Luke Elliot: Doorway From Norway

Jersey crooner Luke Elliot looks to duplicate his European success back at home

Luke Elliot never cried wolf. But whenever the sepulchral, New Jersey-bred singer has returned home lately, with his exotic tales of overseas stardom, his friends have been somewhat skeptical. “Because telling people here that I’m playing to 1,000 people in Norway, and doing all these shows in Germany and France, touring three weeks with Tom Jones?” He sighs. “It just doesn’t make sense—it’s so fucking unfathomable to people that all that shit happened to me in Europe when I’m actually a U.S. resident.”

But every last word of his success story is true. The 33-year-old Elliot—the son of a poet mother and an English-professor father—understandably grew up fascinated with dark, edgy literature, and by age 16 had penned roughly 50 songs.

“I don’t feel like my parents monitored anything, really,” he says. “And there was good and bad to that. My personal behavior was a nightmare; from 11 on I was arrogant, angry, just impossible to deal with.”

But he began playing around New York, recorded two low-budget EPs, and then—through sheer serendipity—bumped into a renowned Norwegian journalist from national newspaper VG backstage at a Jay Farrar concert, who urged him to tour Norway. Elliot obliged.

Soon, the composer signed a record deal and assembled a band there to record his stark, mostly analog 2016 debut, Dressed For The Occasion, with its noirish Nick Cave yarns such as “Trouble,” “This Gun Of Mine,” “People Like You” and a gothic cover of Tim Hardin’s “Reason To Believe.” Jullian Records is reissuing it in the U.S. this month with high hopes.

“So when people say, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky you met that guy from Norway,’ I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, but you didn’t see any of the other shit, all these years of playing to three people in some Lower East Side club where nobody gave a shit,’” says Elliot. “So I think the universe does reward you.”

Tom Lanham