The Key Studio Sessions: Luke O'Brien - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

At the most basic level, Philadelphia’s Luke O’Brien is a singer-songwriter and rapper. But he’s also a husband, a teacher, a mentor, a yoga enthusiast, and a generally outdoorsy sort of person, and all of these disparate elements smoothly coalesce in his music.

O’Brien has been releasing scattered digital singles and a few full-on projects since 2015 — this summer, his Enjoy EP came out via Chill Moody’s label nicethingsMUSIC, and features collabs with The Bul Bey and more. A few years ago, he got a decent amount of attention for “Old Love,” a song of devotion used to propose to his longtime partner (since 11th grade, as the lyrics go) and now-wife Kathleen. The selections we hear him perform in this week’s Key Studio Session have a similar sort of silver-lining outlook.

“Focus,” another track initially written for Kathleen, is about stepping back and caring for those who support you; in this performance it doubles as a song about self-care. “Own Drum” is written for O’Brien’s students — he works as a music counselor at a behavioral and emotional support school in Philly, and helps students channel their feelings into beatmaking, songwriting, and production — and the song is about shutting out trends and embracing your personal quirks and individuality. And on “Beautiful Trees,” he sings about finding support and inspiration from his parents and extended family.

O’Brien is joined in the studio by Kyle Sparkman on guitar, Terrance Mitchell on bass, and Joseph “Joey Stix ” Pointer on drums, and their performance has us solidly warmed up for his headlining appearance upstairs at World Cafe Live on Saturday, November 16th. Head to the XPN Concert Calendar for tickets and more information, and check out a video and audio archive of Luke O’Brien’s Key Studio Session below.

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