Back from Texas, Luke Mitchell finds himself in a familiar place but with a different sound.
Not too different, though. He'll still be recognizable as the singer-songwriter who's performed on Hilton Head Island since his adolescent years. He may just seem a bit more seasoned.
Take his voice. His latest album, "The Sweetest Things," will be released July 20 at The Boardroom. It is his third album; the first came out about four years ago when he still was a teenager.
"I sounded like a 17-year-old when I first started," he said. "I'm starting to sound more grown up."
That also means he's started to outgrow the Lowcountry. He spent about seven months in Austin, Texas, before returning to Hilton Head for the summer. Friends and fellow musicians said he'd fit in well with Austin's folksy, alt-country vibe. He found that competition was pretty stiff there, and he wasn't getting the gigs he needed. So, he came back to Hilton Head to play for the tourist crowds.
He grew up on the island, playing drums or guitar in a variety of garage bands, such as The Gnomes, which found a following locally at everything from festivals to post-prom parties. As a high schooler, he took classes at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. He also attended the College of Charleston, but dropped out to focus on music.
He recorded "The Sweetest Things" in Charleston over a whirlwind three-weeks away from Austin. He teamed with Ryan Zimmerman, a popular Charleston producer and drummer. Zimmerman has a more modern feel to his production, while Mitchell is a bit more of a throwback, Mitchell said. The result is somewhere between old and new school.
Since returning from Austin, he's consistently found work at different island nightspots. He's trying to work his way into the Savannah and Charleston scenes. The future is a bit up in the air. Wherever he lands he figures it probably won't be on Hilton Head. Don't blame him for looking elsewhere, though few small-town musicians dream of staying put.
"I'll have to move on at some point. There's just not that much of a scene here," he said. "But it will always be great to come back here."