Interview: LUMiN on inspirations, break ups, life in Los Angeles, "Bloody Hell" (new single out now) and headlining the legendary Troubadour
We first discovered LUMiN (aka Austin Massirman) through a bill he shared with ROVE alumni, Heather Cole, at The Viper Room in early 2018. He blew us away. We’re excited that we got the opportunity to get to know him a little better on the heels of his “Bloody Hell” release, and in advance of his much anticipated headlining show at the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood, CA.
Read on to find out who inspires this artist who has been playing sold out shows all over Los Angeles, at venues that include The Satellite, The Viper Room, The Echo, and School Night (the venerated music industry showcase in Hollywood). Additionally, find out how the artist deals with break ups, why he loves living in Los Angeles, what it’s like writing with some of Hollywood’s hottest up-and-coming talent, why playing live shows have been such a big piece of his career so far…and more (we couldn’t stop there, right?)!
I read that you're originally from New York, where in the city did you grow up? Were you involved in the music scene there before relocating to Los Angeles? Do you feel like growing up in the Big Apple has influenced the way you work and the artist you are today?
I'm actually originally from Long Island, but my music roots started in place called Rockland County, NY. I've never actually lived in the city, but I was involved in the music scene there for a while. I had a band that used to play all of the bars and little venues around manhattan with a lot of the people I still hang around in LA. I think the biggest influence NYC had on me was to get out of it haha. It was sort of a toxic scene where it was more about competition than collaboration. I would definitely say I have found more people willing to work with you rather than try to bring you down out in Los Angeles.
When did you make the move to Los Angeles, and what prompted that move? What are 3 of your favorite activities in Los Angeles that you didn't have in New York?
I moved out to LA about 6 years ago after dissolving my old east coast band and wanting to head for greener pastures. I had always wanted to move to LA, I think at the time being in a band full of people who wanted to stay in NY is the only thing that kept me there as long as I was. My 3 favorite activities here are definitely playing shows at the legendary venues that are still around from like the 80's…there’s something magical about those green rooms that you can't quite catch elsewhere. I love the weather here, even though I am a total homebody and prefer to sit in the darkness of my LUMiN LAiR. I also really love the mountains, I'm not a huge fan of the beach, but put me on top of a mountain and you'll definitely catch me smiling wide and breathing in that thin air.
Assuming you like sushi as much as your Facebook page would suggest, what's your favorite sushi spot in Los Angeles?
Sushi is definitely my favorite food, and I would strongly recommend my local haunt "Starfish Sushi" in Los Feliz. If you’re on a budget, there is the ever popular "Sushi Stop" with rolls for around $3.50 each, but you always end up getting like 5 rolls and spending just as much.
You've spent a bit of time writing and producing for other artists. What has been your most challenging project on that side of things, and what are you most proud of?
I would say my biggest challenge has been trying to write for artists that aren't in the room. I only started doing this in Los Angeles as there is a big songwriter community out here that operates that way. It's not really my bag... I can't pretend to know what a certain artist would or wouldn't say/feel/sing, so I prefer to be in the room with them. I am the most proud of a song I did with my friend Daphne Willis called, "Do It Like This". It's a super fun song that came together so easily and without any pretense or pressure. We got in the room with this amazing producer, Mike Sabath (Lizzo, Bea Miller, Sabrina Carpenter, J Belvin, Liam Payne, etc.) who at the time was like 19 and just such a badass musical mind. Daphne can write circles around almost anyone I have met, so it was awesome to be in the room with them. That song has gone on to get a bunch of big placements with things like Royal Caribbean, Comcast, and a bunch of TV Spots. I am super into heavy deep songs, but the thing about this song is how we didn't over think anything and just had fun; and then seeing how far that took us. My publisher, SONY/ATV, also did an amazing job setting that session up, and continuing to champion that song as well as others.
Your bio states that your music could be "compared to a lovechild of Prince, The Clash, Led Zeppelin, and The Killers." Would you say those are 4 of your biggest musical inspirations? If so, what drew you to those artists? If not, who does inspire the music we're all falling in love with?
Well, it's interesting because I always tell people my music sounds NOTHING like the bands and artists that I love. I'm pretty into like 80's hair metal, classic rock, the Beatles, what have you. For years, I tried so hard to be in a rock band, and it always ended up feeling a bit stale to me. I was trying to echo my heroes and it just wasn't authentic enough to me. It wasn't until I just said, “screw it”, and sat down at a keyboard and started producing and writing without any pretense of sound in mind, that I created what is now shaping up to be the LUMiN sound. The inspiration for it all lies inside of me... although there are obvious hints of emo, alternative, electronic…I think I am blending them all in a way that nobody has ever done before, and that excites me.
If you could open up for any artist (dead or alive), who would you want to open up for?
As far as alive, I always say this, but definitely Bleachers. I think Jack Antonoff is one of the best artists of our era, and I would really enjoy being able to be on the road with his band and pick his brain creatively, maybe even write some songs.
As far as dead I would choose John Lennon, because well, John Lennon.
Keep reading to find out more about “Bloody Hell”, break ups, why LUMiN prefers performing to songwriting and how he feels about headlining the Troubadour…
Let's talk about the inspiration behind, "Bloody Hell". The song gets pretty specific with lyrics like, "you don't follow me anymore" - is that an allusion to getting unfollowed on Instagram? And then there's this verse:
"I fucking introduced him to you
Now It feels like I never knew you
Every damn place I that flew you
Gone to shit I guess its more than a rebound"
Sounds like a hell of a break up, what's the story?
People always ask me about this, and I just point to the lyrics and say "that’s the story right there" haha. But to go even further, there was a girl. I'm not much for relationships and have always been a bit of a loner, but I fell for a girl recently (whoops) and we tried it and it was really awesome. Some things happened, it didn't work out and I wrote this song. Yes, it was definitely a situation of social media blackout. Out of sight out of mind as they say, but when one of the people (won't say which) ends up dating someone that’s somewhat within your friend group, it tends to make things a bit complex and draws out the healing process quite a bit. Hence “BLOODY HELL”!
Break ups are rarely easy, what are a few things you rely on to get through them when they happen?
Honestly the only true blue thing has been music. There are always toxic coping mechanisms, but they rarely lead to any actual healing, more so just band aids. Writing my feelings and being able to sing and perform them in front of people is the most cathartic way for me to express myself and heal. Healing is a long journey, and I'm not necessarily done with that journey yet. But as an artist I won't say that it doesn't fuel my creativity and desire to go out and play more shows.
I remember creating a playlist of "break up" songs on an iPod in high school, and singing along with my friends on repeat when any of us were going through a break up (or just getting crushed by a crush). If you had one of those playlists, what songs would be on it?
I don't have a literal playlist, but I have a few go to songs that I will listen to when I'm feeling super heartbreak-y. My top songs to scream and cry to are:
The Airborne Toxic Event - Some Time Around Midnight
The Righteous Brothers - Unchained Melody
Imogen Heap - Hide And Seek
Lord Huron - The Night We Met
A huge part of your project has been your live shows. I've had the chance to catch a couple of them so far, both times when you were sharing a bill with ROVE alum, Heather Cole. You had both venues packed, and both audiences in the palm of your hand. Your cover of "Purple Rain" at The Satellite was something special to witness. What's your favorite part about performing live?
Performing has always stood like 20% higher on my scale of enjoyment than writing, and I love writing. Before I was a musician I used to want to be an actor, but as I got older I started to realize I would rather become my own character than play one. My favorite part of performing is when the band is sounding spot on, everything is locked in, and the crowd is riding the wave right there with you. When they sing my songs back to me, and we sing them together. The connection between myself, the music and the audience is the greatest thing I have ever felt. As a music fan who used to attend shows, I always loved singing along to something I related to or thought was inspiring. Now I love being on the other side of that and sharing my handwritten emotion, with other people right before my eyes, and watching them feel it too.
What's the biggest challenge with live performances that people may not realize?
The biggest challenge for me has always been having off nights. Because I love performing so much, if there is a night where I lose my voice, or the sound in the room isn't coming across as intended, I tend to be very hard on myself. I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to results, who is also slightly lackadaisical when it comes to preparation. So there is sometimes a disconnect, where I haven't rehearsed enough, or had enough time to sound check, and I sort of create that problem for myself. But what would life be without CONSTANT SELF SABOTAGE?! Maybe better? Idk...who could really say?
Haha you’re talking to the queen of self-sabotage, so I get that…
You have a show coming up this weekend, and you're headlining the legendary Troubadour. Tell us a little bit about that! Who's on the bill?
Yes, the Troubadour. I am so insanely excited and honored to be headlining such a legendary venue, and one of my favorite places to go see shows. I have always wanted to play there, but as it goes you need to build yourself and work your way up to things you want badly. I definitely sent several dozen emails to their general email over the years and never got a response. But things worked out this time around where I have sold out essentially every place I have played in LA, and I suppose word gets around. We dropped an email directly to their booker Amy, and she replied almost instantly. She was super helpful in the booking process and gave us free reign to book whatever support we wanted. Two of my very good friends and favorite bands to see live "La Bouquet" and "Wavy Trees" are on the bill. Both of which are just such badass and real bands. I would be stoked to go to this show even if I wasn't playing it just to see these two tear it up. We also got the band "Fever Joy", who I have never seen, but have heard nothing but great things about. I am excited to see them and I would put money on saying that they will be super rad.
And what are you most looking forward to with this show?
I am most looking forward to playing my longest set to date. I think it's around 9 songs, which we usually only do about 6-7. I also have a few special things planned for this show that you won't want to miss.
What's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome in the past 5 years (as an artist or a human), and what are 3 things you would say to your younger self to help them through the process if you could?
The biggest challenge in the last 5 years would be more of a general battle against myself, rather than one specific situation. Battling with finding the time to create and hustle and do what I came to Los Angeles to do, versus the sensory overload that comes with moving to Los Angeles. This place is great for those who can find the focus and drive to stay on task, but if you take one wrong step you end up drowning in a sea of debauchery and madness. This is the city of angels, but many of those angels are fallen. I lived a pretty tame life in my suburb in New York. I was always a bit of an outcast as a creative type, surrounded by people who didn't quite understand or appreciate me. Because of that I mostly kept to myself, but when I moved out here and found myself surrounded by a community that is all creatives, I definitely got a bit too comfortable for a while and got lost in the burning hills of Hollywood. Thankfully, I have found myself a few incredible friends and connections that keep me in line when I go off kilter. There is always the struggle, but if you build a great support system around you, they will always catch you and help you get back in alignment with yourself. I would tell my younger self to move to Los Angeles sooner haha. I would say to eat healthier and exercise more. I would probably tell them to focus on the positive things in life rather than the negative. There are always good and bad things happening at any given time. It's all about what you tune into, like a radio. You can tune into the station that’s playing your favorite song, or you can tune into the station that’s playing something you hate. They are both playing at the same time, but you get to choose which one to listen to. Life is that way too, in all situations. Don't ignore the problems, but deal with them and move on from them. Be thankful at all times, because it's a beautiful life full of opportunity, love, and happiness. Now excuse me while I go to rehearsal to perform my 9 song set of sad Heartbreak songs! <3
Everyone appreciates a good break up song, but it’s not every day that one comes along and feels so great to sing along to while tearing an ex to pieces in the verses. Heartbreak is an age-old tale, expressed in a smart, honest and hook-y way in LUMiN’s, “Bloody Hell”. The fact that his live shows match (or exceed) what one hears in recordings is why we highly recommend seeing LUMiN in person as soon as you can! In the meantime, be sure to follow him on Instagram for updates.
Stream “Bloody Hell”, on Spotify now!
Get tickets here for LUMiN’s headlining show at the Troubadour this Saturday, May 18th!