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Luke Sweeney - Rishi

Luke Sweeney - Rishi

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RISHI (Hindi: “the sage”, “teacher”)

It was Rishi’s dancing atop my heart that wouldn’t let me return to sleep until I committed to travel to the place of her namesake: Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India. This was in the spring of 2017. She had been pulling me in her orbit since long before I was born - but I didn’t know it yet. I didn’t pack an instrument on our trip to India, so I didn’t record any music there. But I heard it everywhere: in the rush of the Ganges outside on the gaat, the bells and singing at evening aarti, the beeps and honks of motorcycles along unmarked roads, and even in my own breath. I filled up notebooks in Rishikesh, in Haridwar, Jaipur, Vrindavan, and Delhi, before we surrendered our half-baked epiphanies and retreated back to the spiritual desert of the United States. I’d been gone for weeks, but hadn’t mastered any new revelation or philosophy - I hadn’t even written a song.

But there were bigger forces at play, and they started showing up in a mysterious way. The trip - and an astrological reading in Rishikesh - had inspired us to try for a second child. As soon as we brought Rishi home from the hospital (where she had stopped breathing during labor and was miraculously revived), all the music from India started rushing back to me. The faucet was on and I couldn’t turn it off. I managed to demo two songs at home - “Rishi” and “Letter to Rishikesh” - but the meaning of it all didn’t hit me until Rishi’s sudden death just two months after her arrival. We would have to make a return pilgrimage to Rishikesh to deliver her ashes to the Ganges, and I’d have to figure it out with a broken heart.

This is where the rest of the music came to me, and through me: equipped with only a melodica and my iPhone, I recorded whiplash Garageband demos of songs and sounds that crept through the hotel windows, lept at me from lampposts and electric wires, and buzzed with that same dancing energy that stirred atop my chest the night I first agreed to go to India the year prior. Our time in these flawed holy cities was devoted to healing and understanding the bigger picture - the why and the how. We were opening ourselves up to clues and cues from the universe like spirit detectives, picking up signals from overlooked sources: lightning and electricity, animals and whisps, dreams and nature omens. Losing a child is a tragedy that no person can truly bear - but the music Rishi brought me after her departure made me fully aware that I was still dancing in her orbit.

All this information inspired my construction of a humble temple of songs that is ‘Rishi’: an album that has me still searching, still hurting, but fully convinced of the cosmic connection and deeper purpose that I share not only with my daughter, but with every energetic being... as we all flutter like moths to the flame on this plane. From August of 2018 through September of 2020, I spent countless hours in a homemade San Francisco studio with two close friends; laying down rhythmic foundations, stacking soulful textures, painting playful synth patterns and guitar plucks, and orchestrating collaborating voices to build a musical arena that invites a sweet surrender. I’m only a translator here; a scribe, an apostle... someone with the means of illuminating obscure pathways with this connective medium. It’s Rishi who delivered me here, and called upon me to share these gifts. I’m sure people will have their own references for what these songs sound like or remind them of, but for me - it comes from a place we all belong, but haven’t arrived at yet.


released November 11, 2022

This album was recorded in San Francisco, CA with Joe Santarpia & Roberto Pagano in various sessions from August 2018 to September 2020.

All songs written & performed by Luke Sweeney.

additional instrumentation by:
Roberto Pagano - drums & percussion; backing vocals
Joe Santarpia - backing vocals, 808, MPC
Brett Eastman - drums (track 4)
Geoff Morris - saxophone, flute (tracks 4, 8, 11)
Simi Sohota - backing vocals (tracks 2, 3, 11)
John 'Wuuj' Wujinowsky - bongos, congas, bells, ratchet

engineered & mixed by Joe Santarpia & Roberto Pagano
produced by Joe Santarpia, Roberto Pagano, and Luke Sweeney

All songs © & (P) 2022 Serious Sailboater Songs (ASCAP). All rights reserved.
Mastered by John Greenham, Clearlight Mastering
Artwork & Layout by Yasamine June
THANK YOU to my family, my friends, and everyone who came to my rescue and kept me in the light. This album would not exist without your love and support, nor would I. Special thanks to Joe and Berto for what only they can know, and the town and people of Rishikesh.
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