When Barry Moore changed his name to “Luka Bloom,” his mother was not pleased.
They debated back and forth. His given name was perfectly acceptable, she insisted. But his new identity had taken him months to invent, he implored—“Luka” from Suzanne Vega’s song of the same name, and “Bloom” after author James Joyce’s great Dubliner, Leopold Bloom, from “Ulysses.”
He then promised his mother it would pay off.
The 32-year-old Irishman was moving to America, where he was determined to find a fresh, guitar-loving audience for his contemporary folk music. It was 1987, and Mr. Moore—now Mr. Bloom—was a new man parting ways with his homeland and old name.
“It was a very big decision—I went through so many names. I needed to enforce that sense of newness and adventure, the possibility of a whole new beginning,” Mr. Bloom, who will play the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett on Friday, said last week during a telephone interview. “It just fit really well. It felt right. Most of the people in the world don’t know me by anything else.”
Born Kevin Barry Moore on May 23, 1955, he was the youngest child of Nancy Power and Andy Moore. But when the boy was just 18 months old, his father died suddenly at age 41, leaving behind a 33-year-old widow and mother of six.
What could have been an extremely depressing childhood was far from it, Mr. Bloom explained. It was “fantastic,” he said—overflowing with verve, love and music.
“We’re not ‘The Brady Bunch,’” he laughed. “We never went out on the road together, but everybody in my family sings. It was chaotic and we had a great life.”
At age 9, the young boy picked up a guitar for the first time—a sense of “deja vu,” he said, “if that’s even possible”—and was on tour with his eldest brother, folk singer Christy Moore, five years later in 1969.
That was just the start. Countless international tours and 20 albums later, Mr. Bloom gained traction in the United States before moving back to Ireland in 1992—the only place he has ever wanted to write his songs, he said.
However, the musician can’t control when inspiration will strike. He wrote “You Couldn’t Have Come at a Better Time” while sitting in an immigration lawyer’s bathroom in Hoboken, New Jersey. He declined to share his inspiration.
“That’s for me to know and you to assume at and fantasize about,” he said playfully. “That’s a cheeky answer, but certain songs I don’t really talk about that much. It’s just a personal moment. It’s a personal moment when you’re figuring something out.”
Those moments he actually sits down to write are chosen deliberately, Mr. Bloom said, as are the moments he doesn’t.
“I constantly don’t write,” he said. “I move on in life, evolve and change, hopefully. I have new things to say and a little less hair and a little more awareness. I’m coming from a completely different place.”
Mr. Bloom has two constant fears in life: repeating himself and staying inside his comfort zone, he said. In 2011, he broke through both when he accompanied the Dalai Lama to Australia—all because of his song “As I Waved Goodbye.” He wrote it to capture the Dalai Lama’s farewell to Tibet in 1959. And sang it every night, for three weeks straight, right before the spiritual leader took the stage to address thousands of followers.
“It was beyond-wildest-dreams territory,” he said. “I realized, at a certain point, he didn’t really know the song. I had one of the Tibetan people in his entourage translate the song into Tibetan, which I framed and gave to him. When I sang on the last night, he read along and he smiled and hugged me after. And then he had to speak in front of 10,000 people.”
Approximately two years from now, after Mr. Bloom’s next writing cycle, the musician will have a new album of music ready for the stage. And he will listen to thousands of his own fans shout his name: “Luka! Luka! Luka!”
“It took my mother a little bit to get used to it,” he said. “But she did. When she saw me playing sold-out shows in Dublin, she knew I did the right thing. Barry Moore is who I am. Luka Bloom is what I do.”
Luka Bloom and opening act Alfredo Merat will play the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett on Friday, May 23, at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. Age 21 and over only. Tickets are $25. For more information, call 267-3117 or visit stephentalkhouse.com.