Broadstairs writer Seb Reilly meets the interesting and varied inhabitants of Thanet. This month, he chats with singer and musician Luke J Dorman at the launch of his music video and single “Daylight” at Ramsgate Music Hall:
There is a difference, I believe, between pursuing a hobby and investing in a dream. Not to overlook anyone pursuing a hobby, which I think is a fantastic thing to do and well worth your time. I just notice a difference when someone treats their passion not as a hobby, but as a vocation. It becomes a call and a global reader, an obsession perhaps. It becomes everything.
It’s raining tonight, but that hasn’t stopped people from coming to listen to live music. It’s the official launch of Luke J Dorman’s solo career, and the man himself greets me and my photographer Ryszard with a smile and a handshake. He is a few years older than me and is married with children. He had established a fairly successful landscape gardening business, but recently moved away from it to pursue his dream of music, which intrigued me to come to this event.
“It’s not or never,” he told me. “If I don’t, I will regret it for the rest of my life. I need to try.
Leaving an established career to become a rock star sounds ridiculous, but musicians aren’t the most logical people. Songwriting comes from the heart, not the head, and it’s Luke’s heart that leads him here.
The Ramsgate Music Hall fills with families, friends and fans. Luke, from Broadstairs, was in the local band Meister for a number of years, and before that he played with other well-known musicians in those areas, so he already has a following. A group of men around Luke’s age arrive at the same time as me, laughing loudly and showing genuine enthusiasm for their friend who is about to take the stage.
“I’m self-taught,” Luke tells me in the green room downstairs. “I used to play guitar to a Simon and Garfunkel chord book when I was a kid.”
Luke also plays a little piano, drums and some brass. He focused over the years, perfecting music reading as well as singing in choirs. With such a varied self-schooling, I wonder what was the spark for him.
“Nirvana!” Luke smiles. “It was every kid’s dream in the 90s, to be like Kurt Cobain.”
His songs sometimes touch on serious subjects but come from a place of empathy. “It’s about being true to yourself,” he tells me cryptically. “Self-acceptance, being what you want to be.”
I don’t know if he’s talking to me about a song or his career, and I don’t ask anything. The lack of context makes its seriousness all the more fascinating.
I’ll give him his due, Luke knows how to put on a good show. We start with a set from Wren frontman Kieran Newell, who backed James at Dreamland in 2021, warming up the crowd. After that, we go up to the bar to see the video for Luke’s new single, “Daylight”, which won Best Music Video at the Ramsgate International Film and TV Awards 2022. A piano chant rises and the melodic elegy of a song by Luke starts. over a few minutes of experimental choreography and interesting shooting.
The video was directed by Lee McQueen, a Margate director with an impressive catalog. He is present and watches the crowd to see the reaction to the film. At the end, the piece falls silent in a moment of contemplation, which is one hell of a response to a four-minute music video.
“It’s about past lives,” Luke told me afterwards. “I think being in touch with your spirit, however that works for you, is important.”
“Daylight” is a catchy earworm that seems radio compatible to me without being designed to be radio compatible, which is exactly what radio wants. I can see why he won. I ask Luke how he goes about writing songs, because often musicians have different approaches. “I start when I find a catchy hook,” he says. “Lyrics come later.”
It really is a family affair for Luke. His wife runs a meditation business that clearly aligns with his values, and his 16-year-old daughter is a musician who later appears on stage. Daisy Dorman has gone viral during the COVID-19 pandemic for an NHS tribute song. She offers a few sweet and moving songs, after which she moves on to the main show.
The scene is set around Luke’s custom-made guitar. Built by luthier Graham Emes, it has an electro-acoustic body with a classic flamenco headstock but is steel with a built-in amplifier. “It was partly a 40e birthday present from my family,” says Luke, “and an investment in my musical career from me. It is, to say the least, unique. Running through the Music Hall sound system, it resonates deeply, perfectly suited to Luke’s pop-rock songs.
Although a solo artist, Luke shares the stage with a four-piece band, which adds depth and context. The music itself is clearly influenced by The Beatles, a band Luke grew up listening to with his father, but without sounding derivative. Luke is a shrewd and charismatic leader, joking with the crowd and running the gig well.
Seeing someone so invested in their passions is invigorating and inspiring, and there is something magical about it. It crackles like electricity through the air.
The Ramsgate Music Hall breathes and swells with the music, the curved wooden roof giving the impression of being inside a capsized boat. It’s a performance barrel, a crucible perhaps, where close proximity to the audience ensures that those on stage have nowhere to hide. In the night, Luke J Dorman reveals his soul.
That’s exactly how it should be.