It was a Wednesday night when singer-songwriter Tony Lucca took the stage at S.P.A.C.E in Evanston, IL to open the show on American Idol alum David Cook’s Digital Vein tour. Before performing his acoustic set, Lucca took the time to sit down with Musiqtone to discuss his journey in the music industry, his days as a front runner on the hit NBC show The Voice and his music career.
AR: Thank you so much for taking the time to sit with us. Since we already brought up David Cook, you are his special guest on this part of the Digital Vein tour. How’s the tour going?
TL: It’s been really great. Touring is funny. It’s a weird time, on one regard it’s like “I can’t believe it is almost over” and then you look back on the first couple days of the tour and it seems like forever ago. The vibe has been really great. David’s a sweetheart, a real nice guy and says real genuine and kind things from the stage each night so it makes it easy to sell records (laughing). His audience has been real receptive and appreciate and I suppose a bit of that is the Idol fans and The Voice fans they have an appreciation for it. They appreciate when a talent is up on stage doing its thing, they have a nice regard for that so it’s cool.
AR: Both you and David are Nashville based artists; do you guys ever get together for a songwriting session?
TL: No, prior to the tour we have been just circling around each other and we are aware of that each other is in town but either than that no.
AR: Do you think that now that the tour (Digital Vein) has happened and you do know each other something can come out of that?
TL: Sure, sure. Now that we have connected in this fashion it’s just a matter of time before an opportunity arrives; possibly even some writing. That’s what most people do down in Nashville is writing. So we could get into some of that too.
AR: You are a talented songwriter, and at least co-write if not self write and compose all your songs, where do you find the inspiration for what you are writing?
TL: It’s obviously different for every song, that what gives the song its story. In general, as sort of a broad brush stroke, it’s traveling. You know, its hitting the road. Making the rounds and seeing the country coast to coast sometimes. Identifying what is unique to people and places but also what is universal. For a while I used to skirt around lyrically and create these very vague and deep images and I realized that you can’t be afraid to be specific; the more specific you are the more universal your appeal. You can write about sitting in a diner with a cup of coffee and you can say the name of that diner in the song. Whether the listener has been to that diner or the diner down the street in their hometown they know what you are talking about. They get the gist and eventually someday they may be in Hollywood and see that diner and be like “omg that’s the diner from that song” but it doesn’t take away form the idea of diner, breakfast, coffee, waitress.
AR: Is that what drew you into music, since you did do acting for a while and then decided to focus solely on music?
TL: Music is what got me through the door. That’s why I had the courage and the gall to audition for something like The Mickey Mouse Club; I was a singer and a musician foremost. But after years of dabbling but what got me about that was that as much I loved acting and I loved that creative process; after years of finding good scripts, and getting cast and working with great directors and co-stars, is that it is still someone else’s creative vision. It’s still other people’s stories, and I didn’t love it that much, not enough to commit into my small role in telling the stories. I wanted to tell all the story. I wanted something that was mine. I think a lot of it also had to do with that in my short time as an auditioning actor in Los Angeles I was getting a lot of auditions for the same roles. Sort of type casting; the quarterback or the boyfriend, and I’m not complaining because they are all very flattering roles, but at the same time it just got predictable and unenjoyable and I remember thinking that I’m not feeling this. Went home, picked up the guitar and sat writing songs and it felt more instantly gratifying.
AR: Especially if finding your own creative outlet is what you were looking for, which you mentioned you couldn’t do through acting, but you did bring up The Mickey Mouse Club, looking back on that, how do you look at that time period in your life?
TL: I look at it as my high school experience. As abstract and crazy and bizarre, weird and exceptional as it looks in hindsight to anyone that wasn’t a part of it, for those of us that where everything was truly relative. We were all big fish in small ponds and then we all got thrown into this big aquarium together and it was instantly normal. This is what we do, this is how we do it, and this is who we are. The experience on the show was like nothing else. It was boot camp for the entertaining industry. We all learned so much and got a lot of hands on experience that you don’t normally get. Specifically working in Florida, L.A or New York there where a lot more union laws that would prohibit what we got to do. Anything from operating cameras to driving golf carts around. The people that were in those positions saw that we had an interest in this, that we wanted this as a career and as a future so they went out of their way to show us.
AR: Did you ever feel pressure because of the people that where on that show with you to make sure you established your career and quote on quote “made it”? Or reached their level of success?
TL: No not really. I knew early on in my music career, I wasn’t naive to the fact that I was taking the path less chosen. I was doing something more unique and independent. I wasn’t after the spotlight the way some of those guys where. After four years of mouse club, an mc record and touring I felt like I got really close to it, enough to be like “yeah I don’t know if that’s necessary what I am after. Don’t know if that’s the end game for me is more fame” you know? Whereas Christina (Aguilera), Justin (Timberlake) and Britney (Spears), they were on the show for two years and at the older cast kinda like we were doing what they wanted to do when they got bigger. When they did get a greater opportunity to accomplish more they did and they jumped right through those hoops into great success. They were pried for it. I won’t say that there weren’t times along the way where it wasn’t frustrating. Like “man, why wouldn’t the independent version of this be as viable and exciting and successful”, more successful than it felt at times. I thought it would be its own built in credibility. That was a younger version of me second guessing my choices and thinking I should have did what they all did. But you have to go through those emotions. You can’t deny them; you can’t pretend that you don’t feel that way. This is what makes you who you are. Now I sit here, in this part of my career and I look back at all the work that was inspired through those emotions and I am very proud and very grateful.
AR: No regrets
TL: (laughs) No, none.
AR: Flash forward a couple of years and you did run into one of those co-stars on The Voice, first take me to what made you audition for that type of show?
TL: The timing was right. I was in between projects, I was trying to get out of L.A, I was married now and had two kids and was like “Why not.” The Christina thing was an interesting itch I couldn’t scratch. What would happen if I was on the show? How would they frame that? What would the producers do? We found out. It didn’t go the way I would have guessed it but we found out.
AR: Was it a little bit awkward?
TL: It was way awkward. What started off as innocently awkward turned into uncomfortably awkward, unfortunately awkward and much more so for her than myself. I was fine and I know that she isn’t losing any sleep over it but it was kinda sad that after everything that happened on the show, the success of my career after The Voice that it is still the main question that comes up when people want to talk about The Voice. I can explain it through my conscious, it is a bummer that people tend to look at her as unfavorably as they do because of that. She said some strong things that in my opinion were entirely unnecessary and it’s not a good look. I’m glad I did it. It definitely helped and it was a shot in the arm to my career. During the time I was out there doing the independent touring thing and struggling in a lot of markets to really catch on and get a good fan base going and now after the The Voice I can go back to my job, making records and touring and visiting fans, new and old, and everything kind of graduates after that. Your perceived value goes up in the industry; your ticket prices go up, sales go up and attendance goes up and it all happens. It’s very real, if you are primed in a position to do it and I felt like I was so we took advantage of that and it’s been great.
AR: You had a lot of successful moments on the show, the first being when you got all four chairs to turn around which I am sure was an amazing feeling, but at the end of the day you went with Team Adam (Levine), why Adam over the other coaches?
TL: I think Adam and I, even though we are totally different pages, our pages were closer together than anyone else’s. I came up with bands in L.A and played a lot of the same clubs, we have some mutual friends, and I thought that he would get what I am doing and we would come up with a career path or a direction together and it be cool. We did and it was great. My other choice would have been Blake (Shelton) because he is a fixture of the Nashville scene and I was trying to get down in Nashville at the time. He is a staple and does great things with the artists that get on his team. He is also a song guy, if you are involved in Nashville you understand the power of songs. I think that could have helped a little bit more in that capacity but he had some great singers on his team that year and I don’t know if I would have lasted as long on Team Blake to be honest (laughs).
AR: Do you think if you would have gone on American Idol, which was still pretty relevant at the time, would you have had the same outcome? Or do you feel like you learned more on this type of show where you got mentored?
TL: That’s a good question. I still say that I believe in my voice a 110% but I’ll be the first to say that I am not a sanger singer. I am not one of these sing the lights out type of singers. I don’t think I was ever one of those singers. Even if you look at what I did on The Voice, it wasn’t about how I sang, it was about what I sang; the attitude, the choices, the presentation of it, the performance of it. If anything, I was the performer towards the end there. I was the guy that was going to get up there and give people something to remember. I don’t think I would have lasted that long on Idol. What I had to learn and what I think I learned on The Voice was my lesson alone. What I learned working with Adam, the advice, the importance of making a really good calculated risk, the idea that if it doesn’t make you somewhat uncomfortable it is probably not worth doing. Next thing you know I am covering a Britney Spears song. I was super uncomfortable doing it but thank god because it was the coolest thing I did all season.
AR: You put out your self-titled album last year through Kickstarter and it surpassed its goal. How did it feel to have fans help with that goal?
TL: That was amazing. It was really encouraging, That’s the word, encouraging, to just really know that your friends, family and your fans think that much of your music, that they want to get in on it like that. I was like okay I’m going to make a great record, there is no way I can’t now. I got all the wind in my back. It was cool.
AR: What do the fans that supported the album have to look forward to for your future music?
TL: After everything with the self-titled album and now that it is done promoting, I don’t want to just get back in the studio and do it all over again. I decided I needed to take a moment, a pause, listen to some things I’ve recorded, go through the archives and things. It is also the tenth anniversary of one of my albums, Canyon Songs, so we are going to do a vinyl release of that; things throughout the year to keep putting stuff out but not actually going in and digging out a whole another album.
AR: Any impromptu recordings here at the S.P.A.C.E recording studio?
TK: No nothing on the dock yet but we are scheduled to come back here in May so that will be cool.
AR: What advice do you have someone who wants to be in the music industry, whether it is through the The Voice or just in general?
TL: My advice would be believe in what you do, trust yourself but also find a reliable source of accountability. I think that is something a lot of people overlook. If what you are doing is of value and good and career potential, the sooner you can find someone that you admire and respect the better. Maybe they don’t do what you want to do but they are honest. The sooner you can do that the sooner you can shape what you are doing into its more viable version. Don’t surround yourself with the “yes” man. Everyone’s family is their biggest fan and that’s great, you are always going to need that, but you can’t limit it to that. Make sure, if you are looking to be great be one of the greats, you have someone around that will help get you there with honestly and constructive criticism. And you have to be honest with yourself when it is not great, be courageous to not only forge a path as an artist but to look at it honestly and make change to evolve. It took me a long time to get that. I went without that for a lot of years.
AR: Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us today. Can’t wait to catch your set tonight.
TL: You’re welcome and thank you so much, enjoy the show.
After taking a moment to catch up Musiqtone and his fans on his journey through the music industry, his controversial time on the hit reality singing competition show The Voice, and how he was viewed his career, Tony Lucca took the stage that night as the special guest for David Cook’s Digital Vein tour. He showcased his singer-songwriter skill and his portrayed the same love for music that he had just talked about.