In an industry overrun with beautiful young people showing plenty of navel and tattoos but little true talent, Dustan Louque is a breath of fresh air.
The 32-year-old singer-songwriter, who fronts his own band, louque (pronounced Luke), has experience on his side on his debut Lava/Everfine/Newlafaya album, "So Long" (released May 11).
Those 32 years were filled with exposure to many styles of music, from classical to Jamaican dub - owing greatly to his Louisiana upbringing. He has a deep, rootsy voice, a sort of raspy American version of Chris Rea. He has a penchant for storytelling and a knack for several instruments and knows his way around a studio.
Now that's talent.
"I started music late, started when I was in college," Louque said recently. "It took me a while to get where I wanted, but everything's falling into place right now. I can't believe I'm with Lava and with all of Atlantic's distribution."
His age wasn't a barrier, but he would be lying if he said he wasn't worried about it at first.
"I thought about it," he said. "I was fully aware what age I was and that I was getting in a young person's game, but what gave me the encouragement to do it was seeing people like the Buena Vista Social Club - old people still playing music. I made sure to put my Louisiana heritage into the music so I could set myself up forever, instead of putting something out there that I'm not. That's my goal: to do honest work and be me, and have a career.
"The age thing doesn't concern me. Look at what's happening to music right now. Sure, there's a lot of pretty young girls and boys doing music, but who's listening to it after a couple of years? I'm more concerned about growing as an artist. I'm not 22, but the 22-year-old doesn't have the experience I have and all this stuff to draw from in my songwriting."
Before moving to New York in the late 1990s, Louque discovered piano and realized he had a singing voice, but he had other plans in mind: the theater.
"For a while, I had a sales job with my family's business in New Orleans and that enabled me to save a lot of money and do music on the side," Louque said. "I was also doing some acting, did some commercials, and that ultimately led me to New York and to the Stella Adler conservatory.
"A friend of mine who I was really good friends with in New Orleans moved up here. He's the one who said I ought to do the music thing, so he put together some beats and some samples. Then I started taking some computer classes to learn how to do studio stuff. Next thing I know, we're putting an album together in an apartment in Brooklyn."
With the aid of co-writers Seth Gold and Donovan Guidry, that album (Hear here) wound up in the hands of Lava President Jason Flom, who quickly signed Louque.
" 'So Long' is what it is, a certain place in time," Louque said. "I'm in a whole different place now. I'm playing a lot o f new material at shows. Lava was prepared to put it out as is, and that's what I was looking for. It's like the perfect marriage. It's not so much that they have to package me up. I think they just want to put the music out there and let the music speak for itself.
"We're taking a grass-roots approach to everything, like I'm not going to put out all over magazines right away. We're going to build it slowly, with the live thing."