Broadstairs writer Seb Reilly meets the interesting and varied residents of Thanet. This month he chats to singer and musician Luke J Dorman at the launch of his music video and single ‘Daylight’ at Ramsgate Music Hall:
There’s a difference, I believe, between pursuing a hobby and investing into a dream. That’s not to slight on anyone pursuing a hobby, which I think is a fantastic thing to do and well worth your time. I simply notice a difference when someone treats their passion not as a hobby, but a vocation. It becomes a calling, and all-encompassing drive, an obsession perhaps. It becomes everything.
It’s raining tonight, but that hasn’t stopped people coming out 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 grin and a handshake. He’s a few years older than me and married with children. He had built up a fairly successful landscape gardening business but recently walked away from it to pursue his dream of music, which is what intrigued me to come to this event.
“It’s not or never,” he tells me. “If I don’t do this, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. I have to give it a try.”
Walking away from an established career to become a rock star sounds ridiculous, but then musicians are hardly the most logical people. Song writing comes from the heart, not the head, and it is Luke’s heart that is leading him here.
The Ramsgate Music Hall is filling up with families, friends, and fans. Luke, from Broadstairs, was part of local band Meister for several years, and before that played with other musicians known around these parts, so he already has a following. A group of men around Luke’s age arrive the same time as I do, boisterously laughing 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 along to a Simon and Garfunkel chord book when I was a kid.”
Luke also plays a bit of piano, drums, and some brass instruments. He has focused over the years, perfecting reading music as well as singing in choirs. With such a varied self-schooling, I wonder what the spark was for him.
“Nirvana!” Luke grins. “That was every kid’s dream in the nineties, 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’m not sure if he’s telling me about a song or his career, and I don’t ask. The lack of context makes his earnestness more fascinating.
I’ll give him his due, Luke knows how to put on a good show. We begin with a set from Wren frontman Kieran Newell, who supported James at Dreamland in 2021, warming up the crowd. After this we head upstairs to the bar to see the video for Luke’s new single, ‘Daylight’, which was awarded Best Music Video at the Ramsgate International Film and TV Awards 2022. A piano dirge rises and Luke’s melodic elegy of a song kicks in over a few minutes of experimental choreography and interesting filming.
The video was directed by Lee McQueen, a film director from Margate with an impressive catalogue. He is present and watches the crowd to see the reaction to the film. As it ends the room stands silent in a pin-drop moment of contemplation, which is a hell of a response to a four-minute music video.
“It’s about past lives,” Luke tells me afterwards. “I think being in touch with your spirit, however that works for you, is important.”
‘Daylight’ is a catchy earworm that feels radio-friendly to me without being designed to be radio-friendly, which is exactly what the radio wants. I can see why it won. I ask Luke how he goes about writing songs, as often musicians have different approaches. “I start when I find a catchy hook,” he says. “The lyrics come later.”
This is very much a family affair for Luke. His wife runs a meditation business which clearly aligns with his values, and his 16-year-old daughter is a musician who appears next on the stage. Daisy Dorman went viral during the COVID-19 pandemic for an NHS tribute song. She offers a few soft and soulful songs after which it is on to the main show.
The stage is set around Luke’s custom-built guitar. Built by luthier Graham Emes, it has an electro-acoustic body with a classical flamenco headstock yet is steel strung with a built-in amplifier. “It was in part a 40th birthday present from my family,” Luke says, “and an investment in my music career from me.” It is unique to say the least. Running through the Music Hall’s PA it resonates deep, exactly suited for Luke’s pop-rock songs.
Despite being a solo performer, 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 dad, but without sounding derivative. Luke is a slick and charismatic frontman, joking with the crowd and steering the concert well.
Seeing someone invest like this in their passions is invigorating and inspiring, and it brings about something magical. It crackles like electricity in air.
The Ramsgate Music Hall breathes and swells with the music, the curved wooden roof making it feel like we are stood inside a capsized boat. It is a keg of performance, a crucible perhaps, where the closeness of the audience ensures those on stage have nowhere to hide. On the night, Luke J Dorman bares his soul.
That is exactly how it should be.