An Inside Scoop with Maryland's Beloved Country Artist, John Luskey
Jul 27, 2017 04:00PM ● Published by Arden Haley
Southern Maryland native John Luskey has country built into his bones and pulsing through his veins. His parents instilled in him this passion for music, and by the age of 13 he was a talented guitarist writing his first song. By 18, he was performing often enough to be known throughout many Maryland suburbs.
On a weekly basis, Luskey performs at various popular venues in the Maryland and Virginia areas, and plays for private events. The John Luskey Band, composed of Luskey, Jack Bannister (bass) and Dwayne Taylor (drums), has performed with noteworthy artists such as Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Zac Brown Band, and Sugarland to name a few.
The trio’s musical genius radiates an upbeat energy, so much even, that they were invited to be the first unsigned band to ever perform at the WMZQ Fest, held annually in Bristow, Virginia.
“That was an incredible honor and a huge surprise. It was magical, honestly. To be invited to play, and to be invited back… it is almost an indescribable feeling. It was, and is, humbling, and so special.” – John Luskey
Luskey won Billboard Magazine’s Billboard World Songwriting Contest in 2004 for “When She Cries” and in 2007 for “King of the World.” Additionally, Luskey won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in 2001 for “Honky Tonk Rhythm.”
In 2015 Luskey wrote and produced a music video for “She’s in Love,” one of his favorite songs that he’s written. The heartfelt crowd pleaser describes a man in love with a woman who is in love with someone else.
Luskey currently has a few projects to look forward to. Fans will be happy to know that he will release a fifth album and plans on debuting his new song “Legend of the Blue Dog” at the end of the summer. He is also excited to announce that he’ll be the opening act for the Eli Young Band at the Chesapeake Beach Resort & Spa, September 4th.
You don’t want to miss this country superstar! Catch him at the Chesapeake Beach Resort & Spa on Saturday, July 29th, Saturday, August 5th, Saturday, August 19th, and Monday, September 4th.
You joined your first band and wrote your first song when you were only 13. When did the interest to explore music develop and what directed you towards playing the guitar? Becoming interested in music at such a young age, who would you say you looked up to during that time?
My father was a policeman and a guitar player when I was a kid growing up. He worked night shifts, so he’d play guitar around the house. He would come home from work just as mom was getting up, and he would sit and sing little songs to make her laugh. I wanted to do that for someone. My dad was a big inspiration. My parents listened to all kinds of music—The Eagles, Billy Joel, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr., Kenny Rogers, a variety of genres.
The Eagles was my favorite concert. The opening act was Jimmy Buffet. Years later, in 2016, I saw the documentary of The Eagles, and in this it showed them playing at the Capital Center in 1977, I was 9 or 10 years old at the time. They played “Hotel California.” That was the exact concert I was at. Being able to see it and hear it again was just bizarre, it brought me way back.
When I was younger I started getting interested in Rock ‘n’ Roll. My grandmother exposed me to all different types of country music. She said I would be perfect for country, but I didn’t take her seriously. When country had its resurgence in the ’90s, I began singing it. I did various forms of rock before my country days. I was even part of a hard rock band in the ’80s that wore spandex and black eyeliner.
When I was with His Boy Elroy, a member of the band’s girlfriend worked for Clear Channel in LA. When she heard my music, she said “This guy has to be a country singer”.
What has the experience been like to perform with country artists such as Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, and Toby Keith? Did you ever picture yourself performing with artists so well known in the country music industry? If you had the opportunity to perform with any artist, who would you choose?
It’s a roller coaster experience. When I was younger I knew I wanted to be a rock star, but as I got older I realized how hard you had to work. Anyone can pick up a guitar and sing but not all of them are going to be the Michael Jordan of that field.
Being able to play with them is a surreal experience. I didn’t know how this was going to perpetuate my music. I had the opportunity to talk to the road managers back stage and pick their brains a little bit.
If I could perform with any artist I would choose Brad Paisley, he is one of the most creative country artists.
How did the collaboration with Jack Bannister and Dwayne Taylor come about? Was starting a band ever in the plans for your career?
I had seen Jack perform in other bands for about 10 years before asking him to collaborate with me. His voice just had this smoothness, like cutting through butter with a hot knife. Dwayne and I had both been members of His Boy Elroy, and he is the best drummer I have ever played with. Our band has been together for 13 wonderful years.
In 2014, at the 10-year mark, I said to them that if they wanted to take a break from the band to focus on other areas of their lives, that I would understand. They didn’t want to stop playing together. That was a heart-warming feeling. We’ve been the core.
How did it feel to be the first unsigned band to ever perform at the WMZQ Fest? What was the experience playing at this festival like? Are festivals something that you enjoy or do you prefer more intimate settings?
That was an incredible honor and a huge surprise. It was magical, honestly. To be invited to play, and to be invited back…it is almost an indescribable feeling. It was, and is, humbling, and so special.
I’m always so appreciative to be able to perform in front of an audience and I try to express that at every show. I love the intensity of a larger audience, but that feeling of performing, whether for a small audience or a large audience, stays the same. If anything, I actually get more nervous in front of 50 to 100 people instead of 10,000 people because I can see people’s expressions better.
Performing all over the Maryland, D.C., and Virginia, is there any particular venue that you’d say is your favorite to perform at? Why?
As of late, one of my favorites is Chesapeake Beach Resort & Spa. It’s a beautiful setting and it’s like a mini concert venue. It’s interesting…when I perform at a place that doesn’t take music as a first priority, I can tell. But, this place has a big stage and lots of seats, and respects me as an artist. Music is a big part of the environment there.
As a local musician, how important would you say social media is when it comes to promoting not only your music, but your performances as well?
It’s the biggest arm of my marketing, especially for people under the age of 50. Now I concentrate on Instagram because from there I can distribute to Facebook and Twitter. Social media allows me to connect and reconnect with people better, and even meet them. It’s always nice when someone approaches me after a show and tells me that they found me via social media.
After releasing your last album in 2010, the most recent song you’ve collaborated on was “Southern Maryland Thang” with Donovan Farell and a few other popular southern Maryland artists. Can you tell me a little more about this collaboration and what the song entails?
Donovan is a great song-writer and he wanted his next project to expose Southern Maryland to the rest of the world. Each of us that collaborated on the song filmed our part of the video in different locations in Southern Maryland. I met Donovan a couple of times at different performances because he was also a musician, and musicians tend to know each other.
What can fans expect next from John Luskey? Any future plans to write another song or possibly another album?
Oh yes, I have plans to write another song. I’m working on it now and plan to have it out, as well as the music video, at the end of August. It’s about the Legend of the Blue Dog. The story takes place at the end of the Revolutionary War. A man goes to Port Tobacco to sell a couple things from being in the war. He heads to a bar and begins drinking a little too much, talking about the gold coins he collected from selling his items. He leaves the bar and is followed by other men who try to kill him for his gold, but his dog attacks them, and they’re unable to steal the coins. Legend has it that if you go to Rose Hill the dog will come and get you.
I thought of writing about this when I went to Blue Dog Saloon in Port Tobacco. I asked the owner about the painting on the wall of a dog and a moon, and he told me the story. Said I should write a song about it, so I did!