Oct. 24--DURHAM -- Shawn Luby took up the guitar at age 4, was classically trained and competed, but instead of going to a conservatory, he chose a path in science. Now he's back to music and still in science, working in the McLendon Clinical Laboratories at UNC Hospitals. His band is called Humble Tripe, and is celebrating the release of a second record with a concert Saturday at The Pinhook in downtown Durham.
Luby grew up in Kansas. His mother, a music professor and singer, got him a little classical guitar and he began taking lessons an hour away in Kansas City, Mo. But at age 20 he quit music and moved to North Carolina. When he stopped playing, he thought his musical world was over. But five years later he started writing music again and singing. Something had been missing, he said.
Luby left music to focus on a career in clinical science, but kept his performance guitar and a steel string guitar. He graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in clinical lab science in 2007.
At work, "basically I look at blood and spinal fluid and find out what's going on," he said. He considered going to physician assistant school, but his interest in music had returned and surged. Luby now works part time, balancing his lab job with his music job. Each month he has time off from work for short tours. He does his own booking, accounting and web design for Humble Tripe.
"It's been really rewarding to play again," he said. The musicians he started Humble Tripe with moved away, so he kept the project going as his own, with collaborators. He describes the sound of Humble Tripe as honoring Americana and folk aspects as well as his classical background.
"I'm pretty drawn to minimalist emotional movement. If there's one guitar and one singer, I don't need anything else. I only want to bring things to the table that feel natural, in the spirit," Luby said.
Melissa York of The Butchies in Durham is his producer on Humble Tripe's new "The Giving." The first record, released in 2010, was "Counting Stars."
"Working with Mel is a big deal," Luby said of his producer. "She's definitely my mentor, and encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and express myself."
As a kid, Luby also learned piano but eventually had to choose between instruments. He has a visceral connection with music.
"I can step away from stress and anxiety and let music take me on a journey," he said.
His guitar is always nearby. Songs on "The Giving" include "Oh Lord," which he wrote and sang at his grandmother's funeral, and "Stones," which he wrote after contemplating a river in Georgia and ideas of weight and building a life with another person. There's also a Cat Stevens cover, "Trouble." Luby's musical taste comes from his parents' record collection, including Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young, Crosby Stills and Nash and a little Pink Floyd.
Luby began performing in Durham in 2009 with just two shows as he recorded "Counting Stars." He has 200 shows under his belt now. It's fascinating to watch the Durham music scene change and grow over the past decade, he said.
Without the friendships he has made in Durham, he's not sure if he'd know his music career was possible. At times the growing Durham scene seems big, and other times small, he said.
"Our challenge is to maintain that connected feel as Durham residents and artists," Luby said.
The record release show at the Pinhook will include original Humble Tripe members as well as trumpet, strings, York on drums and other guests. Arrows Out will also perform.
WANT TO GO?
WHO: Humble Tripe CD release party
WHEN: 10 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: The Pinhook
117 W. Main St., Durham
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