Luke Faulkner, aged 30, who previously performed on cruise ships, seized the opportunity of more people being at home to develop a big online audience.
His recordings – filmed in sumptuous locations, Luke at the piano dashingly dressed in tweed, poloneck, or white tie – have been streamed more than 80 million times and he attracts 300,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
He has made 10 albums of his own neo-classical style compositions and his performances of famous piano works.
Growing up in Shropshire, his father from a farming family near Ellesmere, his mother an artist from the south of the county. He attended Ellesmere Primary School and Lakelands School, then Bedstone College near Bucknell and Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester, then Oxford and Edinburgh Universities.
Luke, his engineer brother and their mother are currently tenants at country house Stokesay Court in Onibury, which Luke uses as a location for some of his videos.
Single Luke has found inspiration in the countryside, coming up with the idea for his piece The Wanderer when walking down the Shropshire Way, and composing his first piano concerto while on a school cross-country run.
“In the country, you're completely safe and free to explore. I don't think I would have written any of the pieces if I grew up in the city,” he says.
“You can ‘write’ things there and then. You get the nuts and bolts and go back to the piano and play what's in your mind”.
His favourite Shropshire places include the hazel coppice opposite the entrance to Mortimer’s Forest.
When Luke graduated, uncertain what to do next, agent Gary Parkes suggested he could find him work playing cocktail piano on a cruise ship. Feeling “a lot of pent-up wanderlust,” Luke enthusiastically agreed.
He had some wonderful experiences travelling the world and formed a career plan to become a headline act on liners, a plum role that involves performing only two nights a week. But he began to have doubts.
Watching tankers line up to refuel the ship from his cabin porthole, he says: “I lay there running the numbers through my head. This cruise ship is 100,000 tonnes, it probably does 3,000 miles in the week. There are about 3,000 people on board. My share of the fuel is moving this 100,000 tonne colossus one mile a week.
“And I’ll be going on tonnes of cruises every year, probably enough to move one of these ships 50 miles. A massive carbon footprint: more of a carbon crater”. On top of this would be frequent flights to take him from one ship in dock to another.
“I’ve always loved nature and the planet, and harboured this notion of being a net benefit rather than a massive consumer”. He now considers himself “lucky in the way I’ve carved a niche so I really can reduce my carbon footprint”.
Luke’s compositions feature traditional harmonies and are in a calming style that he found audiences liked when he experimented with them. “People consume music these days while they’re studying, working, commuting, cooking. It’s something in the background,” he says. He’s an admirer of popular classical artists like ‘King of Waltz’ Andre Rieu: “it takes a heck of a lot of creativity and intelligence to pull off what he’s done”.
He’s convinced that streaming won’t negatively impact live music, because “they’re very different things. My attitude is very much live and let live”.
Coming up next for Luke is an album of piano music by lesser known Russian composers, plus videos of a series of his compositions that he’s filming in a range of locations, including in Scotland this month.
His goal is more than doubling his number of YouTube subscribers to 100,000 – “sustainable numbers that would allow me to spend the rest of my life doing music”.
He doesn’t have an agent or manager. He acquired technical recording skills during his Master's degree, and has collaborated with people who connected with him online.
“I work with a couple of record labels who have good presences on Spotify and YouTube, so I do get some good spin-off publicity from that,” he says.
“It’s incredibly satisfying to have complete control over every aspect of what you do. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but a constant learning process, exciting. As musicians, online we do have the greatest recourse to an audience we have ever had."
Luke can also be found on his website: https://www.lukefaulkner.com/