He’s the babe of the Austin music scene, that’s what everyone told me when I told them I was about to interview Walker Lukens. Walker has created quite the buzz for himself with his clever Instagrams and damn catchy music. I’ve had his songs stuck in my head since I saw him perform. We walked to a side street to get away from the hustle at the Modern Outsider showcase at SXSW to talk about the local music scene and his upcoming shows.
What immediately stood out to me about his music was that it has kind of a throwback feel to it but it sounds so modern. “I really love hip hop,” Walker says, “that’s probably why it sounds more modern than it might otherwise.”
This segued into a long trail of Kanye discussion, but we’ll get to that later*. Walker is from Houston, he moved to New York for about three years but returned to Texas to be a part of the Austin scene.
He says, “I loved living in New York, I just found it to be a really hard place to do music full time. I had this realization when I was there that the community is harder to recreate as you get older, to move somewhere and create a new world. I didn’t want to recreate that world in New York.”
One thing that I appreciate about Walker is his ability to flawlessly navigate the Austin scene with a business sense. I’ve mentioned before on how certain music scenes can feel like a bubble, but Walker says he’s been lucky to play in Austin because everyone is so supportive. It’s just a different culture than a lot of places, being from Houston I see where he’s coming from. Every restaurant, bar, and general are in Austin basically doubles as a live music venue, and to add to that the network of musicians are less cut-throat and more supportive of each other.
He adds, “The only thing about living here is that there’s less music industry people here, in order to get ahead to that next level I think you need more work,” he says. That’s the beauty of SXSW though, this is the industry week. You can’t even stand in line for the bathroom without exchanging business cards with 5 people.
He agrees, “This is my favorite week of the year, it’s definitely a shit show. A lot of people complain there’s not a lot of money but you have this awesome opportunity where all for the industry comes to you.”
Walker’s outlook on the music scene in Austin is refreshing. He makes his own opportunities and has that fire in him. He seems to have what a lot of musicians mock, business sense. That’s not to say he’s all method, but I think artist’s that have the ambition to pursue their music with the same tenacity as any other career is what so many bands lack.
He says, “I’ve always had the privilege of learning from my friends mistakes. A problem I see with a lot of musicians is that they’re really sentimental and they romanticise too much. I also think it’s obnoxious when bands are talking about their brand, that’s nauseating, but also it’s important to think about those things and think about what makes you unique and also be really judicious about what’s smart versus what you want to do.”
When it comes to his music he’s equally critical about what he puts out. If you’ve listened to his new EP, he just has this way with words and a sweet voice. It’s vintage rock n roll with that hip hop mindset that keeps it fresh.
He explains, “There’s a lot of steps and the other thing that’s helpful is to play it live and just be really attentive. It’s never going to be perfect, it has to change and evolve. I’ve seen a lot of people get too wrapped up in the things people have done before them. Everything you think you’re too cool to do or you’re above doing, you need to make peace with that.”
Walker just released an amazing new EP ‘Ain’t Got A Reason’, he’s opening for Hamilton Leithauser this spring and he’ll be on a good handful of the festivals this year (Bonnaroo, Firefly, FloatFest) so keep your eye out.
Watch this bomb video for “Lifted” and if you want to hear his thoughts on Kanye, just scroll down babes.
*Walker’s Thoughts On Kanye*
Favorite Kanye West Album
Listen to and not feel gross in some way: Graduation
Walker: I think he’s maybe one of the most important people making music these days. I think that white people struggle with Kanye West because he very much tries to confront our normalized Christian values in a really intense way. He comes off as very arrogant, he’s hypersexual, he’s a misogynist, he’s in some ways very nihilistic. I really like Life Of Pablo but that’s a dark album. I really like that record. I think he really doesn’t trust people.