Today was one of those days that ended up being exceptional, and for no particular reason. The purpose of my excursion was to find a local “fruit stand” (a misnomer, if you ask me) in order for my daughter-in-law to buy some thyme plants for her little garden in the backyard. I wasn’t exactly sure where this place was located, so we headed out on this fantastically lovely day for a little adventure.
Well, being Memorial Day weekend, and a fantastically lovely day (oh, did I say that already? I can’t help the repetition—the attributes of the day were just part of the many factors making up the exceptional excursion), so naturally yard sales abounded. I tried to ignore them, turning my eyes away from all the items of someone else’s clutter, determined not to add to mine. Fat chance.
The blue sky, fresh air and front yards full of treasure beckoned. I must say, I did manage to resist all manner of furnishings crying out for an application of paint to make them into what I like to call “practical art”—my usual weakness at yard sales. Instead, I fell in love with a uniquely-shaped chicken teapot. Not that the teapot possessed a chicken shape. That would have been too much even for me. No, it is a square-ish ceramic pot with a painted scene of chickens. I couldn’t walk fully from it. I kept returning again and again to the place where it sat until I felt compelled to ask the price. For a yard sale, the price was a little steep, but I bought it without haggling. Lauren (the above d-i-l) announced how proud she was that I had managed to ignore all the furniture we’d seen and that despite the price of my adorable little chicken tea pot, I deserved the occasional splurge. (God bless her.)
“Someday, my kids will be cursing me, because they’re going to have to get rid of everything I’ve collected,” I commented to the gentleman seated nearby, whose yard we were perusing for items of irresistible interest. He laughed. So did I. I wasn’t about to let the thought of my demise at some future date and my children being burdened by my possessions ruin this fantastically lovely day.
This is a heartleaf alkanet, which has the prettiest, tiny blue flowers, which you should be able to make out to the left (I hope).
Our next stop was the “fruit stand” itself (eventually located), awash in lovely color, as tables and wagons and graveled paths laden with annuals, perennials, and the very thyme we’d been hunting met our delighted eyes. We spent quite a bit of time hunting thyme and everything else, leaving Stauffer’s with the thyme in question, as well as chives, a heartleaf alkanet (a what? I’d never heard of the shade-loving plant, but it’s beautiful), and a pot of coral bells, whose burgundy leaves are a treat.
Coral Bells – nice color, right?
However, we were not finished. The open road, the blue sky, the fresh air continued to call to us. So off we went, to Somerset Nursery, where we ogled more plants. Naturally, I couldn’t walk away empty-handed. I cringe as I write those words, because I really am not a spendthrift. In fact, I am usually most obsessively frugal. Oh well. Blame it on the fantastically lovely day. (Right now, the writers of my acquaintance are also cringing. I don’t think they will approve of my disproportionate use of adverbs and adjectives in this blog—again, blame it on the fantastically lovely day.)
Lauren’s garden, which will have all the makings of a delicious salad soon.
Afterward, made light-hearted by our unexpected fun, we headed home to grace the waiting soil with our finds—with the exception of the chicken teapot, of course. That little beauty is planted on the windowsill in my kitchen, where it will neither bloom nor bear fruit, but will remind me of this wonderful day whenever I see it…
(Yes, that is my hope, and not that I will be reminded instead of the fact my children will one day be forced to stick a price tag on all my treasures and set them out on a table in the sun for some other bargain hunter to find—but hey, such is the cycle of life.)
Robin: I have with me today singer/songwriter Tony Lucca.
Welcome, Tony. Thank you for agreeing to let me interview you.
Tony: Certainly, my pleasure!
Robin: You are my first interview for the “Words” segment of my blog, in which I hope to celebrate the singular power of words, from those who write them to those who organize words into a format for others to enjoy. It is my intent to interview authors, songwriters, editors, recording engineers, publishers, poets, visual artists (because, as it is said, a picture is worth a thousand words) and those who aspire to this type of creativity. Speaking of pictures, your most recent tour is called the Paint a Picture Tour. I’m sure most of your fans already know the reason for this, but this particular fan isn’t quite sure if the tour is named after the next to last song on your current release, or if there is more to it than that.
Tony: Well the song itself was actually, at one point, on the chopping block. Basically it’s a bit of a departure from the rest of the rather “rockin’” record. However, my kids really grew attached to the song, having been some of the first listeners of the initial demo. When I told them I didn’t think the song was going to make the record they were quite upset. My son, Liam, said “well then your record’s gonna suck!” I’d like to think he was kidding, but it turns out he was right. The song needed to be on the record. Fans seemed to fall in love with it right away and so to acknowledge my near-mistake, I decided to name the tour after the song.
Robin: Thanks for enlightening me! And thanks to Liam for speaking up. I’ve often been asked at what point the writing bug infected me, so let’s start this interview with that. When in the course of your life did you realize music was your gift and/or your goal? Was your desire to be a musician obvious to you at a young age, or something you came to recognize later?
Tony: I think I made my first effort to write something as early as 7 or 8. But it wasn’t until I got up in front of a crowd to play some original songs that I realized this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life. Certainly after receiving my first pay check, it became even clearer. I think I was 12.
Robin: I love classical music and, as a writer, I will use the music—a different piece for each story I’m working on—to shoot me straight into the mindset I need to be to write. Do you have a certain routine you use to get into songwriting mode?
Tony: For me it’s more about creating the space, both physically and mentally. Oddly enough, spending a day at home alone, usually while knocking out a few loads of laundry, seems to be when inspiration is a little easier to come by. It becomes part of the pace of things. Pick up the guitar, get a strong melody in my head, brainstorm some ideas, switch out the colors for the whites, make a few drive-bys looking things up on the computer or pulling books off the shelf. It can get fairly intense but usually within a few hours I’ve got something that’s either going to hold up or something I’ll let go of and move on from.
Robin: [Laughing] Okay, then. I kind of like that image of going through the laundry motions while creating. When I write, I find I perform research first for historical novels, and let the characters develop from the past, and conversely in contemporaries I develop the characters first and let the story grow around them. When you write songs, do you write the words or music first, or does it vary? Also, do you have a preference for the instrument used when putting lyrics into song?
Tony: It always varies. The best songs seem to come all at once. And although I’ve experimented with everything from a simple shaker, to the bass, to the piano, the guitar just seems to be the one I go to most frequently. It’s probably just a convenience thing.
Robin: I can understand that. Plus dragging the piano into the laundry room might be a little unwieldy. On Under the Influence, you give a nod to artists who have influenced you over the years with a cover of each of their songs, including Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, the Rolling Stones, and my particular favorite from my high school years, Led Zeppelin. If you could pick only one, however, which artist or band would you say influenced you most? Would it be one of those from the cd, or someone else entirely?
Tony: Impossible. Sorry.
Robin: Don’t apologize. I don’t think I could choose just one author or event that set me on the path to writing, believe me. After the recent passing of your uncle you made a post on your Facebook page about his influence on you musically, and about the artistic talent of your family in general. Do you want to share a little bit more about that?
Tony: The older I get the more I realize what a blessing it is to be a part of such a wonderfully talented family. Sadly, the bigger the family, the more you have to be prepared, emotionally, when it comes time to say good-bye.
Robin: They live on in our hearts, which is always a comfort, and with you, in your music. How, exactly, would you brand your style of music? Can it be summed up as a particular style? Has it changed over the years?
Tony: It’s always been tough to try to classify myself. I gave up trying years ago. Though being a “guy with a guitar” who plays his own songs technically makes me a singer/songwriter, I feel there’s an inherent soul element to everything I’ve done as well. And with my latest record I was able to incorporate more of the classic rock sound I grew up on.
Robin: Writers are usually somewhat introverted, or at least used to working in a very solitary fashion. As a singer/songwriter, you are often engaged with the public. How important is this to you as a writer? As a performer?
Tony: Boundaries are extremely important, as is the ability to compartmentalize your time and attention. There are times when you need to be reachable, approachable and personable. There are other times when you need to keep it tight, focused and isolated. I feel that for an artist to arrive at something truly inspired, it’s inevitably going to require some degree of solitude and introspection.
Robin: Did you know you had been referred to as a “young Sting”? How did that make you feel?
Tony: I’m a big Sting fan.
Robin: Me, too. So I guess you’re pleased by the reference. I must confess, I hadn’t seen that previously, even though it’s a reference from a while ago. I smiled when I saw it. It is obvious to those of us who enjoy your music that each song is inspired by something in your life. Some are rocking and other songs are quite moving. My particular favorites of the latter type are “Bad Guy” (Shotgun) and “Nobody But You” (Rendezvous with the Angels), released at the time when you were a budding family (a quite lovely and engaging family, I might add). On the self-titled Tony Lucca, released early this year—which, to me, is a perfectly balanced compilation of energy and soul—you have a lovely tune called “Sparrow”, which we all know is written about your daughter. Do you feel your music echoes your contentment? Or do you continue to delve into past experiences—as a lot of writers do—for use in your songwriting?
Tony: I’m always amazed at the power of songs and their storytelling magic. And though it’s fun to revisit earlier experiences by playing older songs, it always a bit more fulfilling when you can connect to your most recent set of experiences through your more current material. I know with regards to the new record and current tour, I’m having a great time connecting to the material each night. People can tell when you’re taking pride in what you do and I’m real proud of these songs.
Robin: I had no plans to bring up your stint on The Voice, but I would like to mention your acoustic duet of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” with Adam Levine. You have commented to certain people that you enjoyed that experience immensely. If you could choose someone else, anyone else—whether current or from the past—with whom would you most like to perform a duet today? Perhaps not just to perform a duet, but to co-write the song for that particular performance?
Tony: I would Love to work with David Crosby. I think he had a way of writing that was so mysterious; honest and cryptic at the same time. Not to mention all the ethereal harmonies he seems to come up with. I feel I could stand to learn a great deal working with him.
Robin: What are your professional plans for the future?
Tony: More writing, recording and touring I suppose. I’ve got a batch of songs that I wrote for some of my Kickstarter backers. The songs were very inspired and came out really nice. I’m really looking forward to getting in to record those. I’ve got ideas of doing a live recording of my 2006 release, Canyon Songs, possibly for the 10-year anniversary. We’ll see.
Robin: Sounds wonderful! A live recording of Canyon Songs would be perfect. I look forward to your next project. Thanks again, Tony, for your time!
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I hope you enjoyed this interview with Tony Lucca! To celebrate the release of my novel, Dark Tides, from Lyrical Press today, I will be giving away a gift digital download to three randomly selected readers who comment today. Thanks for your interest.~Robin