Luke Bell, Acclaimed Country Singer-Songwriter, Dies at 32
Hours earlier, news broke that Bell had been missing since Saturday, Aug. 20 and had been last seen in Tucson, Ariz. According to Saving Country Music, Bell was found on Aug. 29 near the location where he was last believed to seen. Kinman told the music blog that Bell had been previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder and voiced concern that a recent change in his medication could have "played a role" in his disappearance. An official cause of death has not yet been reported.
A Wyoming native, Bell first formed a band and began actively performing while attending University of Wyoming. After dropping out of college, he relocated to Austin in order to pursue music and regularly performed gigs in honky-tonks across the city, including the White Horse. He spent a short stint in New Orleans' Ninth Ward, then returned to Wyoming before making his way to Nashville.
During this time, he forged relationships with many other blossoming alt-country talents. He began performing at the city's beloved dive bar and karaoke spot, Santa's Pub, often appearing on Sundays alongside their house band of local talents, Santa's Ice Cold Pickers.
Bell signed a record deal with Thirty Tigers in 2016 and released his self-titled album later that year, which quickly garnered critical acclaim. He recorded the project at Nashville's The Bomb Shelter with acclaimed producer Andrija Tokic, who has also worked with Alabama Shakes, Margo Price and Langhorne Slim. Bell's official music video for his single "Sometimes" was filmed inside Santa's Pub, and features cameos from Erin Rae, Kristina Murray, Logan Ledger and Patrick Sweany among others.
His warm, traditionalist country sound connected with fans who were looking for something outside the genre's pop-leaning mainstream sound. His immense talents earned him support slots for Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Hayes Carll. Although his sound and style echoed that of greats like Waylon Jennings, Bell seemed to stay humble and focused as his career began to bloom.
"To be honest, I live in the day, and I count smiles," Bell told The Boot in a 2016 interview. "That's it. Listen, half the time, I end up drinking beer with my neighbors. Life's not that bad. The downside, in some ways, is I don't have a wife and kids, but at the same time, it's pretty ideal right now. I just travel around to other cities and hang out with other people... The goal is to have high hopes and low expectations and have a good time."
But within just a few months, Bell's career seemed to take a sudden pause. His official social media pages were no longer updated and performances became sparse. Touring was halted, aside from a sprinkling of small shows over the years.
In 2021, Bell surprised fans by sharing a new single, "Jealous Guy." Although many assumed the track was a signal of more new music to come, it would sadly mark the final release of a career cut far too short.
Friends and fellow artists are sharing tributes and memories of Bell via social media.
"Word just came down on the passing of Luke Bell and we’re heartbroken over the news," country band Mike and the Moonpies shared on Facebook, along with photos of them together over the years. "I can vividly remember the first time I met Luke at Hole in the Wall over a decade ago, down to the clothes on his back. The man (and his music) left an impression. He was a real deal traveling troubadour out there on that lost highway. Do yourself a favor and put on some Luke Bell tunes tonight in his memory. Rest In Peace, friend."
"Man…Luke Bell…what the f---. RIP to a real one," Joshua Hedley shared on Twitter. "Been a long time since I saw him and I was just talking about him the other day wondering what he’s been up to. Truly a sad night for country music."
Thirty Tigers owner David Macias also shared his condolences via Twitter late Monday night.
"We lost a true original today," he wrote. "From all at @ThirtyTigers, we send love and hope for eternal peace to our friend Luke Bell. Thanks for riding a while with us. 💔"