“29 Palms” Premieres on American Songwriter

Luke Rathborne Explores Two Sides of Life on “29 Palms”

Tina Benitez-Eves

There are the have and have nots. There are those that are looked after, while others are forgotten. Trekking through some small desert towns in California, this societal imbalance was even more evident to singer and songwriter Luke Rathborne, galvanizing him to explore destitution, a sense of being stuck in time, and those rare saving graces for the neglected on “29 Palms,” a slower churned tale told through a love story of survival. 

“I wrote it after a trip I took to the desert and just thinking about all these people in America who are really just the forgotten, the placed aside, and the waywardness that can take people over when they feel like they’ve been left behind,” Rathborne tells American Songwriter. “The characters in this song are on their last chance, or maybe somewhere past it. It feels good to pull up the rocks and take a look underneath. Here we are with a few guys on their last lap, and we don’t know what’s gonna happen next, but it might not be good.”

Co-produced by Rathborne and Yale Yng-Wong in Brooklyn, NY, the tracks for his upcoming, third album, tentatively titled Ordinary Woes, came to in Rathborne in dreams—literally. He’d wake up each morning with a new song that was vividly gifted to him. 

Luke Rathborne (Photo: Shervin Lainez)

Every thing is perceptible and penetrating for Rathborne, who has also directed videos for Method Man and Jenny Lewis. Earlier this year, he even took the helm of his video for first single “Ordinary Woes.” Fused in anxiety, insecurity, and a sense of lostness, the more electrified “Ordinary Woes” is more manic in its movement than “29 Palms.” Its frantic motion is complemented by slo-mo and swift visuals and punctuated animation—outlines, words, circled in eyes and other scratched over footage of Rathborne in various parts of New York City. 

Completely DIY in his art, after moving to New York more than 14 years ago, the Maine-born artist eventually started his own label, True Believer, booked his own shows, and has already pulled in millions Spotify streams in the process since his self-produced 2007 debut After Dark (recorded when he was just 17) and follow up, 2013’s Soft.

The second single off Ordinary Woes, “29 Palms” is a tale of hardship and yearning for hope that can’t help provoke empathy for the underserved, and is told through the eyes of a forlorn character in explicit lyrics People waiting for their pay, and it never seems to come / You got soldiers there, who died out on the road / No one’s sayin’ it’s wrong or right… Stuck in time, I don’t know how we fit this part / Stuck in time, I don’t how we ever start.

“I can’t help but find some of it is a relationship to time I can’t figure out in my songs,” say Rathborne. “It’s always there, looking back, and it’s not something I can seem to shake. I’m always looking back, and forward at the same time. Maybe it’s a bit about that too.”




Depending releases – new tour dates

Great news! The new single that is slightly depressing “Depending” is now released everywhere you can listen. There is also NEW TOUR DATES – get your tickets below!


Luke Rathborne – Tour Diary #9 – Paris, “the Day of Death”

I woke up in Paris and realized it was my final day here. I knew there was only one thing I could do. I declared today, “The Day of Death”.

I had rigorously planned my activities the night before. First, I would go wander the Père Lachaise Cemetery, and find the grave of Jim Morrison, then I would go into theCatacombs, a spooky place they keep dead people underground.

When I reached the graveyard my fear levels were low. I realized coming here was a critically good decision and stepped inside, whistling the Off the Wall tune, “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”.

The staircase seemed to suggest that I was headed the right way. I sniffed the air for whiffs of the dirty hippies I pictured surrounding the grave of the Lizard king.

Everything just smelled like air, not hippies. I found some funny graves.

This place was pretty spooky. But I could handle it.

I’m from America,” I said aloud. “So if you think you can mess with me, think again.”

I found this statue chick who was pretty stacked, for statue times.

Then, all of a sudden, something terrifying happened. I looked closer above the stacked statue chick’s head.


Was I to understand, that Daniel Stern, beloved actor of Home Alone I & II, Breaking Away,and Bushwhacked was somehow buried underneath this ancient Statuette in a Parisangraveyard?
Shit was getting too real. How could this be happening? I half expected Swayze in “Ghost”form to come out of hiding and tell me, “we’re fucking with your mind, Luke.

Run!” I heard in my mind.

I ran for awhile and came up on this tomb, which I took a picture of with my thumb in.

Where are you Jim Morrison?” I yelled into the air.

I wished I had gotten a map. I asked some woman there for a map. She was a total bitch though and told me there was, “no maps today!”. I left her and stared at this grave awhile.

No maps today,” I thought.

What kind of freak show was this?

The grave is cool, though,” I thought.

I wandered back onto the trail, pissed as hell. How would I ever find Jim? I walked by a huddled group of smoking and drinking teenagers hanging out on one of the graves.

I thought to myself, why not party here? The first time I got high or felt up a girl I would definitely want to be surrounded by constant reminders of death and mortality too. It made perfect sense. Bravo, teenagers.

This guy on the trail seemed to be suspicious of me.

Get out of my face, bro.” I thought. I was looking for Jim.

I felt pity for all the tripping teenagers and people in their twenties in the past who had wandered into this graveyard looking for the same thing. This graveyard was super fucking hard to navigate. Just then, I saw a sight that made my stomach drop.

The grave was bashed open. There was clearly some kind of buried un-dead person who had escaped, and was stalking the grounds.

Fuck,” I thought. This was too real. I scanned the grave for a name. If it was a Frenchzombie, it probably wouldn’t try to fight. What if it was a German zombie?

I started to run. In my mind I was panic-ing. I could hear Jim singing, The End” in my head,

Ride the snake, ride the snake
to the lake, the ancient lake”

I ran and ran.

I ran past a group of Japanese tourists.

“Get the fuck outta here!” I yelled at them. They didn’t understand me. There wasn’t time to explain and I left them behind.

I ran by this sign for a Creamatorium. It made me thirsty for milk but I had to keep running.

I stopped at the edge of the forest. I was out of breath. Jim sang in my head,

Lost in a Roman… wilderness of pain,
and all the children are insane..”

I looked up and saw this man fighting this horse, or something.

I felt like I was in a K-hole. Maybe Jim was right. I heard him in my head again.

This is the End,
Beautiful friend.. the End”

Just then, out of the dust, I saw it.

Jim Morrison’s grave.

Hallelujah. It was beautiful. I looked around for signs of dirty hippies. I couldn’t find any. Maybe I was a dirty hippie? I was on a singer-songwriter tour of the Greater European area for the past month and a half. I decided it was impossible.

Hippies suck,” I said.

I found this tree where people had written their hippie stuff to Jim.

This seemed like a place where people blazed J’s and talked about free love. Here was a tribute to the Lizard King.

I wondered if Val Kilmer had ever come here to ponder.

This one’s for you Val,” I said. “You and Jim.” I drank some of my apple juice and poured some of it on the ground.

I looked at the statue of his face on his grave.

In a sign of ultimate respect and admiration, people had desecrated his grave with the word, “ASS” and neatly hand-printed, “FUCK JIM”.

I could understand where they were coming from. When anyone passes, what a better way to pay your respects to them than get stoned and write, “FUCK” and “ASS” on their grave in their final resting place. Kudos, dirty hippies.

I wandered out of the cemetery, and turned around and said goodbye.

Death sucks,” I thought.

I looked at my itinerary:


was all that was written on it.

I walked to the train. Death was for sure. It seemed like a certain fact. Had anyone gotten away without really dying? Jesus had kind of pulled it off in the, “Passions” movie. But that was too intense, with the way Mel pictured him going, I couldn’t do all that.

I got off the train at the entrance of the Catacombs. It didn’t look so bad.

I walked inside. Just a big dumb hallway.

I walked further. Another big stupid hallway.

What a bunch of amateurs,” I thought.

Where I grew up, we had these Haunted Hayrides which were way scarier than this. Dudes with chainsaws who tried to shred your legs and everything mid-hayride. I turned the corner.

Oh no.

Oh shit.

I was freaking out, big time. There was some chicks on the tour with me, so I played it cool.

“There are over 6 million of Paris’ dead buried in the Catacombs in the 18th century, due to the overcrowded cemeteries they took the bodies here,” the tour guide said.

I was losing it. Was I going to cry?

This place is lame,” I told the chicks standing next to me.

They didn’t speak English, but I could tell they understood me and thought I was cool.

“I gotta take a leak,” I told them and headed for the exit. I was out of here, bro. I got out and ran down the street, and I ran until I could run no more.

I saw this Carousel sitting outside and sat beside it, picking at the grass.

I don’t wanna die,” I thought. I would miss too many people.

This day of death sucks!” I thought.

I got on the train and wandered into this park, Parc des Buttes Chaumont. I was feeling down, there was no doubt about it, I needed adult supervision.

I walked in and noticed all the 70′s looking French people right away.

I walked down to the mass of people and looked at the sun setting on the hillside.

Hundreds of lives suspended on a thread. I felt my body filling up with love.

I wandered down to the side of the water and looked up at the beautiful Temple of Sybil in the distance. The entire park had been built by Napoleon III.

I wandered further in.

I found a child playing in a tree, carrying a sword, his Father and brothers standing close by.

He climbed into the tree and the sun shone through. His younger brothers grabbed at the branches below his feet.

I walked away from the tree. An old black man stood in the park playing a large vibraphone surrounded by young children. He played them a song and taught them rhymes in French. All the children laughed and played around him.

I walked further down towards the Temple. Suicide Bridge was what they called the bridge in the distance.

The sun came down onto the park. I thought my last thoughts about the day of death. Death wasn’t so cool. It seemed to me like it was inevitable. Don’t believe anybody who told you different. There were many things I thought were more important though.

I didn’t have anymore time to kill. I knew it in a big way. I looked back at the park, the temple and everyone playing in the rising dust. I kissed them all goodbye, wrapped my coat around my head and walked off into the setting Sun.