Growing up, Tony Lucca wasn’t the child that used music as an escape or dreamed of being a rockstar to land the hearts of girls in his math class. He was raised in Detroit, surrounded by a family of musicians and had his first paid gig was with his cousin, Cole Garlak, when they were just twelve years old.
“It was so easy to imagine music as a career from that point forward,” Tony expressed, looking back on his first shows with Cole. “We were too young to realize it had anything to do with girls, but smart enough to know it was more than a hobby.”
It’s clear when talking with Tony that he is comfortable in a lane of his own. He may be on the same road as other artists, but he’s forging ahead in the fast lane, constantly switching up his stylization to reflect the panel of musicians that inspire him daily.
“I like to think that instead of being inspired by one person, I have a panel of judges. The Judicial Branch of my musical career, if you will,” he joked. “That branch would consist of Jeff Tweedy, Jonie Mitchell, Miles Davis,” he motioned to the speaker on the ceiling where Miles’ trumpeting was warmly coming through, “since he’s here with us.
Now, you won’t see shades of these people in my music. Instead, I’ll refer to their careers when I’m stuck on ideas with mine. ‘What would they do?’ I’ll sometimes ask myself. A lot of the time, songwriting is about painting pictures and making it rhyme. Most of the time, you find you have to just get out of your own damn way.”
Tony’s discography includes ten studio albums, and nine E.P.’s, so it’s safe to say when he’s not keeping busy out on the road – he’s writing.
Tony says his songwriting is a mixture of “ideas out of nowhere” and “co-writes where you work to tell someone else’s story.”
“There are those moments where you have to grab your phone and record a voice memo because something comes to you. You can’t turn it on or off. A song can have any kind of influence, chemical or otherwise and it’s really a discipline to refine it.
You have to allow yourself to write whatever comes into your mind. I tend to be influenced a lot by what I listen to. God forbid I hear something I like!” He laughed. “I’m a musical chameleon in the sense that if I listen to something enough, I can morph my sound into it and sometimes I have to be careful with that. But you never want to shut out an idea. Sometimes I’ll be writing a song that pretty soon sounds a lot like a Pop track and I’ll picture Tweedy putting out his cigarette and leaving the room. You just have to let it happen.”
Tony’s musical upbringing hit new heights when he was a cast member on The All New Mickey Mouse Club with cast mates such as Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, who he would later sing for when he finished third on The Voice in 2012 (winning a record deal in the process).
“I wouldn’t say I rely on the relationships I made from my time on that show,” he responded when I asked if his fellow clubhouse celebrities have come in handy throughout his career, “I trust in them. It’s actually the relationships with lesser well-known artists that you rely on because you’re available a lot more to help one another out. As far as my fellow-cast-mates though, we flirt with the idea of a reunion quite a bit. I never understood reunions until I went to my twenty-year high school one and then I thought, ‘now I see why you do this.’ With the show, it would be a lot harder because press would be involved and things like that, so unless the crew got together and organized it, I don’t think it would happen.”
As for his time on The Voice, Tony describes it all as being an act of “timing.”
“I was in-between projects and the opportunity had presented itself before at a time where I didn’t feel ready. I thought to myself ‘how long are you going to sit on the sidelines and kick yourself once this opportunity passes you by.’ There was a crossroads on my domestic-front, moving from L.A. a few years prior, and I thought my work finally spoke for itself. I entered the show with a clear heart and an urge to share my music.”
As a fan, you’d probably think this was the pinnacle of Tony’s career, but he has other thoughts;
“The show still, to this day, has a lot to prove. I’m grateful for my time on it, but I don’t think I ever really see anything as a pinnacle because I’m always striving for more. Playing the Beatles’ with Adam Levine, it was awesome! Singing at the Packers vs. Lions, Thanksgiving Day Game – incredible! A sold out birthday show – even better! But I just take them as once-in-a-lifetime experiences and move on to the next best thing. In a non-jaded way,” he laughed.
Even with such a large repertoire of songs, I imagined that Tony wouldn’t be a lot like other artists who insist all songs are like their children and they can never choose a favorite (well, that coupled with the fact that Tony has a very honest perspective and doesn’t really filter what he says). I was right.
“Usually the most recent of my songs becomes my favorite. It resonates with me the most. When I listen back to Canyon Songs, which has it’s tenth anniversary this year, I can remember where I was coming from at that time and feel it all again.” I compared it to looking back at old photos and Tony couldn’t have agreed more. “Ryan Adams, another one of my favorites, said it best in a tweet that he wrote to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of, Heartbreaker. He said something about ‘while it’s a naive record, I still love ya’ and that’s genuinely how you feel listening back to old work,” Tony confessed.
Tony has been on tour with Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5 and *NSYNC to name a few, not to mention his fellow Hotel Cafe kin including Josh Kelley, Sara Bareilles and Joey Ryan of the Milk Carton Kids (who’s song “Michigan” will forever have my heart).
“Have you ever been to NYC?” Tony asked me, before going onto describe the difference between large tours and smaller, more intimate ones. “NYC is jaw-dropping,” he went on. “We’re talking dream-like proportions. There are canyons of high rises and you’re so grateful to be there, but you feel so small. I lived there for a while and I remember there would be moments I would think ‘what am I doing here? What can I physically do here?'” I knew exactly what he meant. One of those I-hope-you still-feel-small-when-you-stand-beside-the-ocean moments. “That’s how it feels like being on a large your,” he said. “You get a sense of being at a carnival. You try to be respectful and avoid your headliners camps and there’s a sense of pressure for everyone involved where it really feels like a job. Smaller scale shows are unique. You break a string, or forget the words and the show suddenly has character. You improvise. There’s no room for that on a large tour.”
Tony’s self-titled album was released in 2015 and encompasses twelve brand-new songs. Check out a track-by-track review here. The album came about through collaboration with his fans, in an ode to his crowd-funding campaigns and those that supported him enough to raise his original kick-starter goal of $25K in a matter of thirty hours. In one word, he describes the album as “rejuvenating.”
“I truly felt like a storyteller and,” he looked as if he came to a small revelation, “I would describe it as a pinnacle of my career for sure. It was refreshing to tell something that belonged to someone else and share their story for them.”
With over twenty years in his musical career, Tony is an artist who knows himself. I have no doubt that Tony will continue to tell stories, while adding to his own, and I think we’re all lucky souls to be able to share in that process.
I currently have this on repeat, but you can fall in love with your own: