Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Talking with Tony Lucca.

At the end of May I was given the opportunity to get on the phone with Tony Lucca, the contestant who placed third on season two of NBC's The Voice. We discussed when he was bit by the music bug, what it was like participating on the show, and I even put him on the spot regarding his top Beatles tunes. We chatted for a few minutes prior to the interview, then got down to business.

Lucca in the studio. Photo credit: Tony Lucca, Facebook.

How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a musician?
Ah man, like right away. I actually have a picture of me standing outside, when I was three and a half, just strumming a guitar. It was about 7 or 8 when I got really bit by the bug. I picked up a guitar, learned to play songs, and fantasized about the life as a rock star.

Were you formally trained on guitar or piano, or did you start playing by ear?
Pretty much by ear, a few lessons here or there to acquire theory, but I was never able to lock into it. My mom was the tenth of twelve kids that all sing or played something, so really by osmosis. I learned quite a bit from uncles, aunts, and cousins. Its been a really blessed, blessed life, for sure.

No, that’s definitely awesome. I wrote something when I had heard the clip of you and Adam [Levine, Maroon 5 singer and Lucca’s coach on The Voice] performing [The Beatles] "Yesterday," and it was the second time I had seen you on the show. The first time was a fluke. I had the television on, and heard your name, and told my boyfriend that had watched you on the Mickey Mouse Club. I was floored, because I had heard bits and pieces of your work over the years, but it was always in passing. This time, I actually sat there and listened, and I was like “hooooollllllyyy shit.” 
[Laughs] 

I heard that, I said, “This is gonna be it,” and told Erich that you were going to be one of the top picks. I’m honestly so stoked that you were given the opportunity to show the world what you could do.
Yeah, well I appreciate that. Definitely, that was the goal, to get as best an opportunity as possible and I felt like we capitalized on it in the best way, in ways that I didn’t even see coming. I thought it was really a good run.

I was wondering, because I remember when I was younger and was in marching band, I had a few things I always did before a show. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
No, I really don’t - at least none that I do consciously. I know that I do slip into sort of a zone; people close to me have pointed it out, and they’ll recognize it before I do. There is a bit of a mental space that I get into and there are idiosyncratic vocal things I do, vocal warm-ups that make sure I’m good to go, or at least I know where I stand with my voice. Some days its totally there, and some days it is not there. But no, no rituals. I’m not superstitious. If there is anything I’ve learned over the years, its that you never know where and when you’re gonna need to just get out there and do it. It’s always been my thing to just always be prepared for whatever, and trust yourself.

Yeah. Now, you said before that you are really close with your family. When you were filming, how was it being away from your wife and kids? Did they stay home, or were they nearby?
 For the most part, they were here in Michigan while I was out in LA. We were apart for quite awhile, sometimes as much as four or five weeks. As the finale got closer, they were coming out once a week. Between the second to last episode and the last episode, they stayed in LA. We spent as much time together as we could while I was slaving away [laughs]. It was tough, it was really hard, but the further along I got in the competition, the more the sacrifice felt… worthwhile, you know? The sacrificing wasn’t made in vain. Its important that you have the support, that you're able to trust in the love that you have, and the dedication you have as a family to the common goal of succeeding. Obviously my wife is made of some serious stock [laughs], and my kids, they're wonderful as well. They loved the whole experience, it was really cool for them as well.

They could turn on the TV and see dad.
Yeah, and its weird that it sort of becomes the norm for kids, but everything is relative. Its like the kids of sports stars - daddy’s on the TV every Sunday, or every few days. Its life as we know it.

How was it working with Adam Levine?
It was amazing. It was everything I hoped it would be. People always ask “why him,” and truthfully, personally, I feel like he is the least affected of the four of them. Now I don’t mean that in a judgemental way, or being critical, but what you see is really what you get with him. Hes very straight to the point, and for someone like me, that’s what I want. I'm going to set my ego aside and open myself to criticism, and I want it straight. I figured if I could get on his team, that we would develop a pretty cool shorthand and really connect and forge a productive bond. To say the least, that’s pretty much what happened.

When you had decided to go with Adam, I told my boyfriend that was the perfect choice. I could see you two sitting down, fooling around on the guitar, bouncing ideas off each other – even writing a song together.
That really almost happened, to be honest. That’s how we came about doing “Yesterday.” We were going to do “Blackbird” originally. We went in to rehearse it on stage, and we were playing it, waiting for cameras or some technical thing. I was sitting there, with my guitar, and we started strumming through the better part of the Beatles catalogue. The two of us sat in The Voice arena, with the crew and the band sitting around in the stands, really just listening to us like brothers at sound check. It was really amazing and cool, and I started strumming “Yesterday." He started singing it, we started harmonizing it, and it was like, “Ohhhh shit – that’s the one.” So we switched the song last minute. It was very cool and I'm glad it worked out.

You would have never known that it was a last minute switch, either!
I know, it was really wild.

You’ve been a musician for most of your life – is there anything that you taught Adam?
I don’t know, maybe? There might have been things that I brought to his attention that he didn’t see happening, but I don’t know. That’s a good question.

Well, I guess we’ll find out when we hear the next [Maroon 5] album.
Yeah, exactly.

Regarding the other contestants. You're essentially stuck with the same people for weeks on end, and I guess in a way its almost like summer camp. Who did you connect with, and feel like you gelled with the best?
I knew Justin Hopkins before the show, we shared the stage before, and it was cool to see him again. It was sad to see him go, but he lost to my new friend, Tony Vincent. We were roommates through the blind audition phase. We got close and made lifelong friends, so that’s very cool. Jordis [Unga] was one of my closer friends on the show. I mean, gosh, after awhile, you really get your time with everybody. You really take to some people and people endear themselves to you. Jamar [Rogers] was another one that towards the end I became closer to, and developed a mutual admiration society with [laughs]. It was really a great crop of people.

Now, I know you had to work on material for the show while you were in LA, but did you get to work on any new songs while you were filming?
Here and there; I was rehearsing with my guitar a bit more. I would sit in my hotel room, strumming while watching television. Largely, surviving something like that requires a pretty intense head space that leaves very little room for free association and creative thought. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as much writing done as I had hoped I might. With that being said, I got a ton of inspiration. Just absorbing my surroundings and my personal trajectory on the show alone is quite a story that I look forward to getting at creatively and writing about, with some hindsight perspective to go with it as well.

Were there any songs that you wanted to perform on the show that were shot down?
No, anything he “shot down” was usually with good reason and his whole objective was to make sure whatever we did was bulletproof. Especially after we became aware of our critics [laughs].

Especially when you get that close to the top. I don’t want to say you have to pick something that’s safe, but you don’t want to go out on a limb where it could screw you.
Yeah, that was the thing. Do we lay it down the fairway, or do we go for something more cutting edge and really ruffle feathers? The difficulty [The Voice] runs into is that by bringing in pre-established artists, people that have history, is they open themselves up to the possibility of artistic vision, strong opinions, and strong personalities. They have a bunch of artists trying to do what artists do, like obscure songs, taking popular songs and making them their own, and really changing things up. That’s cool, but only so far; only to a degree, and then it doesn’t work well for TV, ratings and all that shit. You learn that people are as apt to vote for a song as they are the singer, which became apparent to me when I did the Britney [Spears’ "Baby One More Time"] thing. Again, the timing of it was spot-on, the context was there, it was great for my story; nonetheless, what made that so strong was that there are so few people, especially of the target demographic of the show, that don’t have some type of personal connection to that song. People voted for that; people purchased that. Obscure songs are like a one-way ticket home, and you have to try to steer clear of that if you can.

We briefly discussed tour dates, which are listed here. Tony will also be touring with The Voice contestants in early 2013, so keep your eyes peeled for those dates.

Now, I have a few questions that are a bit unrelated to the show. What would be your dream collaboration?
I would love to do a record with Bonnie Raitt, k.d. lang, and Paul Simon would be cool. I would love to tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I want to write and produce a hit for Seal and Sade to sing together – I think that would be pretty cool.

That would be pretty badass.
That would be amazing. There's lots music I would love to make happen with [various] artists. Just having come from a pretty wide range of music appreciation.

What have you been listening to?
I’ve been driving around with the kids since I’ve been home, so we put a playlist together for them, and what they’re currently into. My little girl is a big Jessie J fan, so we’ve been listening to “Domino” and “Price Tag” a lot. My son is a big Maroon 5 fan now, so I’m getting my fair dose of “Payphone” and “Moves Like Jagger.”

So you leave Adam and you still can’t get rid of him now!
I know, exactly. Personally, I’ve been rocking out to [The Black Keys] El Camino record, and trying to get caught up on their stuff, because I’ve become a late-bloomer fan of theirs.

Any television shows you got hooked on while you were in LA?
I became a huge fan of Awake, and I'm a big fan of Parenthood (Tony made a cameo on the show in 2011).

This is an ever-changing list for anyone, including myself, but I had to ask: top five Beatles songs? I know its hard to answer off the top of your head.
“I’ll Follow the Sun” [long pause, its as if I could hear the gears turning in his head],“Here Comes the Sun.” Yeesh, anything off of Rubber Soul, and [more thinking and murmuring] I’m a big fan of Abbey Road as well. “Blackbird,” obviously… that’s too hard [laughs].

I know, I was contemplating emailing the question to your management, but I wanted to see how you’d answer under pressure.
[Laughs] My gosh, I could talk Beatles all day.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to have an in-depth discussion on the Beatles, because he had another interview lined up. It was wonderful chatting with Tony. He's a down-to-earth guy who worked hard for the success that he has attained. I wish him the best.

If you want to hear some of the songs Tony would have liked to perform on The Voice, check out his Spotify playlist, Celebrity Sway (songs I would have LOVED to sing on The Voice).

Lucca at Spotify headquarters. Photo credit: Tony Lucca, Facebook.

For those of you who are on Long Island, Tony will be performing at the Tanger Outlets Sound of Summer Series this Saturday, June 23, at the Arches in Deer Park. Admission is free, so be sure to get there early. I will be there, along with my awesome photographer, Avalon. If you see us, come over and say hello!

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed the interview. I was surprised at his choices or collaborations, I am a big fan of k.d.lang, love her style. I would love to see him collaborate with all of them, it would diffidently awesome.

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