|Music is an outburst of the soul. --Frederick Delius|
Luc Reynaud: Welcome to My House--by Awakin Call Editors, Jun 03, 2019
Nimo: Luc Reynaud was born and raised in the beautiful state of Washington and has had many seeds of music planted in him through his loved ones. He eventually started his own band, Luc & the Lovingtons, and has toured the world over. Luc's journey has been inspiring, full of beautiful miracles, heartfelt service, dedication to the planet, and bringing light to the darkness.
He is a shining example of how to follow our heart, dissolve our ego, and become an instrument of something much greater than ourselves. We welcome you and we are so excited to have you with us today. How are you?
Luc: Hey, I'm good Nimo. Thanks for that sweet introduction. (laughs)
Nimo: Yeah man. I wanted to start off our dialogue with something very powerful. We talk about how important it is to plant seeds at an early age in life, and there was an amazing seed that was planted by your preschool teacher that really left a big mark in your heart. Can you talk a little about that?
Absolutely, I would love to.
Luc: My preschool teacher was named Rayma Hayes.
Rayma taught at a Montessori school called Little Star in the Methow Valley. She just knew how to let the full light come out of a child. The biggest moment I remember with her is when one morning at preschool, I said that I wanted to paint an image of the earth. And she said "Oh, that's beautiful Luc. Paint the earth and when you are done, do you want to paint the moon too?" And I said yes. Then she said "Ok. Maybe after you are done with that, you can paint all the planets?" Again, I said yes. Then she finally said “Luc, do you want to paint the whole universe?"
Luc: And I remember it felt like lightning went through my body, and I was said "Yeah I want to paint the universe." So she took out these huge rolls of construction paper, and she rolled them about twenty feet across the wooden floor.
Then she said "Luc, paint the universe and I will help you."
Luc: And I still remember that electric feeling. It felt like the whole universe was moving in me.
Nimo: I think that's a great lesson for all of us as adults.How can we allow our kids to paint the universe in whatever ways they can? Because that really lead you to planting the seeds for what you're doing now.
Luc: Yes, absolutely.
Nimo: So take us on a little hitchhike journey, brother. How did you get into music? Because, from what I understand, you weren't singing or doing many things related to music in your childhood. So when did that happen? Because music is your life now.
Luc: Yeah, it's pretty incredible because I grew up a total jock, as I say. Music was definitely always around me because my whole family on both sides was really into it. But I was into sports like basketball and football. And then, during my junior year of high school, I noticed a friend of mine from the basketball team running off after practice one day. When I asked him where he was going, he said he was going to try out for the musical, Grease. I thought that sounded kinda cool. I knew of the movie Grease because we watched it all the time and sang all the parts.. So I decided I wanted to try out too.
It was way late in the auditions, and they only had one teeny roll left, but they gave it to me. It was like, a one liner role. So I started going to practice, and the guy who had gotten the lead role of Danny Zuko ended up not being able to make a couple of the rehearsals due to personal circumstances. They needed someone to stand in for his character and I was in a spunky mood that day, so I decided to fill in for the role. I think I was doing that thing that kids do where you act like you're making fun of something because you're kind of too cool to do it fully.
Nimo: Right, right...
Luc: But in acting like you're making fun of it, you actually get to do it. And And I knew all the songs from my family, so I just started singing and dancing all the moves. And basically, after the end of that practice, they asked me if I would be interested in playing the lead since the original actor couldn’t make the commitment.
Nimo: What did the jock in you feel about that?
Luc: It felt like a little bit of mixing worlds. It was a little weird, but by that time in my life I was growing into someone who could follow what they wanted to do without personal judgement. I knew I was intrigued,
so I said Ok. I'll do it. And from then on I took it really seriously. I practiced really hard and it turned out to be a great show. After that, my direction in life completely changed. My whole dream had been to be a basketball player in college, and then suddenly I was headed to the University of Washington to study drama, acting, and filmmaking.
Nimo: Amazing, man. So Grease is where the artist in you finally found an outlet. But from what I understand, years later you still weren’t working as a musician or an actor. You were working on a construction site at some point in 2005. Did you let go of the arts, or where were you at in 2005?
Luc: In 2005, I decided to take a break. In college, I had had this acting class that really focused on breathing and meditation techniques to help us become more fully present. It really inspired and sparked all of this inner desire for me to soul search. So I decided to take a hitchhiking trip. And it was during that time that I picked up an acoustic guitar in San Francisco. And I started playing music without any restraints. My whole goal was to seek and follow my path and in about the space of a month, this music exploded out of me that I realized had been there all along.
Once I released those mental blockers, I feel like the river was able to flow through. And to answer your question, after I got back from that trip, I went back to my hometown to work on music, and also meditation and prayer. I guess I was looking into becoming a monk almost. And I was working at a construction site in Methow back in the mountains around the time that Hurricane Katrina hit. I saw the hurricane strike and I saw all the people suffering and asking for help. I said to myself, I can't believe this is happening in my own country. I gotta get there and help in some way.
And so I registered for the Red Cross and in four days’ time I was able to head down to New Orleans just about two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit. I was going down there to just lift sandbags, but I had also brought my guitar. I debated about whether to bring it or not. I was a little embarrassed and sheepish about it. I knew if I brought the guitar, I would have to play and I was scared. I was like, can I play in the face of such tragedy? Can I play this happy music that I play? But I brought it and thank God I brought it because it ended up being the best thing I had to give.
Nimo I think it's just amazing how your spirituality practices, and the fact that you went on a soul searching pilgrimage prompted you to buy a guitar. Share with us this moment in Baton Rouge which I feel from knowing your story, really changes the trajectory of the rest of your life.
Luc: Yes it does and did. I was working at a shelter at Southern University in Baton Rouge, and my job was to act as the facility manager. Basically I was the person that walked around and checked on everybody to see how they were doing. There were probably five to six hundred people in this gymnasium, all spread out on cots, basically elbow to elbow. . Whole families just sitting there with nothing to do. Amidst all that pain and uncertainty,-I didn’t even think about playing the guitar at first. I didn’t even want to.
It was so scary to even think about strumming my guitar. But one day I decided to do it just to give myself some energy. So I went on the other side of the sport’s dome in the back, and sat next to these two guys who were smoking. As soon as I started playing Otis Redding’s, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” they started singing.
And they sang the whole thing! I had to smile. This first jam session— was like a signal. I thought, Luc you gotta get out of your comfort zone and you gotta play. That was the most happy you’ve seen people since you’ve been here. I didn’t know yet, that that was going to be my service. But then I started trying it, and I started playing in the shelter. And I saw the way people lit up. I’d instigate them to sing because when you sing, you empower yourself, and you have freedom. And as I saw more of the effects it had on people, the more I started dedicating myself to play. Then a group of kids latched onto me because they wanted to sing too. I found this one all-star girl who was an incredible singer. She was ten years old and we started working together on this song called “Freedom Song.”
We would perform it and people would cry. It was like a therapeutic flush. We dedicated ourselves to going around the shelter and playing for groups of people. I guess I can say that that was where I discovered that music and service could join into one. And that music is a powerful force and service that holds its own as a purpose, even in tragic situations. That changed my life.
Nimo: From what I’m gathering is that you went through a transition at the shelter. Your ego made you feel like you shouldn’t play music because you were in a place of suffering. But when you transitioned, something melted. You realized that it wasn’t about you, the music was all of yours. You were just acting as an invisible instrument to offer a gift. We all offer different things on this planet, but when we see ourselves as just a vessel for our offerings, then we can really come into our own. I think that the message here is that you really shined from this transition. So, thank you for that.
Luc: You are exactly right. It was my ego holding on for a little bit. I was experiencing the kind of fear you feel when a bunch of light is about to move through, but you know that it doesn’t have to do anything with you. I find fear fascinating.. I pay attention to nervousness and fear because that’s my signal that something great is going to move through me. Something larger. It’s interesting that my body and mind get nervous about light. Once I was able to move past that, however, there was something far greater and magical to unfold.
Nimo: And magic did happen for you! You gotta share with us the magic that unfolded from the “Freedom Song” because there was a lot of stuff that happened next.
Luc: Yes, absolutely. We ended up recording that song. My grandfather actually funded my trip back to New Orleans, and I got my friend Benjamin Swatez to go with me. He had a camera and Benjamin and I found all the kids from the shelter, and in a recording studio, we recorded the song.
Then we brought the song back home and Jason Mraz ended up discovering it five years later. He actually messaged me on Myspace and asked if he could cover it.
Nimo: That’s amazing. Jason Mraz, man! That’s huge.
Luc: Yeah, I had just seen him at the Grammy’s singing “I’m Yours” a couple weeks before. He basically said that Joseph Jackson of Harmonic Humanity had shared the “Freedom Song” with him, and he wanted permission to record it and share the story with the world.
And I said yes! But not only did he do that, he shared the “Freedom Song” with an organization called Free the Slave. Our dear friend Peggy Callahan took the song to a shelter in Ghana for recently freed boy slaves. And that song became their anthem. I was sent a video one night after a long band practice of twenty recently freed slaves, singing the “Freedom Song,” word for word, with Jason Mraz. And they were singing it from their heart. That was one of the deepest spiritual moments where I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand. This sweet little “Freedom Song” that we wrote with these kids in a shelter after Hurricane Katrina was now going even deeper. It’s being sung about freedom from bondage by the hearts of these young boys. And it's still unfolding today.—
Nimo: You’re teaching us a lesson without even trying here, Luc. Because you are just living your life and following your heart. But what I’m seeing is that the purity you have offered to the world has led to the magic that’s come back and supported you. It’s a great message for us to take: that when we do something with pure intention, the world will always conspire. Have you felt that energy as you continue this journey of music and service - that the world conspires to serve you as well?
Luc: I would say, yes. I feel like when I look at my life, it's been a total example of following your heart. And I am amazed the way that life has led the way in many ways for me.
Nimo: I want to ask you about Luc and Lovingtons now. You guys formed this beautiful band and something very special has come out of that, being the Goodness Tour. This is such a unique offering that you do not normally hear about. Most people do tours to make money, but here you guys are raising money so you can tour and serve. Tell us about the group and about this amazing tour.
Luc: Yes, the Goodness Tour is a direct extension, or blossoming of what I discovered in the shelter in Baton Rouge about music and service. The slogan is “Music and art for people facing adversity.” It’s a ticketless tour because we wanted to take music where it can't be paid for. We wanted to deliver live music and art to people facing extreme hardship. And that's what the Goodness Tour does. The main point is the concert, and the service is the music. We've done two Goodness Tours down the West Coast and they involved going to about twenty different shelters for people facing homelessness. We did a show for cancer patients and their families. We did a show for children in hospitals in critical condition, handicapped and also in juvenile centers and crisis centers for youth. You can learn all about it on our on our website www.lucandthelovingtons.com. That tour has changed our lives.
Nimo: What's been most magical about the tours you’ve done, and the service you're doing? Can you give us some insight into something that just blew your mind?
Luc: Great question. I feel like we have been able to witness the true healing power of live music and art. And I feel like I’ve been able to witness molecular changes occur in the people we play for. It’s almost like you can see the molecules heat up and start to move around in the room. One prime example was when we played at a beautiful soup kitchen in San Francisco called St. Martin's. It was Sunday morning around eleven A.M. and we were playing to a crowd of about forty people outside in this little courtyard. As you can imagine, there were some hard looking characters in the audience, some people that have been living a hard life on the street. But there was also a mixture of so many different stories in that moment. And I remember when we started playing, I could feel these little warm changes starting to happen. Around our second song, some people were even singing along with us. I had learned from the shelter back in Baton Rouge not to hold back my joy even in the midst pain, but to also be sensitive to the environment. So I looked out at the audience and I see this one guy whose look on his face almost scared me. He was intensely scowling. I looked at him just for a second and then looked away and decided to just focus on playing the music. I knew in my head that not everyone was going to be excited about the music. So an hour passes and by that time, we had people dancing and singing and playing instruments with us. Accidentally, my eyes looked over at the same guy from before, but this time he looked like an entirely different person. He had all this light in him. His face was red, his cheeks were raised, and he was smiling and tapping his hand on the table. He looked like a child. And I was like, we got him. And from watching this I’ve come to understand that music can go underneath the mind and hit this primal chord in a human that can actually take them to an almost childlike state of innocence and joy. And that's why people call music magic. Because even somebody who has a story that's full of pain can still tap into that primal cord beneath the brain that is free. Where the soul is free.
Nimo: Thank you buddy for sharing that. It was awesome to hear that story. I wanted to ask you, right now you guys are working on an album called “Welcome to My House.” Wat's driving you to write some of the songs?
Luc: Every song that I write comes from something, whether that’s something that happens around me, or something that I go through. And the ‘Welcome to My House’ song came about because I witnessed this moment in time where I realized how easy it is for us as humans to judge others. I was at a concert venue, and this kid was getting up to freestyle sing. And I noticed that some people were judging him. But this kid ended up really blowing our minds. So I thought to myself, “Why would you not want to see somebody shine? Why would you not want to get your whole mind blown by this love? And so that became the verse to the song ‘Welcome to My house’. It's really about being the peace you want to see, but always welcoming everyone to your house. So we wrote that song and then in the same spirit of the Goodness Tour, we traveled to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan with the help of an organization called, Voices of the Children. With their help, we gave free art classes, and then it was actually from that that we decided that we wanted to make a music video. So we made this ‘Welcome to My House’ music video and that is the first song that we just released on the new album. It features Syrian refugees and American teens singing ‘Joy love and peace’ and ‘you're welcome to my house’ in both English and Arabic. The message is that this world is a home for all of us to share.
Nimo Amazing. Any other songs from the album you’d like to talk about?
Luc: Yeah we're working on a song right now. I don't have the title yet, but one of the chorus parts is, “I will not be afraid of the other.” I find that fear of the “other” is a huge thing in society today. And the moment you create “another,” there's this change that happens in the mind and body, and it can take over your energy. It takes a lot of discipline to move past, but I believe love is our greatest protection.
Nimo: Amazing. How have you been able to stay grounded during this process? How do you keep love and selfless service at the center of all that you’re doing?
Luc: I find both meditation and prayer to be my number one tools for letting energy and love come. Exercise is another great one for me. Bob Marley always said, “When a man fit, he feel good.” I think he meant man as general humankind, man or woman. Those are the tools that help an abundance of energy that I’m not in charge of come through me.
Nimo: Thank you brother. I am just honored and humbled and happy that you are here on this planet with all of us. It’s a blessing to have you.
Luc: Thank you Nimo I know you do great work yourself. It’s an honor to talk to you.
Rish: Thank you, Luc and Nimo. I really enjoyed listening to the back and forth conversation from one artist to another. Luc, it seems like several times you've gotten out of your own way. Like when you were at the shelter you were hesitant to play music, but you did it anyway. And even early in your life, trying out for the Grease the musical even though it wasn't something you really wanted to do. Do you have advice for listeners about getting out of your own way?
Luc: Great question. I think I relate it to the tricks that I have learned over the years. One of them is realizing that it's not about you. And that helps me get out of the ego part that creates a lot of fear. I just tell myself, let the natural light and the natural talent that is in you come out. It's not yours, it's not about you. That always gives me great courage and it's so helpful. My beliefs factor in as well, but I think no matter what you believe in and no matter what your terminology is, you can let the greatest talent that you have be shared.
Rish: That’s beautiful. Thank you. We have a comment from Michael Rosen:
How wonderful that something you love can be your service. . . your gift to the Universe. Thank you for bringing joy into the lives of people so in need of uplift & strengthening. You give people a voice. Bless you.
Springing off of that, tell me about this idea of giving people a voice through your music. It seems like it’s giving voice to pain.
Luc: Yes that's right. When I was little, my dad would have these campfires and his biggest deal was to play the guitar and get everybody to sing. And I think that’s a tradition that’s come through the family, through my grandfather actually. I learned to love the power of humans all singing together. I love the power of everybody sharing their voice and getting lit up. I remember a concert I saw with Jimmy Cliff. I wasn’t watching and thinking “Oh I could never be that. He’s so amazing!” He just made me so happy to be me. I I remember my dad even saying that when he would do concerts he always wanted to make people feel like they could do this too. And that became the kind of artist that I’ve strived to be.
And I think singing about pain can actually free it. Millions of human experience this all over the world every day. You listen to a song about something that you're going through and it’s a relief. It almost releases that energy and allows you to not judge your feelings and feel peace that others have gone through the same thing. I think there are so many ways that the music can do that.
Nimo: Jason Mraz said that Luc and the Lovingtons are one of his favorite new groups. He’s said “I think they're one of the most heart centered bands out there today.” What’s amazing is that you’ve held steady to your values and to your deepest belief in acting as an instrument to serve while being a part of the very ego and greed centric music industry. I wanted to ask what your deepest challenges have been in doing so, internally and externally.
Luc: One of the greatest challenges that so many artists face is the financial challenge. And there is a little bit of a river, or a groove that has been created in the music industry that naturally sends you in a direction that says “This is how you're going to make a living” and this is how you're going to do it.” Oftentimes that’s centered on the most publicity and fans that you can get. More fans means more sales, which leads to more money. And I actually have nothing wrong with that. I just found that we kept asking ourselves how we could work from the heart and still make music. So we just kept searching for a different way. The Goodness Tour became a pivotal moment in that journey because we decided that we wanted to create a new groove in the music industry. We actually wanted to create something that other artists could do. And one of the greatest things we came up with is sponsorship. In this type of deal, the band acts as a social worker. They make social worker wages and provide music as service. And if they want the rock star wages then I add that they have to sell out arenas, get a YouTube hit, and things like that. Which, fortunately some of those you can do while still following your heart. And we wanted to do both. But what I love is that we kept thinking like ok, we'll wait until we make it and then will do these tour in refugee camps. And then we’d say, no we're not going to wait for anything. We're going to do what we want to do right now. So we're working on this Goodness Tour to create a model for other bands that want to bring their music to people facing adversity. We’ve developed all types of testing around what this music service does.
Rish: Beautiful. We have some more questions from listeners. We have a comment from a listener in California that says “Luc, thank you for your music and spirit. You’re a gift to the world.” And then there's a two-part question. “What is your relationship to ambition today?” Second question, “What are the inner boundaries or edges that you find yourself exploring at this stage in your journey?
Luc: Great question. I had a hard time with ambition in my early twenty's when I didn't want my life to stem from my ego. And I didn't know how to combine ambition with feeling like the ego was part of bigger cause. Now I feel a lot clearer about that and my greatest ambition is to create the most amount of love that I'm capable of through music and art. That allows me to have no problem with being ambitious. And then the second part of the question, the inner boundaries and edges I find is in having a lot of trust right now between my ideas of where I'm going, and the larger unfolding that is potentially happening. I am trying to figure out the whole visioning process where your vision is what you want to see happening and what you want to do. But I'm also tuning in to how I can listen more and how I can be more attentive to what's happening that I couldn't envision. That is a little bit of a tricky line that I would say I am walking right now. I want to I want to take our band all around the world to share this music of love. I'm also trying to open up to the unimaginable and stay tuned to the present and what I can't think of and what I can't envision.
Rish: Beautiful. I think we can all relate to that in some ways. Our next question is from Brenda in Portland Oregon: “What are songs by other artists that have deeply inspired you?”
Luc: Oh yeah. Both India Arie and Bob Marley come to mind. India Arie has these songs that really really power you up and down. Bob Marley has a lot that have given me and millions around the world a lot of power.
Rish: We will wrap up with one final question that we'd like to ask all of our guests. Obviously you are doing amazing work and here at ServiceSpace, we always like to ask how we as the larger service based community can help support your work. Can you talk on that?
Luc: Just staying in in the conversation and spreading the word about the model of the Goodness Tour. If you go to lucandlovington.com, we put a lot of our art work up there. The “Welcome to My House” video is actually what I'm really trying most to share around the world because living right here in the United States and being so close to refugees, I am deeply pained that they don’t have a place to live safely. Those are our Aunts and Uncles; those are our brothers and sisters. They could be any one of us at any time. So we've been trying to share this song “Welcome to My House.” All around the world it has Syrian refugees and American teens singing together “Joy Love and Peace” and “Welcome to My House.” And it's from that place in the heart of deep human hospitality that we welcome all people to our house and we aren’t afraid of the other. Just helping by sharing that voice all around the world is the message that we're working on right now, and we're going to keep working to share that.
Rish: That's beautiful. I think that's something we can all get behind. I want to say truly deeply thank you so much, Luc. I think the last hour and a half has been very enlightening in terms of understanding how music can be such a force of light in dire situations and dark situations, See how you have carried that is really beautiful for us. Thank you, Nimo, for moderating and thank you Luc.
This interview was edited by Gabrielle Bradshaw. Awakin Calls is a weekly interview series and community podcast that highlights the work and inner journeys of individuals who are transforming our world in large and small ways. Each call features a moderated conversation with a unique guest. Past interviewees include a calligraphy artist, a path-breaking neurosurgeon, an evolution biologist, a pioneering venture capitalist, and a socially conscious hip-hop rapper. Awakin Calls are ad-free, available at no charge, and an all-volunteer-run offering of ServiceSpace, a global platform founded on the principle of "Change Yourself. Change the World."
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