Glasses clanking in toast, plates hitting tables, waiters taking orders, the steady hum of Saturday dinner chatter;all blend to hush out the guitar, harmonica, and singing of the musician hired to perform a recent Saturday night at Granary’s Pizza.
But when patrons, usually the women enticed by his good looks, took the moment to look up from their food and focus on the small corner set aside as a mock stage, they noticed that the singer, Luke Byron, is unfazed by their apparent disinterest in his work.
Byron jams out enthusiastically. His fedora hat is set low on his forehead, as if on purpose to shield him from this less than ideal concert environment so he can focus on his music, or perhaps fantasize that he is playing it somewhere else- somewhere where people are actually listening.
“I’m kind of just a filler,” Byron said of his gigs playing restaurants around town, which, for the past five months, have been his main outlet for putting his music out to the public.
Byron, of Templeton, California, moved up to Eugene last August after graduating from Chico State with a degree in music industry and technology. And trying to break into the music scene in a new town where he knows almost no one, especially one with a tight knit community of locals like Eugene, has been difficult.
“People were hesitant to book someone that wasn’t from here,” He said. “It took over a month to get any shows at all.”
By the time he left Chico, Byron was playing at all of the major venues in town. He had a band he played with. He had a fan base. So, the change of scene has been an adjustment.
“The music scene in Eugene is kind of like everything in Eugene, spread out and random,” he said, “I haven’t really been around a community of other players.”
Byron’s music also doesn’t fit a certain genre. He plays what he likes and doesn’t adhere to one scene. “There’s all these little cliques of music and I’m just sort of in the middle,” he said.
But, the people who have heard Byron play have been quick to have him back.
Granary is one of four paid shows Byron has lined up every month and as the night passes and the restaurant gets less busy, the music gets its chance to shine through. It becomes obvious that it’s more than just background dinner tunes, and that the musician playing actually has talent.
Byron started playing the guitar in fifth grade, but didn’t truly dedicate himself to it until high school. His interest sparked, he said, simply because he liked music, a sentiment that transformed into not only liking others’ music, but wanting to create his own. He began writing lyrics and soon integrated vocals into his guitar playing.
Freshman year of college, Byron got together with some fellow musicians in the dorms and started playing at house parties in Chico. But, as Byron described it, drunk people tend to be easy to entertain, and he didn’t really get confident about his playing until he moved away from the house party scene and started playing bigger shows.
“When you play a show and you see people dancing and having fun, when it’s something you’re playing and you wrote. You realize it’s working,” he said of playing his own shows in Chico. “It’s a really rewarding feeling when you realize that you music is being appreciated.”
Remembering back to his success in California keeps Byron optimistic, despite his struggles to get his foot in the door in Eugene.
“I feel like all my hard work has paid off, this keeps me going.”
Byron is ambitious, hoping to get enough recognition to get funding for a full-length album. He wants his music to be heard.
“I just want some major recognition at some point. Some kind of larger scale thing where you feel like you’ve accomplished something.”
But, he’s also down to earth and realistic about making music a career. “It’s the kind of thing I can do now that I’m younger. At some point I can’t afford just to scrape by playing music.” At least for now, though, Byron plans to do just that. Barely making enough to pay rent and nostalgic for the taste of celebrity he found in California, Byron plays with the same dedication now as many musicians do at the peak of their career. He’s willing to stick to something, even when it’s hard, because it’s what he loves. Period.
When Byron was fretting over what to study in school a family friend advised said to him, “When you get older, you realize it doesn’t matter how much money you have if you’re not doing something you love.”