Today, Friday September 18th, sees the release of peachy pop newcomer Luke Baron’s debut single, inspired by one of the most beloved queer movies of recent years (or ever), Luca Guadagnino’s 2017 Oscar-winning Call Me By Your Name, based on the novel by André Aciman. The dreamy anthem, Summer Of ’83 (Call Me By Your Name) celebrates a gay holiday romance through a dramatic, electro-tinged filter. While we were all binging Netflix shows during lockdown, the bilingual singer-songwriter-pianist who hails from Nashville was busy writing new songs which he’s now ready to share with the world, starting with this one.
Ahead of today’s single release The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann spoke exclusively with Luke Baron about the impact Call Me By Your Name had on him when he first saw it, his personal connections to the world of the film and what he’d say to Timothée Chalamet if he heard the song.
James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: What are your memories of seeing Call Me By Your Name for the first time?
Luke Baron: “I was given a copy of Call Me By Your Name back in 2017. I can’t remember whether or not the film was out yet in the US, but I do remember being acutely aware that the film was being discussed in circles around me. I had no previous exposure to Timothée Chalamet, but I remember being very intrigued by the title. What does that mean, to call me by your name? When I saw the film for the first time, I was alone which allowed for me to process it in solitude. So many elements of the story mirrored experiences and settings that I knew, so it was an instant connection. I remember getting the real, gut-wrenching butterflies that come with budding romance and the feeling of a deep pit in my stomach when the credits rolled. I’ve since seen the films upwards of 17 times, and have read the book several times as well.”
How did the film resonate with you personally?
“The first thing I noticed about the film were the similarities I had with the main character, Elio. Not just his precociousness, but the fact that he was also surrounded by such a loving family and given the space to have life-changing experiences at a young age. While I grew up in the States, I’ve lived for nearly three years of my young adult life in Europe. While I was living in the South of France, my back garden was very reminiscent of the villa from the film and novel, with people buzzing about languidly throughout the day, the smell of Mediterranean fruit mixing with the smell of cigarettes and perfume, and people reading for hours in the sun. It was a vibe that I understood and it struck a chord with me.”
Did the film remind you of a first love experience?
“In some ways, yes. I think one of the things that makes the story of Call Me By Your Name so beautiful is that there are no labels. The story is woven through a series of vignettes, and rather than hyper-focusing on the significance of specific events, the essence of the story is distilled from the grey area, the in-between. I am a lot like the character of Elio in that at the age of seventeen, I was in a long term relationship with a girl. I think sometimes it takes a certain person to come along to awaken you to who you really are. Love is a powerful and invisible force that strikes without warning. It can be brutal.”
When did you feel inspired to write the song and were there any particular elements of the film that sparked your creativity
“It was actually never my intention to write anything about CMBYN. I have written songs for ten years, but was on a bit of a creative hiatus when it came along. It is impossible, I have found, to create in a vacuum. I can’t sing about something I don’t feel so I have always given myself space to live life enough to transmute it into creative fruit. By the time I wrote this song, I was back at it full on and had written a handful of songs for an upcoming album. I kept hearing the melody for Summer of ’83 (Call Me by Your Name) in my head while I was out walking, or in the shower. Five perfect syllables. Such a punch. I was hesitant to even send my demo over to my friend Mike, who ended up producing the song for me. What started as an afterthought actually became one of our favourite records to make.”
For those who haven’t heard the track yet, how would you describe the sound and vibe you were wanting to create, who did you collaborate with on the track?
“I think it is absolutely paramount to have a team around you who understands and supports your vision. Everything that we’ve made so far has been tinged with an aura of future-nostalgia. Dreamy landscapes, mystical atmospheres, punching bass lines. I’ve worked exclusively with producer Michael Gicz so far, he has added the sonic depth I’ve been looking for and we have a singleness of focus that is important with collaborators. I’m looking for a sound that will slap in a club but also alchemise all of the subtle frequencies of self-reflective art.”
The film is set in the 80s which you reference in the title and in the lyrics, did that era have any influence on you as you were writing the song or creating the sound?
“The sounds that emerged from the 1980s breathed life into the pop music that I grew up with as a nineties baby. I’ll always love the greats from that decade: Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, The Smiths, Fleetwood Mac. Our vision with this song is to be transportive while also weaving in trippy dissonant electronic textures of today. The song opens up with the year, because I think so much of our emotional memory can be tied to a specific time and place. And what a decadent place to be: ‘Somewhere in Italy, 1983’.”
Hopefully Luca, Timothée and Armie will get to hear the song. What would you like to say to one or all of them if they do?
“I hope they like it, I hope it adds to the world that they all three helped bring to life in such a beautiful way. And I would say to Timmy: call me.”
Have you been inspired to write music by any other movies? If so how did they inspire you?
“I feel like cinema will always have an enormous influence over anything I do creatively. It was my first exposure to show business. I have grown up obsessing over films, from a very early age, and I still consume cinema as an art form more than anything else. What I will say, is that I think very visually, and so in a sense, my songwriting process mentally looks a lot more like a storyboard than a chord chart. I don’t think my future works will necessarily be of this same variety, but themes of cinematic dreamworlds definitely reappear in what we’re working on.”
Aside from CMBYN, what’s your favourite LGBTQ+ film, TV series, play, book, music, artwork or person; someone or something that’s had a major impact on you and really resonated with you?
“I would hate to pick a favourite and then go back on it later on, but I will say that André Aciman obviously has influenced me. Oscar Wilde was probably the first queer artist that completely changed my world view and still does. Christopher Isherwood opened my eyes to gay heartbreak. I just finished watching Tales of the City from 1993, absolutely brilliant. And Judy Garland will always be my biggest gay icon.”
By James Kleinmann