UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 17 Fall 23 Library
Luke Powers
Student Spotlight

The Musical Journey of Luke Richard Powers

Check out Luke Richard Powers' website!

In music, as in life, sometimes there is no minute like the last minute.

Third-year student Luke Richard Powers had every intention of making a recording to throw his hat in the ring for the Arts on the Hill 2023 Battle of the Bands competition. “Then it was the day the submissions were due,” he said, “and I thought I just need to submit this thing.” This “thing” was a Spotify link to one of his most recent songs, and it more than did the trick. Powers soon got an email congratulating him on being one of a select group of students chosen to perform a 20-minute set!  

The country-tinged Americana artist has been writing songs since he was in high school, inspired first by bands like The Avett Brothers and The Head and The Heart, among others. The country influences crept in as he expanded his influences to include artists like Brent Cobb and Zach Bryan. In fact, he recently found himself on stage at a special tailgate outside Bryan’s JPJ concert – organized by the star’s father. 

The humble Powers attributes the invitation, and a recent opening spot on a bill with Happy Landing at The Southern Music Café in Charlottesville, to the fact that he is one of the only current student artists in his specific genre. But even a quick listen to his online catalog will tell you there is a lot more to it than that. 

His most recent tune, Red/Blue begins with deft fingerpicking and a clear, strong voice introducing a pivotal life moment for its main character. The music pauses for just an instant before a jubilant, hook-heavy, and percussion-powered chorus hits in the style of the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons, but very much all his own. It’s the kind of chorus that transforms everything around you, from knees to tables to steering wheels, into makeshift drums, and you find yourself singing along when it comes around a second time. This is an artist who knows his way around a song, and a songwriter with plenty to say and share. 

Part of what Powers shares comes from the struggles of recent years that have challenged him both mentally and physically. “Starting my freshman year in high school,” the Northern Virginia native said, “I started having a lot of health issues that brought mental health issues like anxiety and depression to the forefront, and those became another difficult thing to manage.” He soon had a laundry list of ailments affecting his body, stomach, back and more – symptoms that would suggest an autoimmune disease, though an official diagnosis never materialized. 

Perhaps most alarming for him was the way his back issues began to affect his voice, just as he was discovering and pursuing his musical dreams. “I was turning to songwriting and to music to deal with the pain of physical and mental health issues, and I felt like I was losing the ability to express it due to vocal issues. I think it was integral to the development of my songwriting.” 

Another key inspiration for Powers’ songwriting and life is his Christian faith. “My faith is very important to me,” he said, noting how it helped him deal with the ups and downs of searching for solutions to his myriad issues, including a new round of voice struggles that cropped up this past winter that were greatly helped by a new chiropractor. “I very much have seen God’s hand in the way that we have these peaks and valleys that push me to find different answers. It always seems clearly orchestrated.” 

Family is also at the heart of Powers’ music - a frequent subject of his conversation and the bedrock of his musical journey. “I didn’t grow up listening to pop music. I grew up listening to James Taylor in the car with my mom and John Denver with my dad,” he remembers, “and that has been really informative to my style.” His parents remain very supportive of Powers’ musical aspirations, which now are clearly focused on making a career in the industry, whether it be on the stage or behind the scenes. “I love Charlottesville and could obviously see heading to Nashville,” he said. 

Luke Richard Powers with President Jim Ryan at the Arts on the Hill: 2023 Battle of the Bands

“They know I am probably not coming back home after I graduate in December. What I want to do is continue to work on my own music, releasing and performing it, but also have a job in the industry, at least for some time, until one overtakes the other. What I have realized is that while I obviously want to be able to support myself, I am OK scraping by a little bit if it means I am enjoying life, especially given the struggles I have gone through.” 

Hear Luke’s music on Spotify, and follow him: 

Read the next story

Sanda Iliescu's Dark Flag Painting Acquired for the University's Permanent Art Collection