By: Sierra Terril-Kay
“I’ve got some of the greatest fans,” Tony Lucca says with a lopsided grin, his hands resting comfortably on his guitar.
Inside the WERS studio, the Michigan-native rides the line between earnest and passionate as he welcomes my questions between songs with his burgeoning Tennessee drawl. Lucca is on the first day of his spring tour, jumping off with a show at Boston’s own Great Scott, and closing on May 12th in his own town of Nashville. While some seasoned professionals might dismiss the inherent importance of a rehearsal, Lucca is attentive to his vocals and his performance at the station. When it comes time to perform, Lucca has his game face on.
Blending his delicate rasp with sweeping choruses, Lucca follows his hit single “Delilah (When the Lights Go Out),” with a fan-influenced “My Confession.” Lucca smartly ends with his hauntingly open song “Smoke ‘Em,” which evokes a sense of weariness to the sorrow and hope that embodies the human experience.
The singer-songwriter’s personalized acoustic set reflects his own emphasis on the necessity of personal connection within the music industry: “You have to respect the fact that people have relationships with those songs” he notes. But with Lucca’s new self-titled album, he has also committed to “straight ahead rock and roll” and made a promise to “leave the acoustic at home”.
So why the change?
With an earnest smile, Lucca subtly touches upon his media-frenzied past: “My bio is pretty crazy at this point…this felt like a starting over point for me”.
Despite his personal milestones as a solo artist, it is impossible not to note the varied successes in Lucca’s past. As a teen he made his Hollywood debut as part of The All-New Mickey Mouse Club alongside notable stars Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, and Christina Aguilera from 1991 until its final season in 1995. From there, Lucca made it to primetime evenings with the Aaron Spelling-helmed teen drama Malibu Shores and worked on commercials before pursuing his passion in music full-time. In 2012, Lucca was reunited with former Mickey costar Aguilera on the NBC hit singing competition The Voice, placing third.
This mainstream image of Lucca sparks an interesting contrast to someone who spent their formative music years- early grade school- burning through so many hours of The Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” and Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” that the vinyl wore out. “Still Crazy” has had a lasting effect on Lucca, as he recalls “how incredible that for whatever reason at five or six years old this music I would choose to play some of the darkest, most emotional, melancholic stuff out there and yet there was something in there that spoke to me and that I feel like maintained in a lot of my songwriting.”
Even at a young age, Lucca was a quick study to music. He has taken this to heart throughout his career, straddling between the worlds of old and new, and seeking out what sets things apart: “the reason why it wins is because there was something honest and unique and fresh about it,” Lucca says, citing Amy Winehouse’s unique “full-throttle throwback sound” as a prime example. “She had a sound that people hadn’t heard yet, so they were mesmerized by it.”
While Lucca may have his eyes on what the past has to offer the present, he also has his fingers on the pulse of contemporary music. Lucca finds it necessary to “find elements in it that you do like even if you can’t stand that song or that artist, because it’s got to be popular for a reason- check it out. Give it an honest listen without your own take on it.” This demonstrates a seasoned approach to the music industry: listen and learn.
As to where Lucca sees himself within the landscape of the industry, “As a solo artist, my records have taken on different styles and different genres. They all boiled down to just me and the guitar playing the actual songs.”
“I think it tends to dilute things when you’re being lumped into this big, broad singer-songwriter, “guy with guitar”, kind of thing and that does get old,” Lucca says. “But I take pride in the fact that I write and sing my own songs.”
While being a singer-songwriter has developed certain connotations within the industry, Lucca doesn’t believe in drawing too many boundaries between the two: “To craft songs is just that- it’s a craft. Whereas being an artist is an art form. Some of the greatest artists of our time definitely were the interpreters of other people’s songs.” He rests the case with simplicity, saying “I think they’re just two different art forms and it’s cool when you can embody both.”
Reflecting on the journey ahead of him, Lucca can’t help but smile at the thought of the experiences to come. A long-time veteran of the open road, he knows that the most important thing is “keeping peace of mind and morale and keeping everybody excited to be out and away from home.”
Lucca’s attention to those around him reveals the empathetic nature that has kept him writing heartfelt music throughout the years. “Obviously, at the end of the day you gotta be totally cool with what you’re doing and not do it for everybody else’s ear,” he says. If the music isn’t coming from an honest place,“people are going to hear that loud and clear.”