A rambunctious boy – and after playing in a variety of High School bands Luke runs away from the sheltered Sutherland Shire to join the multi-cultural circus of back packers bumming around Byron Bay, the Whitsundays and New Zealand. O’Shea returns only to gain his teaching qualifications that would enable him to scour the planet for the next eight years searching for his elusive ‘it’?
Spending the next few years in the US and Canada Luke spent a lot of time within North American Indian communities delving deep into their ancient spirituality. This kick-started further travels into indigenous communities throughout ASIA, Europe and in far North QLD seeking the similarities between all major and indigenous religions, with particular focus on the ancient symbol, the ‘Medicine Wheel’.
Music at this stage was limited to playing covers on streets and pubs to support and sustain ‘the search’. It wasn’t until Luke spent a year in the musical city of Galway, did he find his own voice. From the years of exploring human spirit O’Shea now found he had a story to tell and the best way of sharing his insights was through the subliminal metaphors of music.
Song writing now consumed the travel bug that drove Luke for so long. Returning home with the same hunger that took him away, Luke forms the ever-evolving band ‘Medicine Wheel’. Recording two EP’s ‘Medicine Wheel’ (self titled) and ‘Almost Dawn’, they go on to win a series of local and state-wide ‘Battle of the Band’ competitions as well as becoming Grand Finalists in the ’98 Hard Rock Café ‘Unleashed’ nationwide Band Comp.
Whilst continually touring the East Coast Luke visits the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January 1999. Immediately Luke is drawn to the ‘storyteller songwriters’ and the respectful, multi-generational audiences that appear to be there for the pure love of the lyric and song. Greatly inspired, Luke returns and independently records ‘No Day Like Today’ an album infused with universal themes and inspiring stories of human spirit. Self-produced and combining contemporary rock with traditional country instrumentation, the album immediately captures the attention of ABC Music and together with Universal Music Australia they sign Luke to their label in 2001. January 2002 see’s Luke O’Shea & Medicine Wheel nominated for their first Golden Guitar for ‘Best Band/Duo of the Year’.
Finding themselves on the bottom rung of a very long roster of more established country music artists, O’Shea uses the frustration to drive the establishment of his own independent label ‘As U Wish’. Recording and releasing ‘Listen to the Words’ in 2005 with co-producer Matt Fell, the album featured many strong singles including ‘Ragged Bloody Heroes’ hitting #1 on CMC and the song ‘Making Memories’ winning them a TIARA for Best Band.
Understandably some of the gatekeepers of the Australian Country Music industry weren’t as embracing of Luke’s rapid emergence and energetic new take on their music and Luke found the only way to get a toe in the door was to play the late night ‘party’ spots. Playing festivals, B&S’s, rodeos, weddings, parties, anything they fast gained a reputation as ‘the’ must see party band. However this started to fly in the face of everything that attracted Luke to the country genre in the first place, i.e. the stories. Deliberately stepping away from the late night time slots, party stages and venues, Luke begins again and focuses his live shows on stripping it right back to basics and delivering the story and inspiration behind each song. This seemed a very popular move as the standing room only at major festivals could start to attest.
With the success of the stripped back shows; in 2009 Luke records his first solo album ‘Prodigal Son’. Teaming up again with the talents of Matt Fell and long time guitarist Phil Doublet, O’Shea delved a little deeper into the storyteller side of his muse. Songs like Annie O’Shea, Pride of Erin and Midnight Train appeased the gatekeepers and 2010 saw Luke win the Southern Stars 2010 Australian Independent Male Vocalist of the Year Award and the 2010 Independent Heritage Track of the Year Award for the haunting ‘Shadow of a Cloud’.
Catching the ear of the Pacific International Music (PIM) label Luke teams up with Aussie ex-pat Michael Flanders and Rob McKay to co-produce Luke’s fourth album, ‘The Drovers Wife’. Recorded between Sydney, Hervey Bay and Nashville it was released during the 2012 Tamworth Country Music Festival. The albums opening single, The Drover’s Wife, hit #3 on the National Radio Charts; inspired from the classic Henry Lawson poem, it expressed what many men feel at having to leave their partners and families behind whilst attempting to make a living …or to pursue a dream. The songs sentiment obviously connected with a lot of listeners for The Drover’s Wife went onto to clean up at the 2012 Southern Stars Independent Country Music Awards winning Luke the Australian Independent Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year & Heritage Track of the Year. The noise and momentum built in Mildura soon spread into Tamworth with O’Shea continuing his golden run with 3 Golden Guitar nominations and winning him his first GG’ for Heritage Track of the Year as well as winning the inaugural Bush Laureates ‘Golden Gumleaf’ Award for ‘Best Australian Verse to Song’.
Over the next two years, Luke establishes and hosts a highly regarded series of Songwriters in the Round each week within various Clubs around Sydney, as well as touring the concept nationally. This greatly hones the range and scope of Luke’s writing and his ability to craft songs with strong characters that have a distinct Australian aura about them. As Luke attests, the constant ‘original’ work and touring greatly helped Luke identify and learn the integral skills and art of maintaining the balance of light and dark, tears and laughter, within his songs and performances.
Feeling the need to capture the songs in the studio exactly the way they sounded in his head, Luke backs himself as sole producer and teams up with engineer and musician Stuie French and locks into Stuie’s ‘Swingin’ Door Studios’ to record his 5th CD ‘ Sing You Up’. The first single released from the album – ‘Lady of the Land’ – inspired by the remarkable Joy McKean – snags Luke back-to-back Heritage Song of the Year as well as the coveted APRA Song of the Year at the 2014 CMAA Golden Guitar Awards – taking his tally of Golden Guitars to three.
Three Brothers (The Great War) was the powerful second single released to radio. The song went onto win Luke another 4 major awards at the 2014 Southern Stars Australian Independent Country Music Awards; for Single of the Year, Male Vocal, the coveted Album of the Year (Sing You Up) as well as being announced the Australian Independent Artist of the Year for the second time. The song Three Brothers (The Great War) has deeply resonated with many Australians and as Luke says, “On the eve of the Centenary of the ANZAC – it is integral to remind all Australians of the devastating effect of war but particularly WW1 whose repercussions can still be felt in many rural communities today; The ‘Great Waste’ and scar on humanity – our baptism of Hell-fire that was monumental in defining us as our own distinct nation of people – Australians!”
The heart wrenching video that supports the song was recently selected for special screenings at the Byron Bay International Film Festival and has been incorporated into a number of school programs. At the 2015 CMAA Australian Country Music Awards ‘Three Brothers (The Great War)’ went onto to win Luke his third consecutive ‘Heritage Song of the Year’ Golden Guitar (The only other Artist to do this was Slim Dusty in the 80’s) as well as a consecutive ‘APRA Song of the Year’ Golden Guitar.
The title track of the album ‘Sing You Up’ was the next single to be released and married with a controversial video unashamedly supporting those on the frontline protesting the rapid expansion of multinational Coal and CSG Gas mining within Australia’s integral agricultural food bowls and water catchment areas. The song spearheads the album’s 6 nominations at the 2015 CMAA Australian Music Awards for; Album of the Year, Male Vocal of the Year, Video Clip of the Year and Vocal Collaboration (Truckstop Flowers – with Aleyce Simmonds) as well as the above mentioned Heritage Song and APRA Song of the Year.
‘Sing You Up’ wins Luke the prestigious ‘Male Vocal of the Year’ and, whilst the national media spotlight is firmly set upon him, two day later – Luke and his 71 year old father Charles (Rick) O’Shea decide to ‘walk their talk’ and take direct action against Australia’s largest open cut coal mine shining the light on the embattled Whitehaven’s ‘Maules Creek’ Mine, situated on the edge of the black soil Liverpool Plains that is currently blasting it’s existence out of the once pristine and culturally significant ‘Leard State Forest’. Revisiting the property that was once owned by the O’Shea clan, Luke locked onto a controversial water pump that is contentiously allowed access to 85% of the High Security Water from the Lower Namoi River as well as being able to draw 3 billion litres of water per year, to simply ‘wash coal’ – rendering it poison. The whole region is currently in a state of severe drought, where long established farmers within agriculture and livestock industries are in stark desperation, add to this the fact this pump is located directly behind the house where his father was born and next to the shearing shed where Luke’s grandfather died, makes the action deeply personal – as well as shouting out to the many desperate farmers within the region and rural communities everywhere – that their cries for help were being heard and they were not alone! As Luke’s placard at the action read – ‘Hear The Call!’ – and although this non-violent action led to Luke and his father being arrested, it was without remorse for they both knew from the focused media attention gained – it would serve to offer hope to those in need, as well as inspiring others to learn about the lawlessness of what is happening within so many regional and rural communities around Australia right now.
Throughout this musical roller-coaster ride, Luke along with his wife of 17 years Lizzy, are raising three beautiful daughters and he has up until just recently, continually taught Music, HSIE and Religion in a range of local High Schools. In 2011 and just recently O’Shea pulled his children out of school for three months and toured around Australia in a caravan performing in a number of isolated and iconic outback pubs, clubs and resorts -reawakening the travel lust and igniting it in his children. Luke continues to write prolifically and performs at most major Country Music Festivals around Australia and was recently named the Councillor for Country Music on the Music Council of Australia.