In 2010, Luke Spehar, felt the urge to take a road trip. After four years in seminary and summers working road construction jobs, the 22-year-old, Catholic recording artist felt called to get out on the road – not to work construction but to play music. With his first CD, “Be Still,” in tow, Spehar, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, took an 11,000-mile road trip across the country, stopping to perform at churches and youth groups. He drove as far east as Boston, south to Mobile, west to Los Angeles and home through Omaha on a trip that launched his musical career and ministry.
“I used to work road construction and I didn’t want to do that anymore. I had an album by then and so I wanted to go around and just play music,” Spehar said in an interview.
He told the seminary guys that he was going to do this, and they connected him with their parishes and schools and offered him places to stay with them or with their families. “They set it up for me and I just went and played,” he said.
His concerts blend his deep, raw vocals with acoustic guitar and intricate finger-styling. Spehar recently made a tour of eastern Wisconsin in February 2012, performing concerts at Holy Family-Sacred Heart Church in Fond du Lac, Common Grounds Coffeehouse at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Shepherd of the Hills Parish in Eden, and the Catholic Underground at St. Pius X Church in Appleton – drawing young adults from all over the area.
Telling the stories behind his songs is integral to each concert and gives audiences a glimpse into the soul of this 24-year-old artist. He explained, “I always feel it necessary to share the origin of the song and what was going on in my life with it. They’ll hear it in their own ears, and they’ll relate to it in their own way.”
When writing the song “Chess,” for example, he said, “I was struggling to understand providence or the idea of God having a ‘plan’” – until he realized life was like a game of chess. When hard things happen to us or we make the wrong choices, it’s like a bad chess move, but the Lord, who sees all and is beyond time, allows those moves and then accounts for them so that He wins.
Spehar’s music and messages resonate with young adults. The song “Explanation” recounts a difficult conversation he had to have with his girlfriend when he felt God calling him to the seminary in 2006.
Looking back at his time there, he said, “Seminary for me was so surprising in that I thought it was going to be so different. Whatever expectations you have, it’s going to be different,” he said, laughing. “It’s just amazing. I would not take back for a moment the four years I was in seminary. I think it was really helpful to form a certain amount of virtues to help me in what I’m doing now.”
His advice to others contemplating a religious vocation is to let it draw you closer to Christ. “I think sometimes you can be inclined to a vocation. It can really be on your heart to join the seminary or the priesthood or go into a convent. Sometimes that can be a push the Lord is using to make you holier,” he said. “I think if it keeps persisting like it did for me, and I just needed to have that answered, I think it’s really worth it to go and check it out for the peace of mind. Before I went, it was just haunting me in the back of my mind. A priest in the seminary said, ‘If it’s going to haunt you for the rest of your life, get it out of the way now.’”
Spehar attended seminary after high school, which served to strengthen his faith and deepen his understanding of Catholicism. “The Lord used seminary to humble me tremendously and then build me back up, kind of as a purifier, a crucible,” he said. “I was raised Catholic, but I didn’t know a lot of what it meant to be Catholic in doctrine – what the actual teachings were and how we got to certain understandings. Although it was a very challenging time, because the deeper you go the more answers you get, the more questions you have…it was cool that I could ask questions and have those answered and keeping digging deeper…until you run into the fact that it’s a mystery.”
Leaving the seminary, Spehar felt enriched by his experiences and ready for where God was calling him next. During his 2010 road trip, while in Madison recording his second album, “No Other Way,” a friend called him from Catholic Youth Expeditions (CYE) and invited him to play a concert at one of CYE’s outdoor expeditions in Door County. “When I played for them, it was a really cool experience,” he remembers. The next summer, Fr. Quinn Mann invited him back, and this year, Spehar looks forward to sharing his music through CYE again.
“I think the Lord will give me these songs as prayers. Prayers put to music,” he said. He hopes to record his third album this fall and have it wrapped up by spring. “I’m excited for this new album. Chances are I’ll head out to LA for this third album.”
Spehar lives near St. Paul, where he enjoys hunting, fishing and the outdoors. To order his CDs or contact him, visit www.lukespehar.com.