
1) Please describe your latest book, what about your book will intrigue the readers the most, and what is the theme, mood? Or If you have a blog or project please describe the concept of your project, blog, website
I’m currently working on the second series of ‘Penny Dreadfuls from the Moth Sanctuary’ – a series of free, short horror audiobooks I’m producing with my partner, Andrew Bate, and his independent theatre company, Moth Sanctuary Productions.
When lockdown hit the UK in March 2020 and production halted on the stage show we were producing, we decided to put my radio expertise, his music composition skills and our home studio set up to use and create some audiobooks. We started out by recording some lockdown themed classics, producing a version of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Masque of the Red Death’ and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.’
Inspired by classic Penny Dreadfuls, we then decided to create some of our own, original short horror stories, which grew into a series of ten episodes all written, recorded and produced by Andrew and I in our living room. I wrote four of the ten stories – ‘The Neighbours’ is about a woman who is driven to insanity after moving in above a mortuary; ‘The White Haired Devil’ is about a mysterious fortune teller with dark, hidden intentions; ‘Midnight Visits’ follows a young boy terrorised by a figure in the night; and ‘The Token’ is the story of an archivist who uncovers a sinister secret about the foundling hospital she is researching, inspired by a production of ‘Coram Boy’ which I starred in at Nottingham Playhouse in 2019. I also wrote an exclusive bonus episode for Thornhill Theatre Space called ‘Alice’s Shadow’ about a dark presence lurking in her room at night.
We have just started writing series two with three stories already in the making, so we hope to bring to listeners for free later in 2021.
2) How old were you when you first have become serious about your writing, do you feel your work is always adapting?
I wrote poems and songs a lot when I was a teenager, but I stopped when I was around 15 and didn’t seriously pick it up again until my late twenties. I decided to do a Masters degree in professional writing when I was 28, during which I developed a real passion for the short story format. I started writing and publishing poetry at 30.
At first, writing poetry was a therapeutic way to process my difficult emotions and work through some of the things I was experiencing at the time, so everything was quite raw and intense. Nowadays I find my poetry writing comes in waves, but my style is certainly always adapting as I try to refine my craft, while still staying true to the emotion that inspires it.
Working in the audiobook format has really helped me refine my short story writing too. I spent 10 years working in radio before I moved into publishing, so writing for the spoken word is something I am fairly adept at but I had never applied this skill to my own personal projects. Using the time I had during the first UK lockdown, I was able to dedicate myself to writing, producing five new short stories specifically for the Penny Dreadfuls from the Moth Sanctuary series, and working with artistic director Andrew Bate to bring the stories to life with his incredible voice acting and scoring.
3) What authors, poets, musicians have helped shape your work, or who do you find yourself being drawn to the most?
I find Nick Cave a source of constant inspiration, both for his staggering creativity, but also for his work ethic. I was lucky enough to see Nick Cave in Conversation in 2019, where he described how he didn’t just sit around and wait for inspiration to take over, but actively went to work at songwriting, seeing it the same way most people would see a traditional job. The idea that creativity and artistic inclination isn’t a gift bestowed on you from above, but is something that takes grit, determination and work is something that motivates me to keep creating, even when it feels fruitless. Style-wise, I find Florence Welch a big inspiration too, especially for songwriting, as I admire her rich, descriptive lyrics and often haunting, ethereal sound.
In terms of inspiration as a writer, I adore Angela Carter as I find she has the ability to totally immerse me in her fantastical worlds. I find her strong female lead characters and subversive themes delightful too. I read a lot of Bret Easton Ellis when I was a teenager which has had an undeniable influence on my writing, if not for the gritty themes, but for my soft spot for unreliable narrators. I must mention Edgar Allan Poe, I came to appreciate Poe’s work in my adult life and I truly believe he is the master of the short story, as I find his work so compelling I can devour each story in one sitting. I aspire to be able to do the same one day. More recently I am also enjoying the work of Kirsty Logan. Her short story ‘Things My Wife and I Found Hidden In Our House’ is one I find myself returning to again and again.
4) What other activities do you enjoy doing creatively, or recreationally outside of being a writer, and do you find any of these outside writing activities merge into your mind and often become parts of a poem?
As someone who writes songs, I also love to sing. I have been singing in some guise since I was around four years old. I was part of a choir that performed in a production at Nottingham Playhouse in 2019, which was a lifelong dream come true. I have been producing songs with my partner, who is also a singer-songwriter, as another lockdown project so we are hoping to release an EP sometime soon.
Outside of creative pursuits, I love to cook. I enjoy being out in nature, particularly forests and the coast. Before the pandemic I was also learning aerial hoop. I had got myself to an intermediate level but unfortunately I haven’t been able to train for nearly a year, so I am hoping to get back into that as soon as I can.
5) What is your favorite or preferred style of writing?
For poetry, I find free verse comes the most naturally to me, although I do get imposter syndrome sometimes and question whether my work is really poetry when it is so unstructured.
For fiction I am a short story writer predominantly. Although I have started work on what I hope will become a novel, the sheer volume of words required often overwhelm me. I also get an immense sense of satisfaction by being able to tell a complete story in such a short space of time so I return to that form repeatedly as I find it the most rewarding.
6) Are there any other people/environments/hometowns/vacations that has helped influence your writing?
Without wishing to sound too much of a romantic, I find my partner has genuinely inspired a lot of my poetry. I think that is largely because he encouraged me to pursue writing it and has given me such unwavering support as I have done so. I find such beauty in the complexity of human relationships – love, desire, loss, even the everyday experiences – that writing inspired by him and our relationship is often what comes naturally to me.
For my fiction writing, a lot of that comes from the dark recesses of my own mind. One story in particular was inspired by a memory I had as a child. When I was around four years old, I was convinced that I had seen a ghost sitting at the end of my bed. For years I thought it was an old woman, for some reason or another, and I ended up converting this memory into a horror story called ‘Midnight Visits’ which we put out as one of the Penny Dreadfuls from the Moth Sanctuary series. After telling my parents this over dinner one evening, my dad revealed to me that just a few days after his father died, when I was four years old, he and my mother had heard me talking to someone in the middle of the night. When they came into my room, my dad said he could smell my grandfather’s aftershave and there was an indentation on the end of my bed as though someone had been sat there. He had never told me that story before, so I still get goosebumps just thinking about it!
7) What is the most rewarding part of the writing process, and in turn the most frustrating part of the writing process?
For me, starting is the most frustrating point. All too often I will find an excuse not to start writing at all, which usually comes from self-consciousness or fear. I then get frustrated with myself because I want to be writing and creating something. So I have to force my way through the blocks I put in my own path before ultimately enjoying the creative process once it starts.
The most rewarding part I find is editing. I work as a deputy editor for my day job, so I spend a good amount of time sub editing other people’s work, which to me feels like polishing something to get it to its absolute best state. For me, I love it when someone reads my story for the first time and tells me their interpretation – what they think is happening, who they think the characters are, if any parts don’t ring true or cause them to lose the immersion in the story. Going back through and refining, polishing and improving those things always gives me a real sense of satisfaction, as it feels like I’m investing in my own work and increasing its value. When someone has invested their own time in reading or listening to one of my stories, I want to make sure that experience is the best it can possibly be.
8) How has the current times affected your work? I feel very privileged that although the pandemic presented several challenges for me, both personally and financially, it also presented me with the time and opportunity to really invest in my own personal work, which is something I hadn’t really had before.
If I hadn’t had the extra time lockdown afforded me, I doubt I would have actually pursued the idea of creating a series of original audiobooks, so I am both proud and grateful to have had the chance to do that. It’s also been wonderful to be more involved with my partner’s theatre company. I got to work with him to produce an exclusive, live streamed performance for Cheltenham Literature Festival and have had the opportunity to take on my first performing role, as we acquired a temporary license to perform Angela Carter’s ‘The Company of Wolves’ as a free online video.
I am exceptionally lucky that, despite a very sad death in my family due to Covid recently, lockdown has given me the space and the time to be creative in a way that I never have before.
9) Please give us any links, social media info, upcoming events, etc for your work.
Austin Lucas has a new album “Alive in the Hot Zone” which many have in their year-end best of 2020 award nominees.
(Cornelius Chapel Records)
First off Thanks Austin for granting an interview with us at Fevers of the Mind Press for the Fevers of the Mind Poetry Digest: The Poets of 2020.
Austin: Thanks so much for including me!
It has been over a year since the last issue. It is weird, it seems like something might have happened to try to jog away from the creativity into a slow depression month after month as this has continued. The year 2020 has been some work, and it has taken nearly a year for me to fully get my creative fuses (mostly out of the anger of this year) to feel like there has to be another edition! There are many voices out there that have been writing through the year, and their voices all need to be heard.
With that, how have you kept your creativity with writing songs & putting out a new album? Was it any different going into the studio and recording the new album in the wake of the pandemic.
Austin: I have found myself baffled by the disconnect from reality among my fellow americans, along with their seemingly limitless capacity to entirely abandon reason. As for inspiration and the process of staying active in song writing, it seems that I was able to have even more time to exercise my capacity for creation with so much time off the road.
I was a huge fan of Immortal Americans & Shallow Inland Sea after hearing your appearances on the comedy podcast Improv4Humans with Matt Besser. Even my 8-year-old daughter became a fan of “Immortal Americans” and I love that song and Shallow Inland Sea) How is Matt Besser and the Improv4Humans experience?
Austin: I love Matt and all the I4H crew so it’s always so cool when I get to collaborate with them and also when I hear that someone discovered me through that medium.
I’ve been listening to the new single “Drive” on repeat listens, and watching the interesting Pandemic feel of the video on Youtube. Where was it filmed?
Austin: Well it was shot in Berlin during the pandemic, so what you were seeing is life as it is currently lived. That video was a phenomenal experience because I was able to cast a bunch of my favorite people who I honestly don’t get to see often enough.
How are you maintaining focus and coming up with new creative endeavors without the touring and the availability of concerts? Tell us a little about the Save the Stage movement also.
Austin: As I mentioned before, I seem to have almost boundless creative energy when so much of my time isn’t spent traveling and feeling worn down by life on the road. Sometimes I get incredibly tired still, due to my intense training and coaching schedule with Muay Thai but even that doesn’t distract me and leave me feeling so depleted as constant travel.
When I heard your interviews regarding your songs in the past, I was excited to learn that you grew up in the Bloomington, Indiana area. I grew up in Western Kentucky and lived in Evansville for nearly 20 years. I’ve spent many nights visiting Bloomington. Always good shows up there. What was it like growing up in the Midwest? What about the Midwest do you love, and what part of it makes you shake your head?
Austin: I don’t know, there are so many things I both love and hate about the Midwest but honestly, I don’t find much more wrong with the Midwest than I do with any other part of the USA. There’s good and bad and the bad things are found in literally every corner of the United States. I do love how direct people are in the Midwest vs. other parts of the US though. We’re polite but we won’t bend over backwards and bullshit you if we think you suck.
I know you have many roots in punk music and for most of your career, you have spun punk ideologies into an Americana/rock-folk carving. So, who were your heroes musically, and inevitably with writing song lyrics that maybe have helped you weave the two musical styles into your niche?
Austin: His Hero Is Gone, Discharge, X, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, The Beatles. Jason Molina is probably my greatest lyrical influence but there’s a lot in my repertoire that’s derived from my upbringing in the Bluegrass and folk lineage.
What is your process when you write a song? How long does it usually take to come up with a full song to your liking, music and all?
Austin: It really depends, I’m a notoriously furious and extensive self editor so it can take anywhere from hours to years for me to write a song. I generally begin with a riff and build words and melody around the first riff that I write and go for there.
I’d like to congratulate you on your nomination in the category for Americana Song of the Year in the upcoming AMA-UK Awards in 2021. How do you handle the recognition that you deserve for your work?
Austin: Thanks so much, I honestly just smile and feel grateful. I’ve been in this songwriting game for a very long time and have yet to receive many accolades. Which means that while I appreciate it all the more as a result, I also have a hard time imagining that it will be a regular occurrence. At the moment I’m just gonna soak it up and be grateful that some folks cared enough to nominate me for an award in the first place.
You’ve worked with many great artists on albums such as Lydia Loveless & John Moreland. Is there a musician out there that you would love to work with, or came close to working with that once (hopefully) someday when COVID is gone that you’d feel like this could be the ultimate collaboration?
Austin: I’d honestly love to work with several artists but the dream for me would be to just sing duets with Dolly and Emmylou or Gillian Welch. My other biggest dreams are to make albums with Baroness and Neurosis and also to make an album with Blitzen Trapper would be an absolute dream.
Out of the many, many songs you’ve written. Which do you feel the most complete lyrically let’s say, or just satisfied with the outcome. Do you ever feel like hey, where did these words come to me from? I think lyrically Monroe City Nights resonates with me so well. I can feel the sadness of the Midwest & the vulnerability to adapt and so everything just seems stagnant (in the solitude of okay, I guess this is how my life has to be?)
Austin: To my mind, that song is absolutely one of my crowing masterpieces in a lot of ways. I’m honestly very proud of my body of work overall but my last 2 albums have probably had the most of what I’d consider “me” in them.
Tell me about the new album “Alive in the Hot Zone” released this Fall. What about this album is getting the buzz of Austin Lucas out there in the Americana & Indie scene. What about this album, do you feel is different from your other albums?
Austin: I honestly don’t know, I guess it’s the fact that I managed to write about what everyone was going through in the world right now and actually release it while we were still experiencing it as a global community.
Finally, the dumb question. Let’s say some bozo with some weapon comes up to you. Let’s say He’s like I’ve got 2 albums that you have to re-make, and you have to choose one to cover completely (no matter what it does for your career) and hey maybe you can change the dynamic of people’s minds about the albums, Do you cover Milli Vanilli’s “Girl You Know It’s True” album or Debbie Gibson’s “Lost in Your Eyes”?
Austin: I’d personally rather cover Go Go’s “Beauty and the Beat but I think I’d go with the Debbie Gibson album, if those were my only two options.
No really, we’ve seen like full album covers by artists like Beck, the Bird, and the Bee, and ummm…yeah Ryan Adams do such, if you ever went that route with an album what would you consider an awesome honorable album to cover?
Austin: Oh, haha, I guess I already answered that question but let me say two things. 1. Ryan Adams is a creep and 2. I’d also really love to cover the entirety of the Cure “Pornography” or “Darklands” by Jesus and Mary Chain.
Thank you, Austin for spending a little bit of your time with Fevers of the Mind, and much success on the new album & good luck with the award nomination.
Austin: Thank you so much for sitting down and asking me these questions.
Bio Courtesy of Austin Lucas.com
Austin Lucas is a punk journeyman, activist and songwriter from Bloomington, Indiana. Consumed by an overdeveloped sense of wanderlust as a young person, Austin spent his formative years in the driver’s seat of various beat-up Ford Econolines. Burning through countless miles and living the world over, he’s made his home everywhere from the American West Coast to the Czech Republic.
As a young person, Austin worshipped a diverse mixture of Classic Rock, Country, Punk, Psychedelic Folk and Mountain Music, and has made a career by successfully fusing these disparate influences into something uniquely his own. Emerging as a prominent and revered talent among his fans and peers, Austin has stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the most recognizable icons of Folk, Punk, Indie, Country and Americana, all the while uplifting the traditions of Roots Music and holding true to the attitude and ethics of political DIY Punk and Indie music as the lifeblood that runs through his veins.
Releasing albums since 2006, Austin Lucas has been a fixture in the worlds of Alternative Country and Folk Punk for nearly two decades, having sang alongside and toured with everyone from Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson, Ray Price, Brent Cobb, Frank Turner, Chuck Ragan, Dawes, Langhorne Slim, Joe Pug, John Moreland, Lucero and many others. To hear Austin Lucas or see him live is to discover the type of well-kept secret that can only stay that way for so long.
During the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown Austin Lucas has sheltered in place in Mainz, Germany. Although growing homesick far away from his home and family in Indiana, he has successfully used this extra time and inspired energy to prove that it’s impossible to keep a good troubadour down, writing and recording songs for his forthcoming album, “Alive In The Hot Zone!”.