It’s been quite the whirlwind over the last handful of months for Tony Lucca. Last month, the singer-songwriter found himself as one of the final four contestants during the second season of NBC’s The Voice, as the last man standing on Team Adam.
Recently, Lucca graciously took the time to speak with me about his experience on The Voice, including the blind auditions and choosing to work with Maroon 5’s front man, Adam Levine, which part of the competition he found to be the “most uncomfortable and awkward,” switching up his game plan after being called “one dimensional” by his former Mouseketeer-mate, Christina Aguilera, and what moment during the show he considers to be a “career highlight.”
Prior to the premiere of The Voice, I recognized you in one of the promos. In the past, this show has been good to artists that have had previous success and a lot of people know who you are and are fans of your music. Did you have any kind of expectations going into the blind auditions?
No, the only major question that sort of hung in the balance was whether or not Christina would recognize me. Obviously, like you said, a lot of people do know who I am; at the end of the day, it kind of boils down to the four coaches. Are any of them fans of mine? Do any of them know my voice well enough to go, “I know that guy”?
And obviously, the Christina thing, it was a very good likelihood that she may not recognize the voice right away, but certainly after she sees me would be like, “Oh my God, what’s up dude?” That was the only sort of anxiety about that going into the audition.
I wanted to make sure that whatever I was able to do on the show didn’t discredit my fans at all. Like the fans that have been following me and that have been supportive that would see this as some type of compromise or two steps back or selling out or whatever. I want to make sure that they understood that I was trying to maintain my integrity throughout the whole thing and I feel I did right by them, as well.
All four coaches turned around for you during your audition; what was it about Adam Levine that you felt would help you as an artist during your run on the show?
I think we kind of remind each other of each other. There’s certain things about his approach, his opinion, his clarity and integrity, and honesty that are qualities that I’d like to say I have as well and that I aspire to have.
I read him as the least affected of the four up there. And that’s not to point fingers at anyone or cast judgment; it’s just like, he really kind of just is what he is. He says what he says and feels. There’s very little persona that you have to sift through to get to the core of where he’s coming from. And I like that. I appreciate that more than anything.
To get through to the live rounds, you had to sing head-to-head against another talented singer, Chris Cauley. What was your initial reaction about singing against him to move forward in the competition?
My initial thought was that we were different enough, that we had a different thing going on that it would come down to not who’s necessarily the better singer, but who is the kind of performer or whose got the kind of style that might appeal to Adam the most. Who might show signs of longevity or versatility, I don’t know. Of course at the time, we were roomed together out there in L.A. during that portion of the show.
So, we were roommates. We got to know each other really well. I think the world of him as an individual and as a talent. I think he’s got an incredible voice. I wasn’t looking forward to it. Neither of us thought it was going to be a walk in the park and it certainly wasn’t.
Throughout the rehearsal process, there were times when I felt that maybe I had the upper hand and felt really strong with the song. And then as we got closer to it, I think Chris kind of kicked things into high gear. He really delivered on the day, you know, and many have argued that he should have won. I’m not bummed that I won, but had he won I would have easily understood, because he was phenomenal that day. I think even Adam alluded to that. Said, “Hey man, saw a side of you today that I hadn’t seen before.” And that’s really cool.
The battle round is hands down the most unenjoyable, definitely the most uncomfortable, and awkward part of the whole process.
You had some of the more interesting song selections throughout the live rounds. How much influence did Adam have on the songs you sang on the show?
It was largely a conversation back and forth about songs that we wanted to do. And with Adam it was always more so about songs we shouldn’t do. It’s easy to spout off a million songs that you think you could sing out of the park and it would be great. But his job was more like making sure whatever choice we had was bullet-proof, and that there wasn’t any weak link in the armor.
The “In Your Eyes” thing came about last minute. I was supposed to sing a different song initially and while we were rehearsing that song, we learned that “In Your Eyes” was available. And he said, “Would you want to do it?” I was like, “Are you kidding me?” That’s one of my favorite songs of life. And same with him. And we figured like that might be a really cool way to kick things off. Like, come out with that one and really show I’m capable of doing more of the iconic, big, sweeping rock, pop-rock stuff.
But then after of course, Christina’s comments about being “one dimensional” and stuff, then it was like, “Okay, let’s counter that. Let’s change course here, maybe. Let’s not give anyone anything that’s at all predictable. Let’s kind of develop a little wild card thing.”
And at that point, the whole list of songs that we had been discussing kind of went out the window. Then it just became like each week we started really kind of thinking outside the box and how to approach this.
“Baby One More Time” was initially my idea, kind of. I had suggested that we do a pop song and turn it on its head, even doing like a soulful rock thing or an acoustic thing; making it completely unidentifiable, maybe- just doing something different with it. And I used “Baby One More Time” as an example, but the more we got into it, the more Adam insisted, like, “No dude, that’s the song! What if we just did that song?” I’m like, “Aw man, no way!” And he just talked me into the power of it. Not just because it’s a pretty damn good song and I could have fun, vocally, and it would warrant moving forward, but like the context, the subtext – anyone else could have sang that song on the show and it wouldn’t have had the impact that it had coming from me, for all of the back story reasons.
His whole thing was like, “Look, man. If I’m about taking risks in moments that are yours and yours alone; this moment is yours and yours alone to tackle.” I was like, “You know what? You’re right.” That was it.
He brought in “How You Like Me Now” and then as we were rehearsing that, he wasn’t sold, and I said, “No, man. I think this is great. Give me some time with this.” I was able to convince him and that was in fact the right pick for that week.
And then “99 Problems,” he came to me with that one, as well. I said, “Wow, you really want to there, huh?” He said, “Dude, it’s awesome. It’s cool as hell.” I said, “Alright, I’m in.” It was easy to go along. There was never any struggle or battle. It was like, “No dude, I’m with ya.” We really did have a common vision for what was next.
Did Adam provide you with any guidance on how to handle the criticism from Christina or was it more like, let’s just address it in the songs and leave it at that?
Yeah, that’s pretty much his take. Like, as far as the fans’ feedback and her fans and things, you know, he’s like, “Look man, you’re never going to win a shouting match with a lady. Or just anyone, you know, but specifically with a lady, especially with Christina. You’re not going to win that. That’s not going to make you look good, even if you shout louder.”
He just was like, “We’ll push back the way we can, with the position that is ours, that is you with a mic in your hand each week.”
It’s like if you tell someone to go to hell, that doesn’t look very good. If you’re singing a song that implies, “Hey, go to hell,” there’s something a little bit more creative about that, something a little more artistic – a poetic license that isn’t necessarily a reflection of you and your personal beliefs.
I never engaged in a petty back and forth with her on stage when she came to me with all of her comments and things. Again, there’s no way to win that without sounding like you’re whining or crying, or trying to stoop to some petty level. There’s no need for that. The strength lies in picking the right song at the right time to say what you are really ultimately feeling. And that’s kind of what we did.
You’ve been performing your own original music for years, and you went from doing your own thing to performing other peoples’ songs on a national platform; how did that affect you as an artist?
It didn’t affect me in a negative way, you know. You kind of go into it knowing that’s the nature of that beast. And anyone who pays marginal attention to those shows knows that’s just what they are. There’s no way around that. By even just signing up to do the show, I was basically checking my ego at the door and setting aside my artistic aspirations, at the very least, just momentarily.
But as we got into it, it became more like “How would Tony Lucca do ‘Baby One More Time’? How would Tony Lucca do, you know, ‘How You Like Me Now’ or ‘99 Problems’?” It was a challenge to be honest within the context of a reality vocal competition.
I took great pride in it and great pleasure in it. It was a lot of fun. It sort of takes the load off of feeling like what I have to say is going to have to withstand such scrutiny, you know. And it also allowed me to explore a new direction, musically, that wasn’t at the expense of my own material. It was more like, “Hey, let’s see what this looks like or how this feels, and how this relates to people and connects to people.” I had a really good time doing it that way.
What we tapped into while on the show was basically a reinvention. Really waking up some sort of inner-rock child that wants do things a little more aggressively and learning how to take well-placed calculated risks that will enable a new spirit to my work. My initial intention as of now is to get in the studio and make something that is consistent with the last few choices I made on the show. That type of direction and level of excitement.
How were you feeling going into the finale night? Was it more of a “Whatever happens, happens; I’ll be happy for anyone,” or were you up there like, “I want to win”?
We all shared the same sentiment, you know. After the semi-finals and we got down to the finals, it really felt like the competition was over. Cause we had all felt like we won tremendously by being the last one standing on our team. Because for the whole season, you competed against your team and then you win. It’s like, “Wow, I made it all the way, you know, I’m going to be in the final episode of this show. That’s great.”
Then you’re like, “Yeah, the competition’s over,” and you’re feeling whatever happens, happens; it’s all icing on the cake. But then of course, you get up there and that moment when you’re all standing on stage and you’re waiting to count it down and you’re just like, “Aw, man.” You want it. You’re definitely like, “I want to win it.”
But obviously when you don’t, there’s a tremendous sense of bittersweet relief, I guess. It’s like, “Wow, okay, now I know I didn’t win. That’s fine, moving on now.”
Obviously, getting to that point in the competition, the sky’s the limit on the backside of it. Anyone can walk away really winning, and that is by having a solid career, selling a bunch of records, and being a viable artist moving forward. But that’s not to say we didn’t all tip our hat with grace and respect for Jermaine [Paul] for winning. We all really thought the world of one another and I definitely am as excited as I could have been for him, his wife and his family and his kids, and his career.
The four of us combined had over 70 years of sweat equity in the music business. That’s pretty remarkable in itself. The four of us have been at this for a really long time; we’re all extremely deserving of it. And Jermaine is certainly no exception. He’s been at this a long time and he’s a phenomenal talent and a great guy. I was really happy to see him win.
How would you describe your overall experience on the show and do you have a personal highlight of the season?
Yeah, you know, the whole thing is really awesome. Each stage of the game brings with it another degree of [surrealism]. It’s very bizarre and weird, and especially as you get down to the wire, you know, where you’re working really close, hand-in-hand, with your coach, spending a lot of one on one time.
Getting to record and perform “Yesterday” by The Beatles with Adam was hands down a career highlight. Not just for The Voice, but for my entire career. That was really an incredible moment that we had and something that I will forever look back on as one of the coolest things that I ever got a chance to do.
For more information and the latest news on Tony Lucca, check out his official website.
June 16 – Dogs in Downtown Festival – Joplin, MO
June 21 – St. Andrews Hall – Detroit, MI
June 22 – Festival of the Moon – Lansing, MI
June 23 – An Evening with Tanger Outlets – Deer Park, NY
July 17 – University Mall (FIU) – Miami, FL
Aug 23 – The Peace, Love & Goodwill Benefit Concert – Oklahoma City, OK
Sept 1 – Snowy Range Music Festival – Laramie, WY
Sept 7 – Space – Evanston, IL
Sept 8 – Memorial Union Terrace – Madison, WI
Sept 9 – Downtown Revival Festival – Dayton, OH
Sept 17 – Jaeb Theater – Tampa, FL
Sept 18 – The Social – Orlando, FL
Sept 20 – Hotel Carolina IOP 2012 – Isle of Palms, SC
Oct 3 – Wildwood Park Station – Marshfield, WI
Oct 4 – 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN
Oct 5 – The Maintenance Shop – Ames, IA
Oct 7 – Old Rock House – St. Louis, MO
Oct 8 – The Bottleneck – Lawrence, KS
Oct 9 – Pittsburg State University – Pittsburg, KS
Oct 11 – The Blue Door – Oklahoma City, OK
Oct 13 – House of Blues –Cambridge – Dallas, TX
Oct 16 – Crescent Ballroom – Phoenix, AZ
Oct 17 – Anthology – San Diego, CA
Oct 19 – The Roxy – West Hollywood, CA
Oct 20 – Zoey’s – Ventura, CA
Oct 21 – Café Du Nord – San Francisco, CA
Oct 24 – Alberta Rose Theatre – Portland, OR
Oct 25 – Barboza – Seattle, WA
Oct 27 – The Soiled Dove Underground – Denver, CO
Oct 30 – 3rd & Lindsley – Nashville, TN
Nov 1 – Red Clay Theatre – Duluth, GA
Nov 2 – Visulite Theatre – Charlotte, NC
Nov 3 – Jammin’ Java – Vienna, VA
Nov 4 – Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA
Nov 5 – World Café Live – Philadelphia, PA
Nov 6 – Highline Ballroom – New York, NY
Nov 8 – Club Café – Pittsburgh, PA