He's a young singer/songwriter who seems to have come out of nowhere. The main reason Luke Redfield doesn't have a higher profile locally, though, is because he's been all over the map.
At 26, Redfield has taken up residency in more places than most of us will call home in a lifetime, including Alaska, England, Scotland, Arizona, San Francisco, Nashville and, most recently, Austin, Texas. He pretty well led a vagabond existence for many years, in part to spike his songs with a potent amount of inspiration. But, he admitted, "I was out there for the fun of it, too."
"I basically started wandering right out of high school, and it got to be pretty addictive and hard to quit," said Redfield, who grew up in the towns of Cannon Falls and Kenyon, Minn. "It was very much about living in the moment. Slowly, but surely, I wrote songs along the way."
Thirteen of those songs make up Redfield's debut album, "Ephemeral Eon," which he's promoting Saturday at the Fine Line with an all-star backing band. Pretty much what you might expect and hope for from a young, hip acoustic folkie from the Midwest, "Ephemeral Eon" should quickly earn Redfield comparisons to Mason Jennings and Conor Oberst. The songs all sound raw and from-the-gut and are stacked with poetry about girls and landscapes, and they range in style from rollicking acoustic twang to more atmospheric indie-folk.
Only a few of Redfield's songs specifically reference some of the places where he landed. The upbeat disc-opener "Down the Line" offers a train-hopping tour of the countryside, while the sweet ballad "Coeur d'Alene" is named for a scenic lakeside town in Idaho. More often, the songs are laden with less literal traces of his roaming lifestyle, such as the haunting "Find Me in the Light," which he wrote during a lonely but serene stay in Alaska.
"I stayed in a 7-by-7-foot shack called the Birdhouse that belonged to a songwriter friend," Redfield recalled, somewhat fondly. "It was as basic and meager as it gets."
Conversely, he recalled being put up in Nashville in a historic mansion that neighbored Jack White's house. In Europe, he mostly stayed in hostels or at the homes of people he would meet. Around the San Francisco Bay Area in 2007, though, things really became destitute for Redfield. He couldn't find work and wound up selling his car and then his bike to survive. "I became really depressed, and was really directionless at the time," he said.
He wound up back in Minneapolis, where he gigged sporadically. Fittingly, the recording of his first album took place in several locations, including the Terrarium in Minneapolis and Mike (Eyedea) Larson's home studio in St. Paul.
One of the best tracks on "Ephemeral Eon" is "With You in MPLS" -- with the hook, "This is my dream, to live with you here in Minneapolis" -- which actually dispels the romanticism of living in constant motion. Redfield said the song is based on one of the best lessons he learned during his travels: "No matter where you live, you can still dream and find inspiration."
Still, Redfield is not so sure his wanderlust has gone away. "I'm still only on a month-to-month lease," he admitted.
Catch him while you can, I guess.