Thanks to Amore Coffee for their support.
Local musician Luke Spehar spent the pandemic recording a new album of hymns and worship songs, called Solace, that captures the peace and comfort people throughout the ages have found during challenging times. The album is available now on CD, vinyl, and streaming platforms. Spehar also has two socially distanced album release shows at Open Window Theatre in Inver Grove Heights March 13 and 14.
“I am comforted by the fact that humanity has faced a great many challenges and somehow we are still moving forward.”Luke Spehar
About Luke Spehar
Born in Minneapolis, Spehar has been making music since his teens. In 2012, he caught the attention of three-time Grammy winner Ben Harper and landed a gig opening for Harper’s first solo acoustic tour. Harper also produced Spehar’s 2015 album All Is Gift.
Music is Spehar’s main job, but he also works part time as a life coach. He’s lived in West St. Paul for just over three years with his wife, Elizabeth, and three young daughters. Spehar loves to play hockey and be outside.
Conversation With Luke Spehar
We talked with Spehar about his new album:
What influence did the pandemic have on your music?
The pandemic has had a huge impact on my music. In some ways, it created space for me to explore creativity that had been suppressed in all the business before the lockdowns. In other ways, the uncertainty and anxiety of it all created a great desire in me to revisit songs that have always brought me comfort and peace in hard times. Most of these songs were written decades, even centuries, ago. It seemed to me that a lot of folks also wanted to reconnect to music that felt timeless, and in a sense, unchanging during these past few years. So I opted to save my original music for another future album and put out this project of cover songs.
You’ve said this album is about finding solace in unexpected places. Where have you found solace this past year?
One source of comfort this year, which was quite unexpected, was in listening to many history podcasts! That may sound strange, but when I listened to or read about past times when many life-saving medicines weren’t even invented, like penicillin for instance, it made me feel extremely blessed and thankful to be living in the time I live. I am comforted by the fact that humanity has faced a great many challenges and somehow we are still moving forward. And of course, realizing that people have been singing some of these songs for centuries to comfort and strengthen them through so many challenges also put things into perspective for me in a comforting way.
This album is a collection of hymns, spirituals, and worship songs—effectively church music. What does your music have to offer those who don’t go to church?
I think there is a lot we can all receive from the various spiritual traditions. Even if you aren’t a churchgoer, I think beauty can speak to all of us in a powerful way. Making a beautiful album that brings a sense of peace was something we tried to do here.
What are the mechanics of recording in a pandemic (in a garage no less!)? Is it harder to write or record music?
The mechanics of recording during a pandemic proved to be more challenging than I think we had anticipated! One of the biggest differences for this project, compared to other projects I’ve done, was that a lot of the supporting parts were recorded remotely.
Recording out of a garage posed another range of challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge was navigating the weather. During the project we went from the extreme heat of summer to the first frosts of fall. To avoid the heat, we would track early in the morning. Usually, we would wrap up our sessions before 9 a.m. On a couple of occasions, we had to call off the vocal recording sessions because it was raining too loudly. We also had to play hide and seek with a noisy cricket that could be heard in the recordings. In the end, the cricket won!
You’ve got a couple in-person concerts to celebrate the release—following all COVID-19 precautions—and it’s not your first time doing concerts again. How does it feel to be performing in-person again?
It has been a great blessing to be able to perform safely in front of a live audience again! I have only had one performance so far, but it felt awesome. I think many performers can relate to a sense of grief not being able to share their art in the same way over this past year. I did several online events during the lockdown, but there is just nothing like experiencing a room full of music that you are creating in real time. For me, there is nothing like feeling the energy of a crowd as we journey through the music together. There can be something healing about it. These days I am grateful for any safe opportunity to share my music live.
What do you love about West St. Paul?
West St. Paul has quickly become one of my favorite places in Minnesota. I am grateful to live here. As a family man, I am particularity fond of all the great parks in the area. I also love the diverse backgrounds of the folks that live here.
In the summertime, we like to go to the splash pads where all kinds of families are happily sharing a place to escape the heat. In the winter, we enjoy sledding in Marthaler Park and I enjoy a pick-up game of hockey at the outdoor rinks. We love the high rope tower at Cherokee Park. We love the restaurants, like Beirut and Fireside, and being able to get just about anything you need off of Robert Street.
Most of all, we love the people here in West St. Paul. It has been a wonderful place to raise our family and share my music.
Thanks to Luke Spehar for sharing his insights with us. Visit LukeSpehar.com for more and look for his music on your favorite streaming platform.
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