'Holy Hot Balls! The Tony Lucca Story’
Tony Lucca, from Waterford, Michigan is an American singer, songwriter, producer, and once actor. After starting his career on the Mickey Mouse Club when it was cancelled he went to LA for a brief career as an actor. Then he decided to become a full-time musician instead. He has since released over seven studio albums and five EPs.
Having just come 3rd in the second season of the American reality talent show, The Voice, Lucca now has plans to hit the road on tour (complete list of confirmed dates below), but not before thanking his hometown area of Detroit for all of its support with an opening night concert in the very heart of the city.
I recently sat down with Tony Lucca just before his soundcheck in Detroit. In an upstairs dressing room with no air conditioning and on a 93 degree day, the lightning flashing outside amongst the rays of sunshine, as we got stickier and stickier we discussed his days in the Mickey Mouse Club, his time spent on NBC's The Voice, what he thought of some of his prior albums, and yes, ... even Penguins!
Taking it from the top, you were born here in Pontiac, MI although you grew up in Waterford. Loving music since you were three, aged just 12 you were playing in Detroit-area bands with your cousin, Cole Garlak! How did you get into bars at that age and what were you guys playing? "Yeah, that was about the age we started to perform to a degree where we weren’t embarrassed, you know. We were ready to get it up on its legs and go out and play songs they would recognize and want to hear. There wasn’t a whole lot of bar gigs though. These were more like Junior High dances. But there was a time, when I was about 13 or 14 maybe when we muscled our way into the iRock. This horrible, dirty club that just snuck us in to play a 45 minute set, you know. Playing mostly classic rock covers and a handful of originals.”
You have Italian, Welsh, French and English blood in you, so which one seems to be your go-to when it comes to learning life’s lessons? “A little bit of all of them, but I think the namesake Lucca tends to drop the most iconic. I take probably the most pride in the Italian side. I think that‘s a large part of my temperament. I‘m pretty laid back until push comes to shove and then I can step to the plate.”
You got a start on the Mickey Mouse Club TV show, but you didn’t actually go to audition for the MMC that day - you went thinking it was for the Disney movie ‘Newsies,’ correct?! “Yeah, right there,” he says pointing out of the window, “at the Renaissance Center, now the GM Building. I got an opportunity to go out and interview for what I thought was Newsies and apparently they were looking for someone either a little younger, or a little older than me. Whatever it was they said, ‘No, you’re not what we’re looking for … you must be here for the Mickey Mouse Club?’ I was like no, I don’t know anything about that.”
“Of course, I had no idea about Disney’s reinvention of it for the ‘90s so in my head the MMC conjured up images of the ‘50s, mouse ears, tap dancing and that sort of sh*t. So I was ready to go home, and I was with my mom and my sister and we’d driven all the way out from Oakland County. So, my mom said let’s just go see if they have your name and if they’re expecting you. And so we went down there and sure enough they were expecting me. And I was still like, I don’t care. I’m not doing that. Let’s go. But it was my sister that kinda gave me the push and said, ‘Don’t be a jerk! If I could do what you do I’d go in there and I’d do it. Just do it.’ So I did it. I didn’t want to be a jerk!”
After the MMC was cancelled you went out to LA to make it as a actor - and suddenly your girlfriend was the lovely Keri Russell from ’Felicity‘! “Yeah, she was cast out of Colorado, I think and the casting director was trying to play Cupid the whole time,” he gently laughs. “He kept telling us we were going to hit it off together and sure enough we hit it off.”
And that partnership led to you both starring on the TV show ‘Malibu Shores’ - what were those days like for you? “Yeah, that was amazing. Sure, working for Spelling and NBC, driving to Malibu every day through the canyon for work, hot co-star. It was ridiculously easy,” he gently laughs again.
But then, after some TV commercials, an NBC movie of the week, and two independent movies, you returned home in 1997. What was it about the acting life in LA that suddenly wasn’t as appealing as it once was for you? “I felt like the acting thing was like a party that I got invited to that nobody asked me to leave,” he again laughs. “I didn’t feel I belonged there, you know. I felt like a phony in the faces of friends of mine in LA who were the committed actors, who just yearn for every audition. Whereas I was getting them left and right and just didn’t want to do the Hollywood shuffle auditioning actor things. It was a grind and just bares hell on your stomach. I guess I just wasn’t cut out for that kind of rejection,” he laughs.
“I just wanted something that was a little more instantly gratifying and something that was mine, and where I wasn’t at the mercy of someone else’s words. I just knew I wanted to go back to my one true love and give it all I have. It was a very definitive moment and a strong choice.”
Being a finalist on The Voice must have been a wonderful feeling, but after an incredible final live performance, finishing 3rd just seems like you were robbed!! “You know, that was kinda … well, put it this way … since the show, if I had a dime for every time someone has told me a) you were robbed, or b) what’s up with Christina, …” he laughs. But yeah, that was kinda the take on it all, that something was amiss maybe. But you’ll drive yourself crazy speculating on it all.”
“I mean, if you take the results for what they were then maybe, if truth be told, the voting America is clearly different from the record buying America; the iTunes America. Because if it was iTunes America Juliet and I were hands down the winners, just from a sales perspective. But, obviously there’s a lot of last minute voters who come in on that very last episode, haven’t watched the show throughout the season and then just vote on that last main song.”
In reflection, based on what you just said, any regrets about your finale song choice of ‘99 Problems‘? “I think my performance was groundbreaking for a reality TV show, let alone The Voice. I think it was definitely something else. Which means it could have then been like, ‘Holy cow, this guy’s definitely onto something, but does that warrant him winning this?’ Especially when there’s an opera singer, an R&B singer. These guys sing the lights off, you know. So, maybe it does in the final hour come down to the voice. And ok, fair enough, I wasn’t maybe the strongest voice, but hands down I think I had the most experience as a performer, commanded the stage and was stronger than anybody. But maybe that’s not what it boiled down to, but that’s where I left it all.”
So just why that song choice of ‘99 Problems’? “The version we did was actually arranged by an artist named Hugo. He did that. Apparently he was signed to Jay-Z’s label. He lifted the refrain and wrote all those killer verses with all that fast Americana sound. This huge Delta Blues kinda thing. And that’s what was the selling point. Had Adam just said we need to do Jay-Z’s ‘99 Problems’ I’d have told him he needed to pick somebody else for his team. Vendetta’s and stunts aside, it’s the coolest thing we could do right now. Let alone the subtext and the rebelling and getting in a last minute dig at Christina, if that’s how you want to interpret it,” he shrugs.
So, once and for all, this b/s between you and Christina - was it actually born from something that truly existed, or was it just … hype?! “I wanna say a little bit of both. Without casting judgment on anybody, just as an observer who got pretty close to it - and by ’it’ I mean the show, the camaraderie between her and Adam and the other coaches and the bond that’s there - unfortunately for Christina’s disposition on that show, I think she has chosen the roll of girl-on-a-guys panel. And so she has to constantly be on guard. With that, for her, comes a great deal of nervous energy where she shows a lack of self-awareness. Which stems from a nervous energy that she can’t really even bridle. Even when everything’s just jovial amongst the guys, she’s on her edge. Like any moment they’re gonna outwit her or do something that’s gonna sting a little bit. So she’s gotta be on guard and have something prepared.”
“So a lot of times she would come out with talking points each night. After the Britney thing she made a point to know what I was going to do each week. So she could have her little talking points each week and be armed with ready-to-go info. And, of course, the last song was no exception. She had to anticipate my daughter was going to be there so she included that in her little prepared statement - and my daughter wasn’t there!”
“So, had she been more self-aware and observed the situation she might have recognized that. But again, she couldn’t deviate from that preparedness that comes from all her nervous energy. And like I’ve said on record many times, I think of the four of them that Christina has probably the most experience and intelligence on The Voice in performance and production. I think she knows what she’s talking about. I rarely disagree with what she says. But with her it’s her tone. And so it’s her tone is what screws her. It’s what puts this horrible light on her all the time and with me it came out ten-fold.”
“And yes, there was a turning point in the season when it got to the live rounds and Justin Timberlake tweeted on my behalf. To support me going into the live rounds. That’s when she was like, ‘Nope, I’m not gonna lose to Adam and I’m certainly not gonna be out-celebritied by Justin Timberlake.' They had history together. They went out on tour. They have baggage. So, it then just became her mission to bury me each week. Right down to the last minute, when she indirectly got her fans against me.”
“Katrina [Parker] deserved to win that thing. We all had ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ was, but Katrina has one of the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard and it was an honor to be in the Finals with her. And again, had Adam not swung as heavy as he did, by voting rights I would have made it. But then after the results came in, people showed me a website that was a bunch of Xtina fans that had a call to arms to vote for Katrina Parker. So, there’s your hype. There’s your take away. And like I’ve said, not that Katrina wasn’t deserving of it, and fair’s fair, and I get all of that. I’m not celebrating the fact that I went on to win over Katrina Parker at the expense of Christina’s pride, you know. But, reality is a loose term in those shows, man,” he ever-so-slightly smirks, somewhat knowingly.
So, it is like American Idol where you at least got a CD out of the deal of being in the Top 4?! “The way it was structured this year is when you sign up for the show you basically sign a deal with Universal Republic. So should you win it they automatically option your deal. That’s the winning pot of gold. But not for me. And so, we’re moving on,” he smiles.
“But they did have a thing, which this is sort of inside info, that each of the Top 4 were guaranteed singles. And, if not there was a parting gift if they were just to terminate your deal without a single.”
Oh, so you got a single out of it? "No!"
Ok, I'm confused now ... did you at least get a car?! “Yeah, the car was like, ‘Welcome to the Top 4’,” he smiles, “I’m still waiting for it. It’s a Kia Sorrento. In titanium silver.”
It seems that before The Voice you had a thicker, heavier beard, but that for the show you had it much lighter, more trimmed (like now) - so, who is the REAL Tony Lucca?! “This is now kind of my happy medium, you know. Between feeling like I really had to clean up for, well, who knows who, and the burly guy who I now realize is not very accessible. Very intimidating. And I’m not an intimidating guy within my nature. But I realize it was very off-putting to a lot of people. Somehow I always thought it exuded relevance and credibility as an artist."
"I just hate shaving, that’s the truth of it,” he laughs. “But no, this is definitely what I’m comfortable with. I feel more like myself.”
How important was it for you to kick this new tour off in Detroit? “I feel like Eminem in ‘8 Mile’! Literally we’re right above where they filmed those scenes. This is kind of a put up or shut up kinda moment for me, I think. I’ve got a lot of undeniable hometown love from friends and family that have been there since day one, supporting me my whole life. In numerous capacities. There’s also now a lot of outside new-fan interest that’s coming from the show that are taking pride in me as a fellow local from the area. It’s about showing that this is all well warranted. That I’m deserving of that spotlight and that hopefully I'm also deserving of moving forward, you know.”
Taking a look at some of your album titles, where were you (mentally and physically) when you were recording these albums?
So Satisfied (1997) - “I was fresh out the gate. I was naïve and fearless at the same time. Naïve to the dictates of the industry and the formulaic approach to radio and record deals and all that sh*t. I couldn’t have cared less. I was trying to be more adult than my age warranted, or the target demographic would have warranted. I was in a very-like Sting ‘Bring On The Night’ adult contemporary thing. I went out doing promotional dates for that album with an 8 piece band for that album. That was all self-funded through my Mouse Club and ‘Malibu Shores’ days. There was nothing to showcase.”
Shotgun (2004) - “That was basically me after my first couple of indie things. John Mayer had kinda hit and brought back that whole modern singer-songwriter genre single-handedly. And so I was like this is the box, this is the formula, how do I fit comfortably within it? How do I own my place in this box? So, I got with a really great man and some serious cats out in LA and we had a band. We had a sound. And that was a really special time. It was like a grown up time for me. It was now time to really do this and have a hit single. To try and finally find that place on the dial.”
Rendezvous With The Angels (2010) - “The title was lifted from a song on the album called ‘Love Light,’ and was a song about my wife and I going to the hospital to deliver our baby. And the idea of the rendezvous with the angels was that the angels were bringing the baby safely to us.”
Under The Influence (2011) - “They are artists that I love that have stood the test of time. That are super iconic, and artists who have inspired me. This was an album of personal memories. These are all artists I have cover songs of in my arsenal that I’ve been playing for the past 20 years live. So we thought do I go into the studio and just knock them out of the park, or do we dig deeper and start as though they were fresh to me too. So we did that. Myself and my producer Mike. And we found some deeper cuts that had some significance to my childhood.”
Is that you on the front cover? “It’s not, it’s actually my son. We did that picture to kind of look as though it was circa 1982.”
Talk us through your newest tattoo and what it means to you? “My latest is this one,” he says pointing at his lower left inner arm. “Forever … Everyday. That was for my wife and I. It was the theme for our wedding vows. It’s like we’re gonna do this forever, but it’s gonna be one day at a time. It’s romantic, but it’s also realistic,” he laughs.
You mention in your video greeting on your website that there is “big news in the works and to come” … can you please give us a clue?! “Adam and I are ironing out the details to do a record deal. He’s signed me to 222 Records, which is on his own label. And realistically, between his schedule and mine, it would be an early 2013 release.”
OK, so off the top of your head, what is the new album going to be entitled?! “Things I Learnt Behind Closed Doors,” he chuckles broadly.
Please reveal something about yourself that you have never, ever revealed about yourself in any interview before! “I have extremely flat and soft feet!”
In closing, we here at Exclusive Magazine LOVE penguins … do you? “That’s really funny, my whole life I’ve had an affinity for penguins! Yeah man, I always make a point of whenever I’m at the Detroit Zoo of swinging in there and seeing them. I used to have a stuffed animal as a penguin when I was a kid. I never cuddled with it though. I just let him stand.”
If you were offered one and legally you could own it, would you have one at your house?! “Oh hell yeah,” he adamantly replies.
And what would you name it?! “Tuxie,” he quickly responds. “Either that or Tux! I think the kids would call him Tuxie,” he laughs.
Interview: Russell A. Trunk
TONY LUCCA TOUR SCHEDULE:
6/21/2012 – Detroit, MI / St. Andrews
6/23/2012 - Deer Park, NY / An Evening With Tanger Outlets
8/23/2012 - Oklahoma City, OK / The Peace Love & Goodwill Benefit Show, Bricktown Coca Cola Events Center
9/1/2012 - Laramie, WY / Snowy Range Music Festival
9/7/2012 - Evanston, IL / SPACE (7 p.m. & 10 p.m. shows)
9/8/2012 - Madison,WI / Memorial Union Terrace
9/9/2012 - Dayton, OH / Downtown Revival Music Festival
9/20-9/22/2012 - Isle Of Palms, SC / The Windjammer, Hotel Carolina
10/3/2012 - Marshfield, WI / Wildwood Station
10/5/2012 – Ames, IA / The M Shop
10/7/2012 – St. Louis, MO / Old Rock House
10/8/2012 - Lawrence, KS / The Bottleneck
10/9/2012 - Pittsburg, KS / Pittsburg State University Oval
10/11/2012 – Oklahoma City, OK / The Blue Door
10/13/2012 – Dallas, TX / House of Blues Cambridge Room
10/16/2012 – Phoenix, AZ / Crescent Ballroom
10/17/2012 – San Diego, CA / Anthology
10/19/2012 – W. Hollywood, CA / The Roxy
10/20/2012 – Ventura, CA / Zoey’s (7 p.m. & 9:15 p.m. shows)
10/24/2012 – Portland, OR / Alberta Rose Theatre
10/25/2012 – Seattle, WA / Barboza
10/27/2012 – Denver, CO / Soiled Dove
10/30/2012 – Nashville, TN / 3rd & Lindsley
11/1/2012 – Duluth, GA / Red Clay Theatre
11/2/2012 - Charlotte, NC / The Visualite Theater
11/3/2012 – Vienna, VA / Jammin Java (7 p.m. & 10 p.m shows)
11/4/2012 – Boston, MA / Brighton Music Hall
11/5/2012 – Philadelphia, PA / World Café Live Downstairs
11/6/2012 – New York, NY / Highline Ballroom
11/8/2012 – Pittsburgh, PA / Club Café