Stop, Luke and listen

Singer-songwriter Luke Hurley’s feeling optimistic, which surprises him.

The Auckland-based muso’s preparing for a weekend gig at Arrowtown’s The Fork and Tap and says getting older’s had a positive influence on his music and state of mind.

The 66-year-old’s slipped under the commercial radar his entire musical life — he seems unfazed by once being labelled ‘‘one of New Zealand’s great unknown musicians’’.

He first became known as a busker and still enjoys street performing, but likens it to taking a ‘‘cold plunge’’.

‘‘Often times I feel shy or embarrassed about it, but if a musician wants to cheer themselves up, they should take the cold plunge and busk and find there’s kindness not cruelty in an audience.

‘‘It never fails to amaze me how much I misread people.

‘‘You see a distasteful expression, but you never know what’s going on in that person’s life.’’

He quotes Shakespeare to make his point: ‘‘There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.’’

Hurley enjoyed early success in the 1980s with Dunedin student radio picking up on his song Mona Lisa.

A unique and powerful guitarist, he’s won many fans for his incisive, insightful lyrics.

‘‘I first got interested in guitar at 7 years old,’’ he says.

‘‘I had a red plastic one with a picture of The Beatles on it.

‘‘I drove everyone in the family crazy, playing it all the time.’’

He’s gone on to tour all over the world with some big names — American singer-songwriter Michelle Shocked, nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and English rock singer Marianne Faithfull to name a couple.

‘‘I’m touring more than I used to, I really believe in it.’’

Hurley’s early life is fascinating.

His Irish parents met in Africa and he was born in Kenya, his father a lay missionary.

The family moved to Zanzibar before heading to NZ when Luke was 12 years old.

But the adventurous gene didn’t rub off on him — Hurley says he’s very risk-averse.

‘‘You couldn’t get me to do a bungy for a million bucks.

‘‘I’m quite happy to sit under a tree and read a book.’’

Creativity runs in the family, though.

His father had a vision to be a professional painter — Hurley notes there’s a collection of his work at Gore’s Eastern Southland Gallery.

Having spent a lot of time in Queenstown in the 1970s, Hurley says this Saturday’s Arrowtown gig’s going to feel like a homecoming of sorts.

He hadn’t found a musical connection in the Whakatipu till he met local singer-songwriter Craig Hubber, who’s joining Hurley for the gig.

Friendly rivalry: Local muso Craig Hubber

Hubber says it’s great to play with someone who leans towards original music, instead of Brown Eyed Girl or Ed Sheeran.

‘‘We have a friendly rivalry, there’s a bit of dry humour.

‘‘We have a running joke that each is a better musician than the other — ‘cos he’s older, I say he’s a bit of a has been this guy, but he’s never been better.

‘‘He dates back to the cassette tape days.

‘‘He’s an awesome guitar player, he’s out on his own in his style, he’s quite deep.’’

Hurley’s always written about life experiences and says most of his influences come from reading and experiencing, noting ‘‘I don’t listen to much music’’.

Yet he hears music in everything.

‘‘I’m a city boy — there’s a symphony out there all the time.

‘‘I think your emotional state has a lot to do with your inclination to write something.

‘‘You wanna be influenced by the euphoria of it all.’’

‘Euphoria’ is a word Hurley uses often.

He says he’s gone from an atheist to “God botherer”, and from despair to euphoria, believing “divinity shapes our lives.”

While he’s not a fan of people drinking to the point of inebriation at gigs, observing the crowd can turn and people end up ‘‘in a different world’’, he’s hoping Saturday’s Arrowtown audience will end up in a different world after listening to the music.

‘‘I’m chuffed to be invited to play there, it’ll feel like home, people will understand the big picture.’’

Luke Hurley and Craig Hubber, The Fork and Tap, Arrowtown, Saturday, 5pm till 8pm, free

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