BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
Charly Luske is one of those people who have a gift to excel in almost everything they set their mind to. The Holland native is an accomplished actor in the theater, film, and television genre, but Luske also boasts an impressive set of pipes that has garnered wide recognition in Europe and abroad.
When he was 12, Luske started out by taking lessons in Classical music. After making his debut on a Dutch television show, “Lucky Lotto Live Show,” four years later, Luske then gravitated to “boy bands” – Velvet and X Marks the Spot – but soon discovered it wasn’t quite his style.
“Velvet sang in Dutch,” Luske remembered, “which was very limiting. I joined another band and we started singing more in English, which suited me better. I know, I’m Dutch, but it’s easier for me to write songs in English! But, the boy band genre-thing really wasn’t me…again; I was just very limited in a lot of ways.”
THE RIGHT STUFF
It was when he was venturing his pipes in the boy bands that Luske started to find himself getting more and more into Soul music, what he termed as “dark soul and old Soul.” He started listening more to Otis Redding, James Brown, and Marvin Gaye and, as a result, his vocal intonations started to change as well.
So, what does a white Dutch man know about Soul?
“It’s funny,” Luske said, “because when I was young, I listened to bands like Bon Jovi and Guns ‘N Roses. My parents had me listen to Luciano Pavarotti at home and it was their desire that I sing Classical music. But, Soul music just breathes and really touches people. It made me aware of the fact that there’s more and not one right way to do it. Soul music has so much width to it; so very light, so very heavy, so very low. It never bores me.”
As mentioned, Luske had found success with his boy bands, but found it harder to get his Soul music out to a wider audience. Using his voice to make a living, Luske progressed to musicals like “The Wiz” and “We Will Rock You,” and even ended up in fourth place in the infamous Eurovision Song Contest.
“I was not really happy with what I was doing,” Luske revealed. “I was making a good living, but that’s not what it was about to me. I thought, well, I’m singing, I’m on stage, but I wasn’t doing my own songs. I was doing the same thing every night. The respect wasn’t there. At one point I got even unhappier. My wife (Actress Tanja Jess) noticed and told me that I wasn’t fun to be around anymore. I knew something needed to change and I needed to take the risk.”
Luske decided to take the plunge and perform on “The Voice of Holland,” wowing audiences with “It’s a Man’s World” by James Brown. Throughout the season, Luske was favored to win the competition by audiences and judges alike, but eventually bowed to another in the semifinals. It was a move that he doesn’t regret to this day.
“I had been acting and many more different things,” Luske said, “but I was still doing what I really loved most, which was singing. Whatever it took, whether it’s a reality show or some kind of contest, to make people aware of your talent, there I was. That’s the times that we live in right now. I tried record companies and they were just not listening to my voice. I thought an audience would give me a fair chance; let them decide.”
THE SOUL MAN
When Luske sings Soul, the listener can feel the emotion he is emitting through his voice.
“It’s not something I do deliberately, but it’s like I can look into my own soul the moment I begin singing a song,” Luske stated. “If you let people take a look deep inside your soul, it makes the song come alive for them. It makes a difference; makes people feel a certain way and feel that they are in the moment.”
While Luske is known for his cover versions of Soul classics and putting his own spin on them, he is also an ardent songwriter.
“I wanted to know what techniques these artists used to write such masterpieces,” he shared. “I went out and bought books that explained what they did and how they came to write such great songs. And you know, I didn’t read them,” Luske laughed. “They’re still in the plastic that I bought them in! Because I found, along the journey, that rules don’t apply. It’s what is in your heart and soul. That makes a potential world-wide hit. Or, you can follow the rules and have nothing. I think it’s better to just make the music that you really like and hope that there are people out there that will enjoy it, too. That’s what music is all about.”
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT
Luske acknowledged that new and younger artists have an even harder time making it in this day and time.
“So many things frustrate me as a musician,” he said. “So many things, just the unfairness of the business in general. So much young talent, you know, trying to get their music through and not really getting a chance. Having to take jobs they don’t want to do because there’s no money coming in from their music. There are a lot of schools where there is no opportunity to sing or play any instrument. That’s the worst, because music heals people. There’s nothing bad about music. It’s only good; it’s only positive. It’s one of the most important things there is.”
Luske released a couple of successful singles: “Fly,” which was the title track for the Dutch movie Fataal, and “Meant To Be” among others. And, during a time where Rap and Dance Music reigns, Luske is keeping himself on course with his Soul.
“I don’t really keep up to date with what’s hip right now,” he said sincerely. “Sometimes things have come my way. I worked with a Russian DJ, so I went a little bit into the dance scene. The combination worked fine, but it’s not something I was looking for. I just have an open mind for different styles. If it feels good, I’m on board. But the Soul music stays.”