I went to a show at the Sellersville Theater last night. My very first time there. As it is only thirty-five minutes from my house, I can’t help wondering why I haven’t visited this venue in the past. The place is, as the name suggests, a theater, with theater seats and cabaret-style tables up front by the stage. The acoustics are good and, for the little I know about such things, the sound people seem to know their sh…er, shtuff. Everyone working there (most of whom I suspect are volunteers) are friendly and knowledgeable. The theater possesses a wonderful atmosphere and there is a great restaurant right next door. Indeed, the Washington House is on my list to visit next.
Jesse Ruben opened for Tony Lucca. I only knew one of his songs from satellite radio, but when he started speaking and playing I knew I’d become a fan. Here was a witty, self-effacing talented man who took the audience through moments of his life in ways that made you laugh and think, followed by songs that did the same. One—“Different”—made me cry. It was a song about acceptance of the differences that make us unique, and yet the same, and the fact that we all deserve a chance, at love and at life. “We Can” was another such song, funny and tender, about the ability to overcome adversity, sadness, mediocrity, cruelty, together. At least that was the way I took it. I bought the crocheted bracelet pictured above, and am wearing it now. Those two words mean so much.
Next, Tony came out. I can’t leave him out of this little post. Every show with him is something different. Tony Lucca is a man of many faces, so to speak. A singer-songwriter who can treat the audience to soulful ballads like “Nobody But You” to hard-rocking delights like “Foxy Jane.” For the most part, last night was the latter, with the inclusion of certain songs I’ve been listening to lately in the acoustic form, but with a Tony-twist, an electric guitar, a great bass player and drummer, those tunes came across with a whole different flavor—like a kick of whiskey with the same burn through your veins.
I didn’t stick around long afterward. Both of these fine gentlemen had fans a-plenty waiting to speak with them (plus it was seriously past my bedtime, lol). Tony and I had a quick discussion about lack of time and I gave him a heartfelt hug before departing. He wouldn’t let me leave without asking if I enjoyed the show–as he always will of stranger and friend alike, wanting to make sure he’s given it his all. I told him the show was great.
I lied. It was fantastic. And I have both performers to thank for that.
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