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Music inspired by the Camino: Catholic artist Luke Spehar talks about his new album ‘Pilgrim’

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His experience taught him how to "appreciate the journey as much as the destination."

Earlier this year, Luke Spehar released his fourth studio album, The Pilgrim. The work is only seven songs long, but each track contains an album’s worth of introspection from the Catholic perspective and brims with masterful technique. The work is full of pleasantly catchy earworms and future classics in the folk genre, and his songs could easily speak to people who are not especially faith-focused, which adds evangelical value.

The Pilgrim is different from other albums in the Catholic genre in that it is not overtly Catholic, at least not to the point of becoming “praise music.” The firmness of Spehar’s faith, however, is impossible to suppress and is ever present in his lyrics. The Pilgrim follows themes of love, daily life, work, pride, faith, and travel.

Luke was kind enough to make some time to answer some of our questions about his exciting new album:

The Pilgrim is full of themes of travel and modest living. What inspired these themes?

The inspiration for the project really started back a few years ago, after I did the Camino de Santiago, a 550-mile trek across Spain. One of the lessons I had to learn the hard way, was that often times you just don’t need much in life to get where you need to go. I started with about 20 lb. more in my backpack than when I finished. As I mentioned in the song, these were the things I carried to “comfort my weariness that were the same things that weighed me down.”

This was the beginning of a personal journey for me that has brought me to the present date and began the inspiration for the songs on the album.

This may be like asking a parent which kid is their favorite, but which song do you like best?

It is very difficult to say because like children, you are just happy they exist! If I had to choose one, I’d say “The Pilgrim” stands out to me. There were a lot of little events along the Camino that went into this song. Each verse brings up a different memory for me.

One of the things that stood out in particular was the end of the Camino. I had been so fixated on completing the trek, that I had missed a lot of the beauty along the way. It was a hard lesson to learn. These days I appreciate the journey as much, perhaps, as the destination.

You have some really slick guitar lines. Which musicians have influenced your style?

Growing up, I don’t think a day went by when I didn’t listen one or a combination of Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Ben Harper, Nick Drake, Elliot Smith, Cat Stevens or Billy McLaughlin. I just fell in love with that solo acoustic style!

When you write songs, what is your process? Do you begin with the lyrics or the guitar work?

To be honest it’s a little bit of both. Some songs, like “Which Road” and “The Pilgrim,” I had lyrics for first. Then others, like “The Farmer” and “Love Songs and Lullabies,” I started with the music. I would say overall, though, that the music often comes first.

You have been very open about your time discerning a vocation as a priest, before ultimately choosing marriage. Do you have any advice for young people who are considering the religious life?

I can say that, at least for me, the call to pursue the path to priesthood took about as much courage as I had. I think, especially in the time we live, it is challenging to go against the grain of the society and pursue what you feel called to in your heart.

I would just say that not settling and pursuing where I felt called has made all the difference for me. I think the greatest gift I received from taking some time to discern was to figure out what I really wanted, which was to pursue music.

Has fatherhood changed the way you write music?

Being a father has certainly changed the way I write music, mostly in the fact that I have to make more of an effort to find the quiet time to really hear my heart and the music within! Having a wife and family has certainly inspired my lyrical content in this recent album. As a part of the next steps of my journey, I wanted to celebrate all the life that this vocation has and is giving me.

If you could play a show with any musician, past or present, who would it be?

Oh man, there ya go with another great one! In some ways, I have already been able to live out that dream by touring with Ben Harper. But I would have to say playing a show with Paul Simon would be an honor.

What is the most difficult part of being an independent artist? What is your favorite part?

Being an independent musician can certainly have its challenges. Someone once said to me that even your dream job is still a job at times! I think there is some truth to that. I would say the most challenging part is finding the right balance between travel and family. But nothing is better then when it works out for my family to come with me on the tour and together we can share how God has blessed us.

Why is The Pilgrim only seven songs?

After winning his third Grammy, Ben Harper was asked if he wrote the album in the hopes of winning the award. Of course every artist would hope for that level of success for their project, but he answered, “No, I write albums to be obedient to the creative instinct in my heart.”

That answer has really impacted the way I approach a project. There are seven songs on the album because I felt they were the most fitting for the project! And I felt that the other songs I had weren’t quite a fit. As Ben said, I wanted to be obedient to that instinct.

A lot of rock bands eventually produce an “unplugged” album. As a folk artist you tend to use acoustics already. Have you considered to trying a “plugged” album?

I love that, a “plugged” album! I guess we will see! It certainly isn’t out of the question!

What are you listening to now?

These days my musical tastes range from Lord Huron, Jim Hall, J.S. Bach, to Kygo and Bon Iver! It just depends on the weather! Thank you very much for the chance to share. Enjoy every step of the journey!

 

To learn more about Luke Spehar’s music visit his website.

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