ABOUT + BIO
Luke Cyrus – Comforting The Afflicted; Afflicting the Comfortable – And Everyone Moves
Luke Cyrus is pretty young to be quoting a nineteenth century newspaperman. The truth is, he came across the famous Mr. Dooley quote third or fourth hand – and in a completely different context. “I heard another artist mention it,” Cyrus admits of his unlikely manifesto. “This guy was talking about the role and purpose of the artist in society. When he said that phrase – ‘To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted’ it sent a jolt through me. That sounds like art! That sounds like Jesus! That sounds like everything important!”
Of course, when the fictional Mr. Dooley, a character created by journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne, uttered those famous words in a newspaper article back in 1893, it was part of a longer screed critical of the media. That a millennial like Luke Cyrus would latch onto that idea over a century later and use it as a mission statement for his unique brand of post genre-specific alternative-leaning pop music and video art is somehow aesthetically and subversively perfect. “I’m young,” Cyrus admits, “But I’ve been doing this for over a decade and I don’t think that would be possible without a clear mission. There are people I feel called to speak to creatively; to encourage, inspire, and generally connect with. There are others out there that I truly hope to bother in a deep, soulful, and spiritual way. But I want everyone to be caught up in the wonder of it all – carried away by the sounds while I do it. I guess I want everyone to be moved and then just let the proverbial chips fall where they may.”
Cyrus grew up in rural Bath, Michigan. “People might be tempted to call it ‘the middle of nowhere,’” he says with a mischievous sparkle in his eye, “But it was the home of the International Bathtub Race! Truth be told, though, we weren’t really in downtown Bath. We lived on a dirt road between two corn fields and a swamp.” Fortunately, the Cyrus home wasn’t too remote to pick up NPR’s Thistle and Shamrock radio show, which young Luke devoured weekly. He took fiddle lessons from the age of four and would often play at the Shaftsburg Township Hall while a local Pearl Harbor veteran named Bert sang along. In some ways it seems Luke Cyrus experienced a childhood left over from a forgotten age.
He was born into a family with deeply traditional cultural and Christian roots and was home-schooled, which allowed him more time for musical pursuits and exploration than many kids his age may have experienced. Although his formative years were far more informed by Acadian fiddle music, folk, bluegrass, and Gospel, he later found his way to a broad palate of rock, alternative and electronic sounds. “I learned it all,” he explains. “Though my parents were much more supportive of my interest in the more traditional forms, and I never lost my love of all of that, when I got older and discovered what could be done with programming and synths and electronic samples – well – that was pretty exciting.”
A natural gatherer, Cyrus began to curate his own collection of influences and ideas, eventually forming a band with siblings and friends and writing his own songs. A sound began to coalesce around the unique amalgamation of people, instruments, and ideas that found purchase in his home studio and on whatever “stage” he happened to inhabit. With the benefit of hindsight, Cyrus’ blend of folk accessibility and synth-driven pop seems perfectly logical, but at the time it sounded completely radical. “It was such an odd combination for some people,” he admits, “but for me it always felt absolutely natural. And while there may have been some folks who didn’t know what bucket to put me in, when we played shows the crowds jumped right in. They got it. We were in it together. The sound flowed and bound us into a sort of tribe. It made nothing but sense. I had my marching orders.”
Cyrus travelled to Nashville in 2013 for a music conference and competition that featured songwriters and talent from around the world. His first-place victory in that competition served as both an affirmation and a challenge. “I went home encouraged that I may be on to something,” he recalls. “But I also brought with me a ton of advice from music industry folks, managers, producers, songwriters, and other artists. Like any good home-schooler I put my head down and got to work!”
Cyrus quickly formed The Luke Cyrus Band and began releasing his first independent music. He launched a career that strove to serve audiences wherever he found them. He spent the next five years honing his songwriting, stage, production, and instrumental skills as he played – with a band or as a solo act – in every possible venue imaginable. He even found a niche playing hundreds of sets for senior citizens in retirement centers. “Every audience – be it a dozen seniors, a small group in a village in Haiti, or a thousand college students – represented a chance for me to serve. I just dove in, said ‘yes’ to just about everything, and followed the road wherever it took me. It’s been an amazing experience, actually,” he reflects of these years of independent trench work. “I’ve seen and experienced the power of music to bring people together, and I’ve gotten a taste of what it means to see this life as a mechanism for service instead of just a way to build a platform for myself.”
Cyrus also developed some serious video production chops along the way. Beyond basic editing skills, he cultivated the eye and imagination of an actual director, crafting fully produced concept videos for several of his songs and enlisting the helps of numerous local friends and professionals in order to bring his visions to life. His live shows now combine these visual elements in with the live musical performances in a highly interactive and innovative way. “It can be hard to get kids my age to put their phones down and be present,” Cyrus admits, “so I work hard to make sure that what we have going on up on the stage is more of an ongoing, interactive, and dynamic experience than a simple concert.” From analog animation to fully staged dramatic interpretations, Cyrus’ productions have generated significant traction for an independent artist. Many of his various fans and advocates can’t wait for these treasures to find a wider audience.
Although he has released several, fan-funded recorded projects, and has never stopped performing, 2019 marks the beginning of a new chapter for Luke Cyrus. He has upped the ante considerably, enlisting the production assistance of the team behind some major Los Angeles and Nashville hits. “I really feel that this batch of songs deserved some special attention,” he continues. “Although I had over twenty songs written, I landed on five that really felt were ready to be born.” Those five songs, coming soon as an EP entitled ODYSSEY, will be released to streaming services gradually over the course of 2020, with corresponding music videos, lyric videos, short films, and a slew of tour slew dates. “I’ve never had a release as carefully planned out as this,” he admits. “
As excited as Cyrus is for the release of ODYSSEY, he understands that this is more the start of a race than the culmination of one. “As much fun as this has been,” he reflects, “I’m ready for the next chapter to begin and I know it’s going to be hard. This is what I’m here for, though.” With a sound that continues to evolve, regularly stretching the meaning of words like “alternative,” and “pop,” and a lyrical perspective that manages to be both spiritually uplifting and brutally honest, ODYSSEY promises to open new doors for Cyrus and he is more than ready to walk through them.
Although Luke Cyrus is currently a fully independent artist, and may choose to stay that way indefinitely, he is in the beginning stages of considering potential industry partners to help shore up his live touring, distribution, and publishing business. “It’s been an excellent education doing this all myself,” he says, “and if we stay this way indefinitely that’s fine. But if the right partners emerge I have a good idea of the vision that’s coming into view here – and what I am willing to do to bring it to pass.”