By Nicole Hanratty
Posted May 5, 2013
Gedeon Luke has an Al Green sunshine streaming voice that yearns to make you smile despite–or perhaps because of–his own turbulent childhood. His father struggled with a drug addiction and his mother struggled to support the family on her own. At the age of 12, Gedeon returned home from school to find all of his things on the sidewalk. His family had been evicted. He lost his father at the age of seventeen while in the midst of his youth. With a mother who has always been his sunshine and built her family a new home with the help of Habitat For Humanity, Gedeon is now 24 years old. He’s come through a lot and is on a beautiful journey…
Thus far Gedeon Luke’s journey (formerly known as Gedeon McKinney–he dropped his last name and is now using “Luke” his middle name) included a stop on Season 5 American Idol. He was a contestant in the most controversial result year of the show’s history which to date is the season with the highest ratings. Season 5 indicated that how you rank on Idol may have little bearing on your ultimate success in the music industry. Taylor Hicks won, Katharine McPhee was runner up, Elliot Yamin took third, Chris Daughtry fourth, Paris Bennett fifth and Kellie Pickler sixth.
Gedeon Luke & The People “Hey (That’s What I Say)” on YouTube Music Video
Gedeon phoned me from New York and while we were speaking to one another for the first time ever, the entire conversation felt as comfortable as eating pumpkin pie bundled up in a cozy sweater on a fall afternoon. His ultimate goal is to use his music to bring love back and he’s channelling his inner Stevie Wonder and Al Green to sing out his message. With music that is upbeat and lyrics that sing through the hard times and pain, Gedeon Luke offers up his smooth R&B sound to soulful beats. His voice delivers a message that is laced with empathy and while he wants you to feel joy, it’s only because he has known great pain.
Read the interview that brought tears to my eyes and will have girls lining up to date this artist.
Nicole: “Lend Me Your Sunshine,” I love the imagery of “before you walk away, won’t you lend me your sunshine.” What inspired that song?
Gedeon: What inspired that song was the fact that I simply wanted to do something, I wanted to write a song that was uplifting and encouraging. When I was in the studio with my producer, Marc Swersky, and at the time also Dave Derby, we all wrote the song together. …It was inspired by three guys sitting in the room, coming together, talking about what the Beatles did. And when we came together, this was the project that came out.
Nicole: It evokes a great image, and I’m wondering what you hope someone listening to that song will walk away with.
Gedeon: …A lot of times I think a lot of people have broken relationships because of their backgrounds from when they were children. And you always need somebody to hang on to or to hang by your side. Somebody who will be there for you. That’s what I want that song to do to for people. Let people know that you appreciate their love and you appreciate their joy and you just appreciate them being around. If it’s your girlfriend, it’s your boyfriend, you know, if it’s G*d, if it’s your mother, if it’s your father—let people know, let them know. Thank them for, you know, just being by your side. That’s when you ask someone to lend me your sunshine. Lend me your light, because I see something on your face that I want to shine on mine also.
Nicole: It’s a great message, and it seems to me possibly that you speak a little bit from experience based on how you were raised.
Nicole: Did you have someone in your life that influenced you and lent you their sunshine?
Gedeon: My mother has always been my sunshine. Strong, strongest rock I’ve ever seen in my life. And the reason why I say that is because my father was one of the greatest fathers in the world, but I knew that he had a very bad drug addiction. And sometimes things would be taken out of the house and, you know, we would, you know, things would be stolen and you can’t find money, you can’t—you don’t know where your father is, but you know that he has a very, very bad drug addiction. But what I got out of that was this, Nicole. It doesn’t matter how bad a person is, you know, everybody struggles with something. I saw my mother struggle with my father, and I saw my father struggle with drugs. Everybody struggles with something, but as long as they have somebody to hold on to, they can make it. My childhood played a big role in my life. I met people and have done things that nobody would ever do by the time they turned 14. But, you know, I’ve had my hardship in my childhood, but also I’ve had my great days. I always say this—what would joy be without pain? Unless there is pain, you don’t know what joy is.
This is part of my message. You know, I’m trying to get the world to bring peace again, you know, to bring some more love back. Because like Stevie Wonder said years ago, decades, love is in need of love today. You know?
Nicole: Yeah…you’re bringing tears to my eyes. You’ve got quite a story, Gedeon.
Gedeon: Thank you, Nicole.
Nicole: Not everyone can pull out of those circumstances and take drugs and pain and turn it into joy and strength, and I’m wondering if you can tell me the three most significant things that have happened in your life that have gotten you where you are today.
Gedeon: The first thing that got me to where I am today was I would have to say the time when we were evicted as children. And sometimes I know that my mother, (laughs) she don’t like to talk about these things, but I always tell her, Mom, it’s okay, it’s important. People should know, because you might help someone with your story. It’s not always about us. We walked home one day, me and my brother, we were twelve years old. The neighbor, our best friends, neighbors down the street, and she was crying at the door and she said, “Gedeon and Emmanuel, what are you all going to do?” She said something like that. And then she brought us in, because she didn’t want us to go all the way, and all of our stuff was out on the street.
Gedeon: All of our stuff. And I know that people have to live in worse situations than that. We had to go to our grandmother’s house for the night. That thing woke me up. I said I’m eleven, twelve years old, and this life is so real already. It’s already real. It’s already real. This life is really real. Some people when they get to that age, they still don’t know their left from right. They still don’t know how to depend on themselves or be independent, you know?
Nicole: Uh huh (affirmative).
Gedeon: But when I was eleven, twelve years old, it was like that when I got evicted. The second thing that woke me up was when my father died. My father was my best friend. He was signed to Willie Mitchell back in… I think it was around 1978 or 79 or something like that. And great, great singer, great guy. He would give me these pointers and show me these things and when he died, I was actually—well, I don’t want to say that—but when died, I didn’t even know that … I didn’t even feel the pain, because I had been seeing … I had been kind of feeling that it was going to happen, but I hadn’t even, I didn’t, I just … I didn’t even feel the pain.
Nicole: What was your age when your dad passed?
Gedeon: I was seventeen. Seventeen years old.
Nicole: That’s young. That’s young to lose your parent.
Gedeon: Oh, yeah, he was only 44 years old. And I remember him, he would call me and he would say things, right before he died, on the phone, I took them to heart. Out of all of my brothers and sisters … there’s seven of us … he was the only, I was the only one my father was calling. I was the only one. And the most ambitious, the most beautiful inside and out, my father was, he was a great man. I mean just an awesome, great man. And the third, the third thing was when I went to American Idol. I was seventeen, and mind you while I’m on the show, all of these things are going through my head. My father is in the hospital and he’s dying, you know, my mother is going to be sick if he dies, and all of this stuff is going on. I’m seventeen. What are my sisters going to do, what are my brothers going to do. You know, all of this is going through my head. What am I going to do? While I’m on American Idol?
Nicole: That’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders.
Gedeon: Yes. Yes.
Nicole: Where is, where do you fall in the line up of your siblings?
Gedeon: I’m number three. There’s seven of us. Anthony, Emmanuel, Gedeon, that’s me, three, Anna, Esias, Pricilla and Evvie, my baby sister, which she’s just spectacular. When I went on American Idol, they were…trying to get the top 45 out, and all of these things were going through my head. And I made it to the top 45, and then I made it to the top 24. I was number 13 on Season 5.
Nicole: So you spent some time with Taylor Hicks, Katharine McPhee?
Gedeon: Yes. Taylor Hicks, Katharine McPhee, Chris Daughtry, all great people. Elliot Yamin, Ace Young, Kinnick Sky, Will Makar—I wish I could call out everybody’s name, because if they were doing an interview, I would want them to call my name. I wish I could think of some more names who was on it, but those are the names that come to mind.
Nicole: Have any of you stayed in touch?
Gedeon: Yes, me and Paris Bennett have stayed in touch. She’s a very sweet girl. I talk to her sometimes. And me and Kinnick Sky, we’ve stayed in touch. Me and Kevin Covais have stayed in touch. Me and Elliot Yamin have stayed in touch.
Nicole: So you feel like that experience gave you a network inside the music industry that’s helping you today?
Gedeon: Oh, my goodness, yes, yes, yes. The simple fact that I was blessed to be on the show. This is the way I look at that, this proposition from G*d. He said okay, I’ll give you the show. You get on the show and after you get on the show, I’m going to take you off. Because…what if I made it to the top tomorrow, Nicole? I will miss the journey getting there.
American Idol is a show where you don’t know much about, but if you win it, you have instant success. I was only seventeen years old. I wasn’t even a fully grown man. And I felt like I did need to know some things, you know, and I’m glad that I didn’t win the show, because I’m having a journey getting there, and the journey is the most beautiful thing. I get to do things that people don’t do anymore. I get to go out and talk to people. I get to go out and meet people. I get to go out and sign people’s autographs. I get to go out and perform in these very small type venues that put about two or three hundred people in there. I get to do those small things. I get to record an album with my say so. I get to live free because I didn’t win that show. I get to live free because I’m doing this on my own.
Nicole: There’s some interesting things that have come out of that season that show that actually prove that the journey is essential to the long term and longevity success wise of an artist.
Gedeon: Yes. Yes. Nicole, I believe everything happens for a reason. I feel like that the reason I didn’t win the show is so that one day I could be on this phone right here, talking to you. Do you see what I’m saying?
Nicole: I live my life that way, so I agree with you 100%. I want to ask you some fun questions, as well, so that your fans can know some fun things about you. Tell me what your favorite place is to take a date.
Gedeon: My favorite place to take a date. I’m going to give you three. I’m going to start at three, two and then I’ll go to the best one. My third favorite place is, of course, on a vacation. I’m a very romantic guy and I like to do large and big and huge extravagant things. Because I think a woman is the most precious thing to life.
Nicole: You’re going to have women signing up for applying for dates with you!
Gedeon: (laughs) I don’t only think they’re the most precious things in life, I think they deserve more than just a dinner. The second place is to the beach.
Nicole: Is that just so you can see her in a bikini?
Gedeon: No. The reason why I say to a beach is because I can take her there, and this leaves to the main reason why, or the main place I want to take her. I want to take her to the beach. I can close my eyes with her, and we can go to Heaven.
Nicole: Okay, now you’re just like a heart melter. (laughs)
Gedeon: But you know what you can do in Heaven, you can live free. You can dance to the music, like Sly Stone said, “He’ll take you high” you know? (singing) “Let’s stay together…” Al Green.
Nicole: If you had to choose one song title to describe your personality, what would it be?
Gedeon: “Try A Little Tenderness.”
Nicole: Oh, wow, okay. Yeah, the girls are going to be lining up for dates…
GEDEON LUKE ON THE WEB
WE ASKED GEDEON LUKE
Q: If you’re wandering into an ice cream shop, which flavor are you choosing?
Gedeon: Oh, probably Butter Pecan.
Q: All time favorite movie?
Gedeon: My all time favorite movie … you know, that’s hard. That’s really hard. I would have to say it would probably be The Lion King. Well, I put The Lion King and like Titanic in the same area.
Q: In the grocery aisle when we’re kids, and we’re walking up and down that aisle with all of the cereal boxes, there’s just that one brand that we all want and are begging our moms for when we’re little. What was that one for you?
Gedeon: Captain Crunch. Captain Crunch Berries. The berry flavored.
Q: What’s the last album that you downloaded or purchased?
Gedeon: The last album, you know what, this is going to be funny. The last album I downloaded or purchased was 2004—it’s the 20 Best of Bob Marley.
Q: Do you have a favorite venue or stage you’ve played?
Gedeon: Well, for my particular project, I would have to say it was the Cutting Room. But I’ve performed in the O2 Arena in London, I’ve performed all over the world, but as far as my show is concerned, the Cutting Room in New York City is a great venue. It’s an awesome venue.
Q: Is there a charity that’s close to your heart or to which you donate your time?
Gedeon: The Habitat For Humanity. The reason why is because when I was 12, my mother wrote an essay to the Habitat For Humanity, because my mom was basically acting as a single mom from the time I was like … well, basically whenever my father didn’t have a job. Anyway, that was a lot of the time. And when he got work, well, I explained it to you about the drugs and stuff like that. So she applied for a Habitat For Humanity house, and out of 500 essays, they chose 12, and hers was one of them. And we built our own house from ground up. So when I tell you that is the most beautiful way of sharing your love is helping someone build a house.
I tell you, you see my mom was a hard worker. She was dedicated to do anything for her kids. And she never pressured us to do anything. She always wanted us to do what we wanted to do. And even when I had scholarships to go to some schools—I won’t say what, because I graduated as valedictorian of my high school class, and she never—I told her, “Mama,” I said, “I don’t want to go to college.” She never said anything. She never asked me why. Because she knew that I wanted to do music. She just knew it.