Luke Sayers wanted to be practical about his music career. Then the songwriting bug bit him in a big way.
"I always thought that if I could just learn to play well I could become a studio musician," says Sayers, who performs at the Brink Lounge Friday night. "I thought I'd have a lot more stability that way."
The problem, as Sayers came to find out, is that stability rarely satisfies the heart of an artist.
"I spent time playing in large Afro-Cuban and Latin ensembles, but I just didn't have it steeped in me," says Sayers. "It wasn't where my heart was."
So today Sayers is an acoustic-rock songwriter living in Chicago. His 2008 album, Radio Flower, showcases the years he's spent mastering the craft of guitar playing. It's grounded in a mellow romanticism that's influenced by Sayers' rural Michigan childhood.
Sayers grew up in the tiny village of North Branch, Mich. It's a town of 1,000 people located 80 miles north of Detroit in the rural central part of the state. North Branch is named after its location on the Flint River. Town pictures online show a block of 19th-century brick storefronts and open farm fields.
His family had moved to suburban Detroit by the time Sayers was in junior high school. There, his siblings started listening to Bon Jovi, a development that prompted Sayers to want to join a rock band.
In college, he studied jazz and specialized in upright bass at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
That biography becomes transparent in the sound of Sayers' new album. The disc brims with songs that are strongly rooted in mellow and beautifully straightforward acoustic folk-rock. And the guitar work sounds like that of a session player with years of experience.
There's hope, regret, but mostly peace in these compositions. On Radio Flower, Sayers sounds like a songwriter who's found his musical calling.