Riveting Riffs Logo One  Luke Leblanc Releases Fabulous New Album

Luke Leblanc Interview Photo One A

With Dini (short for Houdini) and Mini keeping an eye on him, to make sure he speaks glowingly about them, singer and songwriter Luke Leblanc’s cats joined us, as we talked about his new album Fugue State, as well as his life and career.

The very likeable artist said, “The whole time we were recording it, it felt like everything melded together perfectly. It is a nice group of songs. Erik Koskinen was the producer and I was very fortunate to be able to surround myself with some good musicians too. It all just clicked together very nicely.”

The title of the album has us stumped Luke.

“It is used a lot in psychology and one of the definitions is a temporary defense against extreme stress. The person might lose awareness of their identity and the awareness of where they are. I took that term and as I have observed, and I think a lot of other people have observed, as a collective society I think we are going through a fugue state a little bit. In terms of a cultural and political divide (Many) responses to generations of inequity and the pandemic are leading people to take a step back. That is why I have the lines in the song, “Take your mind off of it / I think we’re living in a fugue state.” Someone told me the other day that a fugue is also a Classical music term. I don’t know a ton about it, but it is like a chaotic sound. I think the musical term came first,” he says.  

Luke Leblanc Interview Photo TwoLet us take a step back. His first name Luke is after Old Luke in the song “The Weight,” by The Band and his middle name is Young, because his mom was a big fan of Neil Young, with whom he shares the same birthday.

“Neither of my parents played music and neither of them pushed me into it. It was just my choice about something I was passionate about. My dad was very supportive, as long as I had my homework done.

I appreciate artists like Neil Young, because they play whatever they want to do at the time. Other musicians like Brandi Carlisle are still a good example of that. If you try to put a genre on her, once you do, she is going to go do something else,” says Luke Leblanc.

This explanation also provides some insight, as to how he describes his new album, “It is a little bit of Americana, a little bit of Folk Rock and there are two, “Slide On Over,” and “Anymore,” that are straight up Rock. Those are the three genres I would put it in. There are so many genres today. What I have notice is if you look at a bill for a festival from the seventies, like one I saw today and it had Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on it, Jimi Hendrix, The Mamas & the Papas and it was a Rock Festival. If they were playing today, it would be more like a Folk or Americana festival. I heard another example when The Eagles were considered Rock, but if they were on the radio today, they would more be on the Country channel. Genres are interesting, and I probably describe myself wrongly most of the time too,” he muses.

The tenth song on the album, “Soothes Me,” reminds one of a song Bob Dylan may have written, the lyrics, the tempo and not the enunciation, but the tonal quality of the vocals.  The song is very cinematic, as the scenes roll by with each new phrase, the word pictures are vivid. It is a gift to be able to paint these pictures and set them music.

“The scene I have in my mind, while listening to that song is, laying down on the couch or a bed, with a bookshelf behind me and rain falling outside. That’s what I imagine whoever the character is. Maybe it’s me or somebody else. The (person) is contemplating stuff. More than the scene I imagine the feeling of it and that is where it comes from. It is an acoustic song. It creates a lot of space for the listener to paint the scene for themselves,” Luke Leblanc explains.

It is a far cry from the first song that he wrote when he was still a boy growing up in Minneapolis.

“It was called “The Ballad of Donald Sue.” I made up a character named Donald Sue. How did it start? “I just met an old man the other day / He had a face full of whiskers / His hair was frizzy and gray / He had a nose like a turkey / Skin as light as day / And you could see his day-old beard from a mile away.”

Luke Leblanc first picked up a guitar when he was eleven years old.

“I started with the saxophone in middle school. You know you pick an instrument for band and I played it in school a little bit and then I faded out of it. When I was eleven my grandpa passed away and he played the guitar a little bit. I asked if I could borrow grandpa’s old guitar. The strings were about a half inch off of the fretboard.

There was always a drive in me to go to the next step. When I first picked up the guitar it bothered me that I could listen to music, but I couldn’t play it myself. It was like an itch that needed to be scratched. When I started learning chords, it bugged me that I could play other people’s songs, but I didn’t have my own and a couple of months within picking up the guitar I began writing down my own lyrics.

I think what continues to drive me is like it is with any other artform, there are so many influences out there. It is something that gets passed on from one generation to another, different styles, different song structures and different kinds of lyrics. I write my own lyrics and my own songs, but it is an artform that is shared, because a live show isn’t the same without the audience there. One show can be completely different than another depending on who you are playing with. One song can be different depending on the night and how you express yourself not just through the words, but through the way you sing it, the instrumentation and the production. I keep getting song ideas, I write them down and I keep recording them,” he says.  

The song “Slide On Over,” is a hips swaying, toe tapping, get a dance partner type of song. Once you are familiar with the lyrics, we guarantee you that you will be singing this song back to the radio or at Luke Leblanc’s concerts. This is also a timeless song, one that will be listened to and played by more than just this generation. It has both Blues influences and classic R & B influences.

Luke Leblanc says, “I think you are probably onto something there. When I was writing it and when I was recording it at night two years ago, I was sitting there with my guitar and it came together pretty quickly. I had a little groove going and I recorded a little voice memo of it. Of course, when I was sitting there writing it, I wasn’t trying to have R & B or Blues influences, but I have a lot of that (flowing) through me. If I go back to when I started playing, they were all Blues jams that I was going to. I was listening to that time and time again. There is also Americana, Roots and even Rock and at the base of all of that is Blues.

There has been a really favorable response (to the song). When I write a song, I have no idea of how people will respond, because I am just too close to it. People really like” Slide On Over.”

A friend of mine who listened to it said I should install some green, seventies style shag carpet in my apartment (he laughs). He says (the song) has seventies R & B in it. The funny thing is I could visualize that, because growing up my dad had that (type of carpet). I was born in ’95, but he still had it in his house.

People really like the song, because it has a nice drive to it. It is powerful, but it is soft at the same time. It has a little bit of everything in the right spots.”

Those Blues influences started early, “I was thirteen when I won the Zimmy’s songwriting contest. My dad is a big music fan and he has a very good ear for music, even though he doesn’t play music. If I had my homework done when I was twelve and thirteen, he would take me out to the open mics. We would go to these Blues jams in the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas. You would have musicians like “Jellybean” Johnson. He was in Prince’s band and he played drums. There were other artists like that. I would either play with the band or I would get up in between their breaks. I was also very influenced by Bob Dylan, like everybody who sings and plays the guitar is. Luke Leblanc Interview Photo Three

I forget who it was, but someone mentioned to us that there was a national singer and songwriter contest every year. People from Alaska, California, Texas, and they would all come down to Hibbing Minnesota. This contest took place at Zimmy’s Downtown Bar & Grill. It had all of these Bob Dylan posters and there were pictures of his son Jakob Dylan on the wall. There was all kinds of cool memorabilia in there. At the contest you would play one song that you wrote and then you would play one Bob Dylan song. I wrote a song called “Song to Bob,” which was kind of influenced by Bob Dylan’s song to Woody Guthrie. The story behind that song, to make a long story longer, is on election day November 2008 when Obama was elected, Bob Dylan was playing a concert in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota’s performance theater. It was kind of a funny night, because Bob Dylan was at the university that he dropped out of in his first year.

My dad and I came up with this idea. We took a big cardboard box and we wrote on it, Bob I would like to play with you tonight. Give me a chance. We thought if we wrote on the bottom, Johnny Cash would be proud, he might let me get up and play on stage. Bob Dylan was a huge Johnny Cash fan and he really looked up to him. They had a huge admiration for each other.

We took that cardboard sign and we figured out where the tour bus was at the back of the building and we kept our distance and waited out there with our sign. Bob Dylan came out and he kind of glanced over his shoulders a bit when he walked up the steps and into the arena. I didn’t get to play with him, but it made a good story. That is what “Song to Bob,” was based on. There is video of it on YouTube,” he says.

The fourth song on Fugue State, “Anymore,” is destined to be a crossover tune.

“I can see that too. I am a big Wallflowers fan and it (“Anymore”) has kind of a late nineties Americana Rock drive to it. It also has a Garage Band sound to it too. My last album Only Human didn’t have that Garage Band sound and I think “Anymore,” catches that. I think if you didn’t listen to any of the other songs (on Fugue State) you would say oh it is a Rock song,” he explains.

The song has a catchy vibe and contrasts stark lyrics about a relationship ending, with an up-tempo groove. The picture burned into the listener’s mind as you see the image of a man left alone on the stairs and the metaphor of burying a key beneath the concrete floor indicates the pain of “I can’t go there anymore.”

Talking about how songs end up on his records, Luke Leblanc says, “I tend to write as I go and as it comes to me. The thing where you say you are going to sit down and write a song about this or that sometimes works for me, but usually if I say I am going to sit down and write a song about this it doesn’t (normally) go that way. If I am doing other things that is usually when I have an idea. When I am messing around with the guitar without a goal in mind that is when something comes.

I end up writing songs in groups of two or three and then two weeks later I end up writing another little batch. Since they end up being written about the same time, they become a theme. I do tend to write a lot of songs, so when it comes to recording an album there is a good amount to pick from.

I did things a little differently from my last album Only Human When working on that album I kind of had all ten songs nailed down beforehand. I had nine songs that for sure were going on the record. I ended up writing stuff on my way to the studio. I wasn’t actually writing and driving dangerously, but I had an idea in my head and forming, as I was thinking and driving along. Two of the songs ended up like that. This time around I had six or seven songs that I knew were going on the album and then the last four or five I left that room open and I knew I would have those, before going to the studio. That was hard for me to do, to leave it up to chance. With this album we tried to leave some things unplanned. Luke Leblanc Interview Photo Four

I think some of the (unplanned songs) do follow the theme. At that point you want to make the album somewhat cohesive.

I did an EP a couple of years ago called Time On My Hands and there is a twelve bar Blues number right in the middle of the EP. It is a fun song and I still like playing it until this day. Now that I look back it was kind of weird having just one song like that smack dab in the middle of these quiet acoustic numbers.”

Fugue State is a beautifully produced album, the sound engineering and mixing is magical, the musicians superb and Luke Leblanc’s songs are incredible. Let’s talk about those who contributed to this treasure. The album was produced and engineered at the Real Phonic Studio in Cleveland Minnesota between November of 2021 and July of 2022. It is very noticeable that Luke Leblanc gives a lot of space to his fellow musicians.

“Erik Koskinen (engineer and producer) worked on a couple of Trampled by Turtles records. When I was in high school, I really got into listening to Erik Koskinen’s music. I was a huge fan and I met him when I was fifteen, while watching a show. He gave my dad and I guest passes to the concert for another band in town he was playing with called Dead Man Winter. He also gave me a guitar pick. After that, from afar, I kept following his music. I reached out and I said I know you record and produce records can I work with you?

He played a couple of instruments on the (record) electric guitar, bass and a little bit of banjo on one song.

There is also John Richardson. He can sing like nobody’s business. In addition to playing bass, he plays keyboards. That is what he played on this album, keyboards and he sang a lot of backup vocals.

Ryan Young is a violinist who is known as being one of the founding members of Trampled by Turtles. He is also involved in a lot of other projects.

Erin Bekkers is a friend who plays in a lot of cover bands, so he will play four hours sets, playing music from all eras and all genres. Right now, he is rehearsing for a show with a Death Metal band. He is very versatile.

Then there is a fellow named Casey Frensz who plays saxophone on the track “When I Walk with You.”

Eric Heywood who played pedal steel. He has played with The Pretenders, The Jayhawks and the one that I was really excited about that I knew he played with is Ray LaMontagne. When Koskinen said we need a pedal steel player on this album, the first guy we talked to was unavailable and he said how would you feel about this other guy? He played on Ray LaMontagne’s records if you have heard of him. I was like what? It just blew my mind. I listened to that album so many times, I have his pedal steel parts memorized. It was the first time that I have had pedal steel on my music. It is so beautiful and it takes everything up another (level). He did some non-conventional stuff too like on the song “Now,” he plays it really low and he has this experimental stuff in there. It sounds a bit like a French horn, but it is pedal steel. On “Come Clean,” he plays it another way and it sounds like a banjo in the background, but it’s not it is his pedal steel. He used a lot of creative license (with the music),” he says.

As it happens “Come Clean,” which opens the album is also Luke Leblanc’s favorite song from this collection. The song features some falsetto vocals by him.

“I listen to my own songs and it is not like a vanity thing or anything. I think that anyone who says they don’t listen to their own songs are just lying. I will listen to my own songs at times, until I get sick of them. When you are writing your own music you are writing exactly what you want to hear,” he says.

Adding, as for why he put “Come Clean,” as the opening track, “I think out of all of the songs, that one captures the theme of the album as a whole. It captures a lot of unease, (he quotes some lines). It captures us a society trying to understand where we are right now and how we got here. There are historical references, both current and past. It came together pretty quickly when I wrote it and it made me think. If I write about (those things) other people will think about them too. I like the sound of it. For Erik and me it was one of our favorite ones to record.”

There is a rumor out there that Dini and Mini may be coming your way in a music video.

It is not possible to write everything that should be written about this very good album Fugue State and Luke Leblanc’s creative sensibilities, so you will just have to visit his website and purchase the album. Return to Our Front Page

Photo Credit: Top photo and third photo by Timothy Olson protected by copyright ©

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This interview by Joe Montague published November 7, 2022 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos are the the property of Luke Leblanc unless otherwise noted and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine.