Lucky Sonne: No need for ribbons and bows, bring on the naked muse

How? How can it be? How can anything so simple, so beautiful — prone to following shooting stars along creeks and winding pathways, to following the heart without self-reproach — never end up in the weeds? Not even after more than a decade, four albums and hundreds of shows. These are questions one cannot help but wonder when listening to the glorious sonic offerings of Calgary’s Lucky Sonne.

For their music — at times bright, spare, meandering, or driving — is anything but formulaic. Sweet surprises of lyric, instrumentation or dynamic lurk always a few bars further into the song.

“That is the best compliment right there, it’s non-formulaic,” says singer-songwriter and driving force Luke Colborne from his Red Deer Lake home. “I’m a sucker for a good hook and a polished Top 40 as much as anyone because it perks my ear, but for whatever reason I reject that in my own writing. Not to say I (haven’t) taken some stabs at writing some Top 40 pro-country stuff for fun just to see if I could do it, and it’s harder than one might think.

“It comes out whatever it is and I’m very careful about not putting too many bows or ribbons on it. What comes out is what comes out and there’s not a whole lot of fleshing out when we go to make records.”

If that’s the reason Lucky Sonne sounds like it does, then hallelujah. Because somehow, Colborne mines his experience — from singing hymns to ending up a high school student living in Seattle with his newly divorced mom when grunge crested — to create songs that connect you to the past that is the present, the moments that are the core of us all.

“I was always involved in music, whether by choice or not depends on who you ask. I grew up in church and the hymns had a pretty profound impact on the way I learned to harmonize. For a lot of people harmonizing is instinctual and my mom said I always had that from a young age. I used to perform Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Daisy when I was two or three years old,” Colborne explains.

Finding grunge counter-balanced the folk/gospel teeter-totter into a perfect plank with which to build songs. “I had an outlet for some of my confusion and some of my deeper thoughts about what life could hold, and some of the misery and hope from day to day that we deal with. I felt that music was therapeutic. I learned old Bob Dylan songs, and I started to write songs down.”

Colborne returned to Calgary where his brother Kelly was in bands with Arran Fisher, and when they began playing together, Lucky Sonne was born, with Fisher remaining an anchor point. The name was a mix of the fact that Colborne was an English major and loved the desperate, pining poetry of John Donne and of people coming up and telling the band that sonne meant sound in French. “Once again, I didn’t over think it. My nickname was Lucky growing up and I’m a momma’s boy, so I consider myself a lucky son in that sense.”

The name ended up as a prediction as well. “We’d get in the studio and we’d be doing a take and a pedal got left on or a mic got left on or something silly that was out of our control. We’d listen to the playback and sure enough it was a lucky sound.”

There is another part of Colborne that goes into the lucky sounds and songs. He, his wife, and their three sons, aged two, seven and fourteen, live near Red Deer Lake where he is the caretaker of the community hall. “I probably have a mop in my hand more than I have a guitar in my hand. It teaches me patience and humility every day.” In addition, the family have about 40 beehives in the Priddis Valley, and sell their own honey products “from the back of our car. That keeps us tied to the land; the whole agrarian side which is such a rewarding way to spend time.” In addition, the songwriter also works as a safety officer at a private school. It’s amazing he has any time to write and record at all, let alone drink straight from the trough of the muse.

His few guidelines begat those stunning songs. He doesn’t carry a notebook to write ideas down, he tries not to use the same word twice in a song, and, though he loves a good relationship song, he’s “starting to explore deeper pockets of life … spirituality and the moral decay of the Western world.”

Colborne continues, “I just think I have sort of a running inventory of issues that either strike me as worth writing about or exploring deeper …

“I put myself in that position to be true to my muse whatever form that muse takes. I don’t put in honest four hour shifts writing; it’s when I have the time. I’ve always put myself in a position (of not wondering) whether I’m behind, measure up against some of my peers, and some of my worldly possessions or owning a house or any of these benchmarks that people aim for because I don’t know any better. I have a full life outside of music that I adore, and that actually helps me express my (ideas) through the muse that way because I do have a full life and I’m not relying on the music industry to put food on the table for me and my boys and my wife and I think that’s my journey.”

Lucky Sonne plays Saturday, Feb. 23 at The King Eddy as part of the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Block Heater. For tickets, go to https://www.calgaryfolkfest.com/blockheater/tickets/

Mary-Lynn Wardle is a Bragg Creek writer.