by Kimberly Shires
Luke James Shaffer, of Alexandria, Virgina, will release his second EP this spring, titled Vol. 2. Luke’s second EP follows Vol 1, which is one of the WAMMIE finalists for Best Country Americana Artist this year. Alchemical Records sat down with Luke over a cup of coffee to get the scoop on his latest project. One conversation with Luke made it clear that he is driven by personal accountability and holds himself to a high standard of authenticity.
We will get a taste of Luke’s second EP this week with the release his new single, “Thieves” on March 29. “Thieves” is a driving, rock tune reminiscent of the simpler days of childhood. The song aptly describes the worries of childhood as metaphorical “fool’s gold”, in contrast to the concerns of adulthood.
Six years ago Luke and his wife Sammi decided to make the DMV area their home and the place where he would pursue his music career. They both wanted to move to a bigger city outside of Ohio. The move happened after Sammi received a local job offer and Luke successfully auditioned into an agency band called Elan Artists. Luke gigged at weddings and corporate event with the cover band Nation, under Elan Artists. It was a great gig and gave him nice exposure, but Luke had his sights on creating original music.
Luke was raised in a musical family. His mother is comfortable on stage as a singer, and all of his brothers have booming baritone voices. Luke told us that birthdays are always a memorable event in the Shaffer home. His family creates out-of-this-world harmonies and can really kill it with “Happy Birthday”.
Despite growing up in a musical environment, Luke did not pay that much attention to music until the summer after he graduated from high school when he decided to pick up the guitar. This was the time when his musical tastes really began to solidify. Luke commented that his influences are atypical of a 34-year-old because he mostly skipped over what was popular in the 80s and 90s. Luke’s influence either digs deep back to the soundtrack of his childhood with the The Allman Brothers Band, a favorite of his father, or to artists in the 2000’s like John Mayer, Jason Mraz. One exception from the 90s was the Dave Matthews Band. Luke serendipitously got to know the Dave Matthews Band collection. Luke found a booklet of CDs that someone dropped on the ground in a Bob Evans parking lot. “There was a ton of great music but the one that stuck with me was the Dave Matthews Live with Tim Reynolds CD. I listened to that thing like crazy and it definitely influenced my songwriting at the time.”
Let there be no mistake, at 18-years old, Luke hit the music world head on. He taught himself how to play the guitar and write music. Luke is a prolific writer, with over 300 songs written to date. Despite this trove of writing, Luke will only admit to “a few gems in there.” As a matter of fact, earlier in the day before meeting Alchemical Records, Luke went for a run and wrote a song.
Luke talked about the time in his life when he transitioned from writing songs to seeing himself as a songwriter. Before the release of his first EP, Luke set his eyes on a personal challenge: write and produce one song per week. He settled into a local La Madeleine bakery, ordered a coffee and a croissant, and wrote every single day for 52 weeks straight. He reflects that while he created a bit of unnecessary stress for himself, he achieved his self-imposed goal. Three songs from the La Madeleine catalog made it to his first EP, “First Last Kiss”, “TINACS” and “Siren”. This challenge helped shape Luke into the singer/songwriter he is today.
Luke reflected on the first song he ever wrote when he was 18. He says, “It was dark and nothing like what I write now. I am a happy writer.” Luke uses his talent to create imagery, driving melodies, musical tension and authentically relatable lyrics. Luke’s lyrics reflect his own personal truth and observations and are many times dedicated to his wife Sammi.
Luke is gracious towards his audience and will often approach folks directly to thank them for coming to the show. This sentiment goes a long way when building a connection with fans. As an introvert, building one on one connections comes more easily than wearing an outgoing stage personality. Luke tries to strike a healthy balance between what feels natural and pushing himself to connect on a more macro level with audiences. This can be a challenge, particularly when it feels really comfortable to perform with his eyes closed. Luke has found that closing his eyes can help him cope with nerves. As a side note, it also helps him to remember the lyrics. At least that’s what he likes to tell people.
Luke finds inspiration by listening to a variety of genres and experimenting with new sounds using his looping machine. Luke also enjoys collaborating with other artists. The energy from other artists spark new ideas and push him to try different things. Luke has collaborated with a number of local artists such as Dan Strauch, Emily Henry, Sydney Franklin, Eli Lev, Sean Mahon and Matvei Sigalov, who co-produced his new single “Thieves”. Luke believes that a really solid song can be performed in many ways. A great song can hold up in a variety of tempos, stripped down and acoustic or produced with many layers.
Luke says he could not imagine doing anything other than create music, with the possible exception of photography. Luke sees photography as an alternative method of creating original, authentic art. Luke is a talented photographer, focusing mostly on travel photography. Check out his work by following ShotsbyShaffer on Instagram (www.instagram.com/shotsbyshaffer).
Luke’s songwriting has opened up a door to supporting mental health, an important social cause. Luke wrote and released a single called “We’re All a Little Crazy”. Incidentally, there is a non-profit organization for mental health advocacy of the same name. Luke was approached by Eric Kussin, the founder of the organization, to join him on a college tour to advocate for mental health awareness. Luke was able to use his work to provide a relatable musical backdrop to the organization’s key message.
Alchemical Records would like to congratulate Luke on his recent accolades. His single, “Siren” is the runner-up in the Adult Contemporary category of the International Acoustic Music Awards this year. Luke shares, “We got the news on my birthday!” The reward was a nice boost just before the release of Luke James Shaffer’s second EP, Vol. 2.
Be sure to check out Luke James Shaffer’s next single “Thieves”. “Thieves” was recorded with 38 North Studios out of Falls Church, Virginia.
Kimberly Shires is a native of the DC Metropolitan area. Kimberly is a freelance writer, music degree holder, road bike warrior, songwriter, corporate ladder climber, and a Subaru driving nature enthusiast.