Live music has taken it hard on the chin during the COVID-19 pandemic, but few cities have suffered as much as Nashville. Music City isn’t just known for the County Music Hall of Fame, historic venues, or never-ending list of famous artists who call it home; it is the capital of the world for live music, songwriting, and sold-out music festivals.
Rather than turn off the music and lose himself in his day job; something that transitioned like for millions of Americans during the pandemic, singer/composer/songwriter, Luke Lasso went back to work in the studio and took advantage of the silence outside to record a lot of new music for the rest of 2021 and beyond.
“What is my sound?” Lasso asked himself as the pandemic began to shutter live music across Tennessee and the rest of the country.
“I had one of those moments in July of 2020 when everything felt very uncertain. Like a lot of people in the music industry, work began to slow down or completely disappear and I decided to do the most logical thing. Create.”
Lasso admits that outside of his grandmother, he didn’t grow up in a house with parents or siblings who played musical instruments.
“I picked up the guitar in pre-school and while that probably didn’t convince any of the adults that I was destined to be an artist or musician, it certainly sparked my interest at a very young age that exploded with piano lessons at 9, and performing in the concert band and college jazz band,” Lasso explained from his home in Nashville.
“I majored in Music Technology in college and I’m trained as a percussionist, keyboardist, and in music production — so it wasn’t a large jump into the music industry for me.”
“Like a lot of aspiring musicians, I had to pivot during the pandemic and learn how to utilize my skills outside of performing. I’m blessed to be both a musician and visual artist so I’ve kept busy creating album art and posters for other artists,” explained Lasso.
Lasso was also blessed to grow up with two parents from very different backgrounds. His mother, a native of Houston, Texas, inspired her young son with a massive record collection covering Classic Rock and Tex-Mex for the most part.
“Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Los Lobos, and SRV were huge in my house. My grandfather in Texas owned a ranch and I have such vivid memories of driving around in his truck and cranking Stevie which could probably be heard for miles,” Lasso explained while reminiscing about his upbringing.
His father, a native of the Canary Islands, inspired his son with an intense love of Carlos Santana, something that Lasso explained deeply impacted his interest in Spanish music.
“Living in Nashville, everyone assumes that you love Country & Western, but I must confess that I don’t love it. I’ll probably get ribbed for that but my roots are deeply entrenched in Tex-Mex and Spanish music.”
Lasso’s music vividly shows off both his ability to mix numerous musical styles; which include alternative-pop, Tex-Mex, hip-hop, and even R&B — something that he admits was inspired by his interest in artists like Luther Vandross.
“I think my music merges hip-hop, Latin and Caribbean influences, along with some Tex-Mex flair. I get into this creative groove with my Native Instruments Maschine and am able to create tracks like ‘I-65’ and ‘Sunshine Baby’ that allow me to merge so many genres,” Lasso explained.
“I-65” was inspired by the many miles I’ve spent driving on the major highway that runs through Nashville, connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. The lyrics paint a picture of riding confidently, committed to dreaming big and starting a new journey. The song comes at a perfect time, when many of us are coming out of the pandemic to begin a next chapter and find our inner confidence – the track serves as the hype man copilot we all need to reenter the world.
“I wanted this song to feel like you’re flying down the interstate, windows down during the golden hour,” said Lasso. “Everything has an orange glow, the air is thin, your arm is hanging out of the window, your hand is making waves in the wind. You’re cruising with the volume all the way up on the car stereo and you feel at peace, letting the music completely take over.”
“I’ve collected so much music over the years which gives me a huge library that both inspires and guides me when I’m songwriting. It’s weird to say that COVID was a good thing as an artist, but it forced me to push myself and rethink how I’m going to both create and sell my music in the future.”
Lasso explained that he has a number of seasonal releases planned for the remainder of 2021 and is working on his EP for 2022.
“The pandemic changed everything. Live music started to return to Nashville but it felt very forced. People were thrilled to have it back but also felt very nervous about being around so many other people,” Lasso remarked when I questioned him about the return of live music in Music City.
“Bandcamp and Soundcloud have made it easier for musicians like me to reach a new audience during the pandemic and also changed how much easier it is to get an album out. Spotify has become a marketing vehicle for a lot of us and not something that is earning any of us a lot of money.”
When I pressed Lasso about the future of music marketing, he offered up a rather frank assessment of TikTok and Instagram.
“I find the sudden explosion of artists on TikTok to be interesting, and it’s clear that the music labels are throwing a lot of money and effort at it — but I also want to avoid what some musicians are calling “one clip wonder” syndrome on the platform,” Lasso explained.
The Nashville musician can’t wait for normality to return to the Music City and the ability to perform live with his growing discography of music. We suspect he’s going to find a very welcoming audience in the months to come.