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Luke MacMaster of the Romany Rye on Laying Bricks and Occasionally Leaving the Planet

by David Browne on Feb 14, 2011

. Photo by Photograph by Lauren Ward.

What was your crappiest day job?
Luke [MacMaster, singer-guitarist]: Laying bricks with my dad, who was a mason. Carrying bricks and smashing your fingers is not what you want to do when you're a kid. That's how I raised money for my first car, a '62 DeVille. But that job will make you never want to work, for sure.

What's the best show you've played?
Luke: The El Rey in Los Angeles, at the end of the Dawes tour last November. It was a sold-out show and I got to be there singing with people I really admire. 

What's the show you've attended?
Luke: Bettye LaVette at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville in 2007. She was on fire. She must have been in her mid-sixties or older, and she was moving like Mick Jagger. It was insane.

Which bands do people say you sound like?
Luke: I guess we get the Dead and Ryan Adams from time to time. Neil Young and Crazy Horse. All things I'm proud to be compared do, so it doesn't bum me out at all.

Who do you think you sound like?
Luke: I could see the Dead. I don't sound like Jerry or Bob, but we're a jam band and the set changes and the songs range from 3 to 10 minutes depending on the show. It has that kind of vibe to it.

What appeals to you about that old school country rock vibe?
Luke: It's just going back to what actually was in part real and visceral to people like me. A lot of people are recognizing that. We're not reinventing the wheel but we try to reinterpret something. It's what I've come to love about music — it's what I want to play, just the way the groove is, the melodes are, the way the guitar sounds. It's just coming back to that.

What was your worst onstage disaster?
Luke: In Seattle, we smoked a joint before we went on. Normally I would've been fine, but the next thing I remember we were three songs into the set and I didn't remember how I got there. I was trying to talk to the audience and I was on a different planet. I walked offstage and I said to one of the guys in
the band that I didn't make a connection with a single human being in the audience.

What was your favorite piece of gear?
Luke: A Gretsch white falcon, double cutaway. And my Gibson Hummingbird acoustic guitar that my mom and dad bought for me for my 20th birthday. Every song I've written so far, which is about 50, has been written on that guitar.

What's your favorite way to relax?
Luke: Going to Castle Rock, a hiking spot in Big Bear, California. You get to the top and see the lake and the entire city. I take my friends up there and you can sit there for an hour or two. Time passes so easily there. It's beautiful.

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