Dear Visitor, this page contains my full biography. If you are after a more succinct version please visit the "About" page. If you require a bio for a specific purpose then please contact me directly. Thanks, Luke
Luke Escombe is a rock-soul singer, raconteur, blistering blues guitarist, comedian and songwriter, and is very good at them all
- John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald
Luke was born in London into a musical household. His father Alan was a bassist for successful 60's band The Shake Spears before moving behind the scenes of the industry in the 1980's as director of rock and roll freight company: Rock-it Cargo. This enabled Luke to receive an incredible musical education, watching legendary performances by artists like Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury, while he was just a boy.
Luke began playing guitar at the age of seven, and became obsessed with the instrument the day his teacher introduced him to the Blues. It was to become a valuable resource to him in his teens, when he was diagnosed with a serious chronic illness called Crohn's disease.
After studying English and Theatre at Sussex University, Luke moved from London to Sydney where he fell in love and then eloped with an Australian girl. Although their clandestine wedding was predominantly about getting Luke a visa, the pair are still happily married twenty years later.
Now a permanent resident, Luke started singing and performing his own songs around Sydney at the age of 22 with outlandish funk band "Funklantis" before once again succumbing to his illness and spending much of his 20's either housebound or in and out of hospital.
Luke finally emerged in 2006 to front satirical folk trio The Locals before officially introducing himself to the Australian music industry at the age of 30 with his debut solo album Golden Ages, a warm, folk-tinged collection of songs recorded in the hills of Byron Bay. One of its tracks, The Blame Game, was used as part of Worldvision’s "Stir the World" campaign, while another two were featured on Foghorn Records' "Homegrown Roots" compilation alongside songs from John Butler and Paul Kelly.
After playing the main stage of the Peats Ridge Festival and a succession of Sydney residencies and East Coast tours, Luke then found himself in the familiar scenario of spending most of 2009 at home on the couch because of his illness. As a side effect of the illness his left wrist was paralysed for many months and he was unsure whether he would be able to play the guitar again, so he began writing songs using simple keyboard hooks and drum loops. He returned to the scene with a fresh set of songs and 2 live EPs in 2010 – "Chronic Illness" and Live in the Studio, showcasing a funky new style and more overtly comedic lyrics, plus a new onstage persona - The Pimp
In 2011, on the advice of friends and audience members, Luke combined his new comedic material and pimp persona into a musical comedy show called “Chronic” which he took to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. This was where he received his first significant critical notices, with the Melbourne Herald Sun describing him as “a stick insect dressed like a pimp” but praising his “stellar musicianship” and declaring him “on the fast track to musical comedy’s big leagues” Following the show's success, he was awarded a grant from Arts NSW to take “Chronic” to the Edinburgh Fringe, where it packed out its room and garnered a 4-star review.
Earlier in the year, on a rain-soaked rock and roll tour of QLD, Luke had gone into the recording studio with his 4-piece backing band "The Corporation" to record a hard-rocking comedy song about airport security procedures. The single and accompanying music video - Drop tha Bomb - was released in July and became an instant hit on community radio stations across the country, spending 5 weeks in the top ten of the AIRIT charts.
Luke returned from Edinburgh to perform sold out shows in Melbourne and Sydney, where his comedy began to attract attention for its candid discussion of living with chronic illness. One of his performances at the Sydney Fringe was filmed by the ABC’s “Tonic” program, and a few weeks later he was flown down to Canberra to deliver a moving speech about the experiences that inspired “Chronic” to a room full of politicians. He ended the year with standing ovations at the Peats Ridge Festival and the title of “Sydney’s sexiest man voice”, as voted for by the listeners of Sydney’s Mix 106.5FM. “Chronic” was nominated for a Green Room Award in 2012
July 6th 2012 saw the release of Mantown - Luke's second album. Featuring singles "Drop tha Bomb" and "iMan", two songs from the "Chronic" repertoire, the record also paid tribute to Luke's blues and roots influences, from Hendrix and The Stones to John Lee Hooker and Reverend Gary Davis.
The launch of Mantown was accompanied by an 11-date national tour by Luke Escombe and the Corporation and a spectacular music video for "iMan", starring Luke as a homicidal iPhone obsessed with his owner (played by Aussie model Annette Melton), which racked up over 20 000 views in its first week on Youtube. Mantown went on to spend 9 straight months in the top ten of the Australian Blues and Roots chart and drew praise from critic John Shand in the Sydney Morning Herald, who compared Luke's "commanding voice" to the likes of Dr John, Jim Morrison and (Luke's childhood hero) Bruce Springsteen.
Following the ABC’S broadcast of the segment on “Chronic” in early 2012, Luke was asked to become an official ambassador for Crohn's and Colitis Australia and immediately began receiving offers to speak and perform at a number of high profile health industry events, including the 2012 National Medicines Symposium.
Asked to speak for the second year in a row at Parliament House, he used the occasion to premier his animated music video Master Key - a gangsta rap tune about public toilet access - to some of the nation's top politicians. A few months later he joined forces with award-winning guitarist (and bandmate) Aaron Flower to present an expanded version of his Chronic show, featuring an 8-piece band with a string section, entitled Chronic Symphonic. The ambitious show was a success, packing out its venue and receiving a 4 and a half star review in the Sydney Morning Herald. Less than a month later, Luke took a decisive step in his long battle with Crohn's Disease, undergoing a major surgical procedure that has left him disease-free for the first time in his adult life.
2013 saw Luke travel to every major city in Australia and New Zealand as either a performer or speaker, including an emotional presentation at New Zealand's national museum in Wellington - given just days after the birth of his son Harry - where he was honoured with a standing ovation. In September he launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance the release of Chronic Symphonic on DVD, along with another live album - Live on the Coast - recorded at Wagstaffe Hall on the NSW Central Coast with his band The Corporation. The funding campaign doubled its target amount in just four days, enabling the simultaneous release of both live albums on May 15th 2014. Once again, the release earned glowing reviews, with the SMH declaring: "Luke Escombe is funny and brave, a showman and an artist, a brilliantly engaging lyricist, expert tunesmith, fine guitarist and exceptional singer"
Becoming a Dad inspired Luke to create a brand new show for the 2014 Sydney Fringe called The Vegetable Plot. Described in its first press release as a "roots musical for kids, families and foodies", the colourful children's show featured a 14-strong cast of musicians including ARIA- Award Winning folk singers "All our Exes live in Texas". The Vegetable Plot was awarded the prize for "Best Kid's Show" at the Fringe and went on to a successful run of performances in Hyde Park for the 2015 Sydney Festival.
Later that year Luke joined the cast of "Man of Constant Sorrow - a Tribute to the Music of O Brother Where Art Thou", as both a singer and the show's MC, a dual role he also occupies in the critically acclaimed 1950's RnB musical "Little Egypt's Speakeasy". His deep voice also saw him picked to join a 9-piece choir singing with Chet Faker in front of 6000 people on the Sydney Opera House forecourt in November 2015, just a few weeks after the death of his father.
During the final months of his life, Alan Escombe had lain on the sofa of his house in Byron Bay narrating his rock and roll stories into a dictaphone. Shortly after his father's death, Luke received a call from a producer at ABC North Coast in Lismore, Catherine Marciniak, asking if he'd be interested in turning those stories into a radio series. The result, released nationwide as part of Aus Music Month in 2017, was Rock and Roll Dad - a 5-part radio series based on his father's life and music, and Luke's most personal project to date; a way of both paying tribute to his Dad and coming to terms with his loss.
Following his father's passing, Luke has increasingly moved away from the rock and roll industry, channelling his musical energies into health, education and the arts. His last album as a bluesman was 2017's "Skeleton Blues", recorded live to tape in a single three hour session at Damien Gerard studios in Sydney, and featuring a mix of original songs and covers of old spirituals like "O Death" and "John the Revelator", as well as songs by two of Luke's greatest musical heroes: Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan.
It was while performing this material at the Bridgetown Blues Festival in WA that Luke had an encounter with a hitchhiking musician named "Grindhowl Screech" that was to have a profound impact on both men's lives. In 2018, following a successful crowdfunding campaign in collaboration with Brisbane-based organisation The Ageing Revolution, Luke returned to the small town of Greenbushes in rural WA with a documentary crew to tell the remarkable story of that encounter, which led to the release of an album called Solar Plexus by Grindhowl Screech in early 2019, with Luke as executive producer.
Back in 2017, Luke had the opportunity to visit one of the sacred houses of the blues - the studios of Chess Records in Chicago - but it was his health advocacy rather than his guitar playing that brought him there. Luke was flown to the windy city by Johnson and Johnson to speak at HealtheVoices, an event celebrating the work of others like Luke, who have used their voices and their platform to raise awareness of living with chronic illness. His keynote at the event was so well-received it led to further performances in Miami, Vienna, Bangkok and New York, all within the space of a year, plus an award for Luke - the international WEGO Health Award - in the category of "Hilarious Patient Leader".
Meanwhile, with its focus on health and education, The Vegetable Plot has enabled Luke to partner with teaching organisations and healthy eating initiatives across the world, including Hoopla Education, Macmillan Publishing, NSW Health, The Gut Foundation and Scholastic Education. After spending so long focussing on his illness, The Vegetable Plot was a way for Luke to channel all his energies into staying happy and healthy, and inspiring others to do the same.
Trimmed from its original grand size to a tight 3-piece of Aspara Gus (Luke himself), Ru Barb and bassist Sir Paul McCarrotney, The Vegetable Plot has been touring the country on a regular basis since 2016 playing at theatres, libraries, schools, community gardens and major events like the National Folk Festival, Woodford and Splendour in the Grass. In 2017 they became ambassadors for NSW Fruit and Veg Month, providing the soundtrack to a record-breaking annual event known as The Big Vegie Crunch, while their Spanish Onion music video has been screened at film festivals across the world, picking up 7 international awards and landing a spot on the Amazon Prime streaming platform.
In 2018 Luke wrote and recorded The Vegetable Plot Season Two album with longtime producing partner Michael McGlynn and a cast of over 25 musicians and singers. The album was released worldwide in 2019 on the ABC Kids label, and was followed in April 2020 by a live album entitled The Magic Garden, recorded at The Albert Hall in Canberra with The National Capital Orchestra. In May 2020 Luke was named as one of the winners in the Children's category of the International Songwriting Competition for the song "Waiting for a Bus", written one summer's day at a bus stop in Manly Vale while waiting for a bus into town to perform at the Sydney Festival.
Luke's profile as an inspiring and entertaining voice for patients within the Australian health system received a big boost in 2018 when he was asked to MC the NSW Patient Experience Symposium. His storytelling and quick thinking on the podium caught the eyes of people from diverse areas of NSW Health, and his "side hustle" as an MC and keynote speaker has now snowballed into a regular gig, and resulted in Luke taking up positions on the NSW Consumer Council, the Arts Advisory Panel and the Covid-19 Consumer Leaders Taskforce.
With all the different areas of his work now established, 2019 was Luke's most successful year to date. In March he once again performed with the cast of "Man of Constant Sorrow" in a sold out show at City Recital Hall. In April he toured with The Vegetable Plot, performing on the main stage at The National Folk Festival as well as at The Woodford Planting Festival. In June and July he played guitar, sang and acted in a musical adaptation of Shaun Tan's beloved children's book The Red Tree at the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Arts Centre. This led to him becoming a teaching artist with the Sydney Opera House's Creative Leadership in Learning program, writing and recording songs with schoolchildren in Southwest Sydney and performing them at the inaugural Amplified Festival at the Sydney Opera House in November, which he also MC'd. He also completed work on two albums, signed with ABC Music, and bought his first family home, in Avalon on Sydney's Northern Beaches, where he lives with his wife Kamilla and son Harry.
LISTEN to Luke being interviewed on ABC Sydney in March 2017