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Exclusive interview with Tony Lucca

Tony Lucca
Courtesy of JLS Artist Management

Singer/songwriter Tony Lucca made his return to Seattle on Aug. 9 at The Vera Project. The last time he was in town was on the heels of his appearance on NBC’s “The Voice.” He placed third on season two as a member of Team Adam and was subsequently signed to a record deal with Adam Levine’s record label, 222 Records. The well-received EP “With the Whole World Watching” got released, but before it could properly be promoted Lucca and the label parted ways.

Since then he has garnered support through Patreon and Kickstarter, two different types of crowdfunding platforms, and used the latter to help finance his new album. This particular tour, however, was not about promoting the new album. This tour, which began in July with Tyler Hilton and ended here in Seattle, was more about reconnecting with the fans, letting them know that he’s still here, he knows they are too, and they haven’t heard the last of him.

For the second leg of the tour he was joined by Emerson Hart (former lead singer of Tonic, now promoting his second solo album), and fellow singer/songwriter Andrea Nardello. Each of the trio offered an intimate acoustic performance interlaced with stories and anecdotes, allowing the faithful to be in on the jokes.

Nardello is a beautifully thoughtful, artistic singer, reminiscent of Melissa Etheridge without the rasp. Her performance of her song “Give Me It All” was bluesy and passionate, while her cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” was soft and inspired.

Emerson Hart landed mainstream success as the lead singer of Tonic with singles such as “If You Could Only See” — which he performed, much to the delight of the audience and a giddy Lucca — but since 2007 he has been donning the suit of a soloist. With heartfelt songs such as “Flyin’” and “Hallway” his strong voice shines. It makes one wonder how he hasn’t been a solo artist his whole career, as it is a suit that was clearly cut and tailored for him.

The camaraderie between Emerson and Tony was visible, as the two shared the stage in a random together-yet-separate type of show. They would take turns performing, one occasionally chiming in on the other’s tune as they each felt so inclined.

There is also a camaraderie amongst Tony Lucca fans, as was evident with the crowd at The Vera Project. These were lifelong fans — the ones that sang along to every word of “Darlin’ I” and “The Hustler, the Widow & the Boy From Detroit,” songs that were first released on his album “Canyon Songs” back in 2006, long before his stint on “The Voice.” The ones that say they have been a fan since he was on “Malibu Shores” — because by now everyone knows about that other show that began his career — and if you concurred you had instantaneously formed a bond.

Tony, a veteran of the entertainment industry for more than 20 years, takes it all in stride. It doesn’t matter to him how the audience first heard of him. He is grateful for their support, and knows that without each of them he could not continue to do the type of music he wants to do (as opposed to the kind he’s been asked to do). He was kind enough to sit down before the show to discuss his new album, the highs and lows of touring, and what was really behind the demise of his 222 Records deal.

Michelle: Thanks for seeing me today.
Tony: Thank you, this is the highlight of the day so far. Well, although we did have a really good margarita happy hour earlier.

M: So what’s going on? What do you mean?
T: I don’t know … what I do know is, routing tours that are worth a damn in late July and Aug. for mid-size venues are hard to come by. It’s a tough time to bring people out. If you don’t do terribly well in certain markets, to get a proper night at a good venue in Seattle … without a history of selling out mid-size venues, you’re not going to get one.

M: Is it different in the fall/winter?
T: Oh yeah. Strangely enough right up until the holidays is prime time for touring. Mid-Jan. to late March is another great time. And then May/June can be good too.

M: So you decided to tour in the summer into early fall.
T: Exactly. [Motions shooting himself in the foot.] This year we kind of knew going into it that it would be a little rough going on tour and just from what went down last year. It was a big year … it was a weird year, but this year we knew that touring wasn’t going to be the main ingredient. Making the new album was the priority this year, which we did, and now we get to set up for a really strong, proper tour.

M: You did it differently this time though. You did Kickstarter.
T: I did Kickstarter.

M: What made you decide to do that?
T: I just had seen enough friends and fellow artists succeed with it. For a long time, I’ll be honest, I kind of put myself of ¬— I don’t say above it, but like, “I’m okay.” All I’ve done from day one is put every dime I make back into my thing. I’ve done well enough to keep moving at that rate, but then I got to the point after last year, going in and out of the deal with Adam Levine’s label … it was a big spotlight.

M: What happened with that? How did that [record deal with 222 Records] fall through?
T: Um, I’ll be totally honest with you and tell you that I don’t know exactly the details. But from what I gather, the nature of the label changed rapidly. It went from being an indie startup with Adam and his partner to … an “upstream,” or an “imprint.” A major will do a deal [with a smaller label] and when the acts or artists do well they will upstream them to the major label. As I understand it, the label got upstreamed as its own entity, where they thought this could be a vehicle for larger artists and to do that they had to clear the books with what they had at the time and sadly I was one of two acts that had things on the books. So they let us go but they knew it wasn’t what they had intended. It wasn’t because they weren’t happy with the work we had put in. They did end up giving us the record back when we parted ways. You learn as you go. It’s weird to still be learning things the hard way, but … hard is subjective … so it was like, “What’s next?”

We didn’t do [Kickstarter] right away. We actually ventured into another foray, Patreon. I thought this could be a cool thing to help me stay motivated, inspired and connected with the fans. To explain things as I go without looking for a handout. This would put me back to work in a cool, creative way, and it did … until enough time had passed and I was ready to make a record.

M: When is it going out to the fans that contributed?
T: The fans will get their digital download two weeks prior to the official release date.

M: And you are thinking the street date is mid-Oct.?
T: Oct. 21 is the tentative date.

M: Are you expecting a lot of radio play once you really push the new album?
T: Uh … no. Unless a third party comes in and says we think we hear some potential and let’s maybe go back and mix it and make it radio-ready … the record as-is is not entirely radio-friendly. It’s an alternative rock record. It’s got pop sensibilities and it’s accessible, but sonically what’s going on in radio these days is a whole ‘nother thing. None of the vocals on this record were Auto-Tuned.

M: Yes! Thank you.
T: Nothing is produced for the radio. It is a rock record. It is old school, classic rock. Tom Petty with a hint of Black Keys. It’s got grit but it doesn’t have polish. It doesn’t sound like a Maroon 5 record.

M: On purpose?
T: … [Smiles.] You be the judge.

M: So touring with Emerson, and with Tyler [Hilton] a few weeks ago, how’s that been going?
T: It’s been great. For better or worse on the whole timing front, that is what it is.

M: Sure. But the fans and the songs …
T: The fans and the songs and the spirit of the collaborations have been great. Tyler and I … it was really cool to spend time with someone like that. We’ve just been running parallel courses over the years.

M: Now did you know him before you guys went out on tour?
T: I’ve known Tyler for about 10 years now. We met years ago on the road. We have a ton of mutual friends in L.A. and we’ve just been keeping tabs on each other forever. We both did the film and television thing so we know that world; we know the indie world; we know struggling to find a genre or niche; we know the ups and downs of being signed and dropped. It was like shorthand central and we just had a ball. Emerson has been really great as well. He’s a master of the craft.

M: I’m excited to see his solo stuff.
T: He’s been at this a long time. Of all the people that I’ve toured with, he’s one of the guys that’s had the most success. To see that kind of innate, timeless grace … he’s just a really cool guy. He’s very honest, sincere and genuine. I think he’s enjoyed kind of assuming the role of big brother. He’s been really generous and insightful but without being preachy or a dick.

M: What about Amber Carrington? She did some background vocals on the new album.
T: She did. She’s an angel. I didn’t want to bring people in just for the sake of bringing people in and dropping names. But I had a particular song on the record that had a harmony part to it. I started thinking about female singers that I know. My wife actually was with me when we were out in L.A. visiting the Voice stage and she got to know Amber quickly and they took to each other. Whenever my wife connects with someone, I don’t forget that. That is very indicative to me that there is something there worth holding on to. So she reminded me that Amber had moved to Nashville and I thought, perfect. Of course there’s the whole Team Adam/Voice alumni thing, but it’s a great track and she just came in and crushed it. She’s just a gem of a girl.

M: Would you consider touring with her when she gets to that point?
T: Oh God, yeah. Bringing her out, having her open, or you know the way things go she could blow up and I would be grateful to go out and open for her. There’s a mutual admiration there that would make that work real well.

M: How are your wife and kids while you are on the road? What do [the kids] think about all this?
T: We’ve been married seven years and not much has changed in that this is what I do. We just find how to make it work, effectively and happily. The kids are great, they love it. This is probably the third or fourth time my son has been through this and watched the album grow. And my daughter, she just likes to sit in the control room in the tracking booth. She just wants to sit there with her headphones on and watch me sing. There’s a song on the new album called “Sparrow” and it’s about her, obviously. So yeah, things are great.

For updates about Tony Lucca, visit his website or check out his Patreon page.


Twitter: @luccadoes

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