When Luke Gawne suffered a serious brain trauma in his mid-teens, he knew little-to-nothing about rap music. In fact, it was near the bottom of his list of interests.
Now, less than a decade later, the Chicago-based rapper has over 220,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and sold out his latest worldwide merchandise collection faster than he ever expected.
It has not been an easy journey for the rapper – who goes by the stage name GAWNE – although it was his serious injury that opened the door to a talent he never knew he had.
“I was probably 15 years old in high school and I had a brain injury,” GAWNE says. “I was just sick all of the time, I wasn’t able to go to school, I was just at home for about two years, and it was about that time where I started writing and songwriting and I used it as an outlet.
“That was definitely where I started to get into it, I never really started it because I had fans or anything, I just started it because I was going through a tough time, but I got good pretty quick and realised that I was good at it also.”
Despite Gawne not elaborating on the nature of his injury, it is something which he still feels the effects of at the age of 24 and has shaped the man he is today.
“I had to learn how to live again,” he says. “I haven’t really been normal since the injury. I still have a lot of brain clouding, dizziness, light sensitivity, migraines, all that sort of stuff. I never feel good ever, really. But I’ve been able to manage it and still be productive with it.”
The effects such a serious injury had on Gawne are reflected in his 2020 album Terminal, which he feels more emotionally connected to than any of his other work.
“When I was a teenager, I was convinced that I didn’t have much time left on this earth so I felt terminal during that time and was channeling a lot of that energy into that project. There are songs like ‘Everybody Dies’ and different stuff like that, so I’m definitely most connected to ‘Terminal’ of last year.
“It’s been my biggest project, and I think it’s also because I was pretty authentic on it. I think it’s done like 13 or 14,000,000 Spotify streams – which is a record for me – and the name of it embodies the work.”
During his recovery, Gawne has leaned on the support of his siblings, particularly his older brother. His bond with his siblings is even more special now given their time serving in the military – something which had a significant impact on Gawne.
“It was like: one day you see them, the next they’re on a flight going to Iraq. It was pretty difficult. My brother was the one who taught me a lot and he was the one who introduced me to rap, like Techn9ne.
“It was a pretty traumatic experience having your older brother sent out to war, it just left me without him so it definitely shaped me. He kind of raised me, in ways.
“But he taught me a lot and I probably wouldn’t be rapping without him because he showed me the genre and he’s given me a lot of advice with it all, so he absolutely shaped my career in ways I can’t describe.”
While Gawne has a strong professional team surrounding him, including directors, videographers and marketing representatives, his brother is his closest ally and the pair talk every day.
“Yeah, he’s doing good now,” Gawne says when asked how his brother is and if they are still close. “He’s out of the service, he’s living in Georgia with his two kids, happily married, everything’s good. I still talk to him everyday, we talk about anything like football, investments, he’s the guy who I talk to about a lot of life stuff.”
Gawne has a clear vision for his future and is well on his way to achieving his goals, which include big collaborations and international tours. It is all well within his grasp.
“My plan going forward is just to make good music and collaborate with as many big and great inspirational people I can. Basically have fun with it – you gotta enjoy it, right? So it doesn’t become a job,” he says.
“I’ve been offered a tour this year already but I don’t think it’s going to work out because of COVID.
“There are guys I’m building relationships with who have millions and millions of subscribers. I think there’s been some chat of us setting up a tour when things open up and I think I’d be a good fit with those guys.
“I also recently rolled out merchandise heavy for the first time and I think a lot of my sales were international so I definitely want to get out where you are (Britain). I want to get out everywhere.
“What’s amazing about this whole world now is that everything is so connected and a ton of my fans are outside the nation, so I don’t just want to do a United States tour when I do it – I want to go everywhere.”