Popular duo pleasing audiences with talent and repertoire
By Bernie Schmitt
Jared Lee and Luke Coatney can hardly believe they have been performing together for three years.
“And 300 gigs later, here we are,” Lee says. “It’s great.”
The duo performed over 90 times last year, and 2019 has been no different. The guitar-playing singers have become local favorites – with local being anywhere in southern Indiana and Illinois. Their ever-expanding repertoire allows them to create a show for audiences of all ages.
“It sounds cliché to say that we ‘play a little of everything,’” Coatney says. “But I think we’re more genuine about that than others.”
Both immensely enjoy what they do, and are amazed at how their local music careers are flourishing.
“We’re very fortunate,” Coatney said. “We never dreamed we would be doing this so much.”
Jared & Luke perform nearly every weekend, and sometimes more. They have a good musical partnership, though there might be occasions when Coatney will perform with his sister, Kylee (as they did in August on a food truck Monday) or with his dad Chris, or his brother Casey.
Lee himself plays sporadically in another band called California King and the Moonstars, a rock band featuring Jerry Clymer, Justin Hatcher, and Tyler Carlisle.
Mostly though, Jared & Luke are local favorites for a number of public events in Vincennes, such as the Farmers Market at the Riverfront Pavilion, Food Trucks along the Wabash, and the Main Street events held in the spring and fall.
“We’ve done the Spring and Autumn on Main Street events the past two years,” Lee said. “I guess they like us.”
The pair will also be opening the inaugural First City Music Festival on the evening of Oct. 18 at the Old French Commons in Vincennes, site of the annual Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous.
They are willing to play, or make an attempt, to play about any genre of music, though they admit there is a fine line as to whether something might be “too corny.” But each brings his knowledge, expertise, and talent to the stage and together they work to please their audiences.
“Some of it (music) comes from requests we get,” Lee said. “Sometimes it’s based on the venues we play.”
“We can play for the 21- to 25-year-old crowd at Cutters or play for 60-year-olds at the Moose,” Coatney said. “Sometimes we have to play some Merle Haggard and sometimes Bruno Mars or Miley Cyrus.”
They have played together so much that now their performances are their rehearsals. Both are dedicated family men, so practice time is limited. But having only two in the group makes it easier to decide on whether they can fit a performance into their busy schedules.
“We went into this to have fun and maybe make a little money,” Coatney said. “But it’s turned into this bigger thing. I mean, we play every weekend. It’s unbelievable.”
Thanks to the work, the duo has been able to develop the structure of their show over time, and it also allows for their flexibility in playing what their audiences find enjoyable.
“Our chemistry has evolved,” Lee said. It’s now to the point where we can almost read each other’s minds when we’re on stage playing. There’s a thing between us. It’s like a science now.”
They have learned and performed many cover tunes, but they are always learning new songs, always thinking about what they could do and how it can be done, no matter the genre.
“Now we’re thinking, wonder what people would NOT expect us to play,” Coatney said.
“Yeah,” Lee said. “We try to push the envelope.”
A little history
Both of the young men grew up in the North Knox area. Lee says he’s from the Bicknell suburb of Johnstown, where he was always around music growing up.
“All of neighborhood kids were playing and I guess I kind of fell into it,” Lee said. “We had an empty, abandoned house trailer where we had a practice room.”
Luke Coatney’s father, Chris, was playing in bands and had musical instruments throughout the house while Luke and his siblings were growing up.
Our chemistry has evolved. It’s now to the point where we can almost read each other’s minds when we’re on stage playing. There’s a thing between us. It’s like a science now.Jared Lee
“I was 13 when I started playing,” Coatney said. “Dad never forced us to learn to play music, but he made it accessible. I think he’s proud of how active we are today.”
Coatney grew up listening to the country rock sounds of the 1970s, like the Eagles, while Lee was into heavy metal bands like Metallica. Both know one another, but somehow never got together musically until they were older.
“I dropped out of high school (North Knox) when I was a sophomore,” Coatney said. “I was going to be a rock and roller, record music, and make it big.”
The Coatney family moved to Vincennes and Luke got back into school, graduating from Lincoln High School. He attended VU for awhile, playing music any chance he got. When Jared Lee turned 18 he moved to Vincennes. They got to know each other playing in a band called the Hunky Monkeys, with Luke’s brother Casey, and Matt Hoffman.
“We’ve always been in the background, playing in bands,” Lee said. “We always wondered what it would be like to be up front.”
When the two other members of the band began doing other things, Lee and Coatney decided to do their own thing.
“Now we both sing lead vocals, or background for the other guy, and it’s a chance for us to be in the spotlight,” Coatney said.
Life changed things, too. Both men are dedicated parents, and both strongly believe that their children, not the music, come first.
“Having just two of us makes it easier to coordinate gigs,” Lee said.
A single dad, Coatney has an 8-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. He gets them ready for school, works the lunch rush at Bobe’s, and is back home when they return. His life is focused on them, and then on his music.
Between them, Lee and his girlfriend have three children, ages 2, 8, and 12. Lee, too, is a dedicated family man. And, he recently earned an associate’s degree from VU in graphic design.
Best job ever
Their schedules are busy, but they balance taking care of family and taking care of the audiences who appreciate their talent. In August they were contracted to perform at a wedding in Bloomington.
“The bride gave us about eight songs she wanted us to play, but we didn’t know,” Lee said. “We would have to get together at 10:30 at night, after the kids were in bed, for a couple of weeks learning these songs,” Lee said. “It was somewhat nerve-wracking.”
That Saturday, after the wedding and its reception, Jared & Luke came back to Vincennes then travelled to Palestine, Illinois, for a four-hour performance.
“That was a busy weekend,” Coatney said.
Both offered praise and thanks to Brad Williams, the owner of Bradley’s Bar & Grill in Loogootee.
“He had faith in us, and helped us get going,” Coatney said. “He has been so supportive.”
Lee and Coatney write their own songs, but they rarely play them in public. They record them at home, where they are archived, becoming a part of their catalogs.
“It’s more for personal satisfaction,” Lee said.
Providing musical entertainment for their audiences earned Jared & Luke a Readers’ Choice Award from the Vincennes newspaper for being the Best Musician/Band in Knox County.
Neither one of them likes the competitive aspect of music, so they don’t want to be known as “the best” at what they do.
“This is like art,” Coatney said. “No one is better or worse than the other. We may be most deserving, but we’re not ‘the best.’”
They may get weary at times from their intense work ethic, but Jared & Luke clearly enjoy what they do, and they say they always have fun, even if they are working.
“It’s the best job one could ask for,” Coatney said.