After an unintentional hiatus from recording after the release of his 2020 efforts Southern Cities and Live at New Brookland Tavern, Vol. 2, Henry Luther has big plans for 2023, and a lot of material to record.
“During the pandemic, I entered a graduate history program and it was all I could do to continue playing shows, but I never stopped writing. I intended to put out an album in 2021, but I ended up pushing it back to what I thought would be 2022, and now I’ve got two or three albums’ worth of material that I’m sitting on here in 2023. I’m hoping to put it all out as soon as possible. I’m thinking I can put out at least two more albums this year.”
While we’re still awaiting studio releases of the new material, some of it surfaced on Henry Luther’s latest album Live at Fresh Brewed, recorded at the Myrtle Beach stop of his 2022 summer tour with his backing band, the Blackouts.
“I was hoping a lot of those songs would have good studio recordings by now, but I’ve never been the type to wait to release a studio version of a song to play it if I like it. The set was mostly just what we’d been playing that summer that we thought uninitiated audiences might like, so the split between older and newer stuff wasn’t super calculated. But I am happy that some of the songs that hadn’t been officially released yet were on there. In some ways, I think they’re even better than what might have happened in the studio, because my bandmates, the Blackouts, often take songs to different places than I would have if it was just me recording all the parts. I think they breathed new life into the older songs as well, which is why I'm excited to have them on the album even if I already have some studio recordings and maybe even older live recordings.”
More of a revolving cast of friends than a traditional band with clearly defined roles, part of what keeps playing shows interesting for Henry Luther is the way that the different configurations of musicians redefine the songs for every show.
“The fun thing about the Blackouts is that pretty much every show ends up different depending on who’s available to play, which impacts what songs we choose to play and how we arrange them. I’ve got several guys who can play banjo, guitar, keys, bass, or drums, but of course not everyone is going to play the same guitar part or banjo part, so everything gets tweaked depending on who’s playing what for a given show. Because I started this as a solo project, most of the songs feel complete enough to me if it’s just me, but it’s a lot of fun thinking about how to make them feel more dynamic depending on what instruments we’re adding. That keeps the shows exciting for me, and I hope it does the same for the audiences.”
For 2023 and beyond, Henry Luther appears to have some ambitious plans.
“We just did enter the Tiny Desk contest, and while we were at it we recorded and filmed a few other songs, so we’re planning to release the videos from that live session and to release the audio as an EP here in a week or so. I also recently recorded a song for my cousin’s wedding that started as a joke at his bachelor party, so I’m about to release it as a single. And at the risk of dropping too much too soon, I’ve been working on what I thought would be a little EP of mono recordings as an experiment that has basically expanded into an album in its own right. I’m hoping to have it out by April or May, and then I plan to get to work on the album I started in 2021, which I think will feel more like a direct follow-up to Southern Cities. I’m not Charley Crockett, but if he can do two albums a year, my ambition is to try and maintain a similar pace now that grad school is over and I have some time on my hands. And of course, in the meantime, I intend to hit the road as much as possible.”
Henry Luther is a South Carolina-based folk singer specializing in drinking songs, indie-folk impressionism and country-folk surrealism. Bob Dylan, John Prine, the Avett Brothers, Neutral Milk Hotel, Charley Crockett, and Hank Williams are some of his influences.