Tony Lucca & Alex Dezen: The Heads or Tails Tour
Event on 2016-09-28 20:00:00
VIP TICKETS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
– Premium Seating
– Soundcheck viewing
– Pre-show M&G
To multiple generations of emerging and established artists, Nashville is nirvana, a music mecca, a fulcrum for serious songwriters who don’t just make music for a living, but for whom music is life. For years now, Tony Lucca has had the energy and spirit of Music City coursing through his veins, a seemingly life-sustaining flow of inspiration that in part served as the lifeblood for the writing, recording and producing of his current self-titled album, the eighth full-length studio set in his notable canon. “When you go into a writing session, you gotta know who you’re writing for… and then you dig in,” says Lucca, who at this stage in his career has become a seasoned songsmith. “I learned a lot right off the bat, because again, doors were flying open for me that would of otherwise stayed shut.”
For Lucca, who was raised in a very large musical family in yet another American music mecca, Detroit, home to Motown, the constant opening of professional doors started when he was very young. But arguably the most divinatory door that’s opened for him was the one he walked through where his sonic sojourn began. “There was definitely this moment that the dream was born as a kid, where my eyes got real wide,” says Lucca. “Walking into a music shop in Detroit when I was probably seven or eight, and just seeing rows and rows of guitars on the walls, and I was like, holy cow, that is awesome. I want all of them.” Though he didn’t get them all, one would do. By the age of 12, his already well-honed musical talent literally began to pay dividends, after earning his first few bucks for a gig at a junior high school dance.
It’s fair to say Lucca has long since stopped chasing his dream of making music, and for some time now has been living his dream. In 1995, following a four-season run as a cast member on The All New Mickey Mouse Club alongside fellow future hit making heavyweights Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, Lucca relocated to Los Angeles where he dove into doing the Hollywood shuffle/auditioning actor thing before deciding to ditch acting in favor of pursuing his true passion. “I think it was definitely 1996 when I realized I had to make it clear for myself, if no one else, what I was going to do and how I was going to channel my energy; what I was gonna focus on and what I was willing to sacrifice it all for, and that was music,” says Lucca. “I literally walked out of an audition thinking I’ve got to have more to say than this. I went home, grabbed a guitar, wrote a song and I knew right away that it was the caliber of song that if I could stick to it and take it this seriously every time, that I’d be the kind of artist I’ve always dreamed I might end up being at some point.”
Now satisfied with the professional road he was on, Lucca began to put some proverbial musical mud on his tires with his 1997 self-released debut album, So Satisfied, followed later that same year by his sophomore set, Strong Words Softly Spoken. Two EPs and a limited series of live CDs (all released through his website tonylucca.com) set the table for the release of his third full-length, 2004’s Shotgun.
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of what many fans and critics concede could be the crown jewel of Lucca’s catalog, the emotive Canyon Songs, a touching 10-track tip of the cap to the legendary Laurel Canyon sound immortalized by master musicians including Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne. The album features the standout track “Around the Bend,” which as Lucca recalls was written in a motel room in Nashville. “I went to a liquor store, grabbed a bottle of Tennessee whisky, went back to my motel room, left the door open, grabbed my guitar and just started writing it,” Lucca says. “I remember looking out the door into that southern Tennessee air and just thinking about all the greats that had come through here… and what a pleasure and honor it is to get the opportunity to just grab a bit of that mojo and make it your own, one song at a time.”
So what lies ahead? What is around the bend for Tony Lucca, a man who’s been an actor – making myriad television appearances on popular shows such as Parenthood, The Tonight Show, Last Call with Carson Daly, the Aaron Spelling-produced Malibu Shores, as well as small roles in some independent features? What is the next benchmark for the guy who was tabloid fodder during his years dating actress Keri Russell and a third place finisher on Season 2 of The Voice (which served as a springboard for a series of additional key career milestones, including the signing of a recording contract with Adam Levine’s 222 Records, as well as high profile stints on tour with the likes of Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson and Sara Bareilles, among countless others)? What’s on tap for a man who is now a husband, a father and of course a top tier singer/songwriter? Plenty!
“It’s the 10-year anniversary of Canyon Songs and oddly enough, I’m one of the few artists at my stage of the game who actually owns all of his records; I own the whole catalog,” Lucca says. “Instead of diving back into the next album cycle, I’ve decided to reflect for a minute and promote the larger body of work, to shine more light on Tony Lucca, the songwriter. I’ve got plenty of traveling ahead. In the meantime, I’ll be working on a periodic releasing of deep cuts, B-sides, rarities, and other stuff with the folks at Rock Ridge Music, culminating in a 10-year anniversary vinyl edition of Canyon Songs.”
Tony Lucca has seen more than his fair share of changes in the musical landscape since the release of his 1997 debut, So Satisfied. It would be easy for a far less determined and dedicated artist to be so dissatisfied with, as Pink Floyd dubbed it back in 1975, “the machine,” so as to throw up their hands in defeat. Instead, Lucca has surveyed the landscape and sees a blank canvas, an opportunity to use a wide new palette of colors to paint more musical portraits, while still displaying his past masterpieces in different frames. That is the sign of a true artist.
On February 12, 2016, Alex Dezen (founder, frontman and main songwriter for the Brooklyn-bred four-piece The Damnwells) will embark on his next musical phase by issuing his first full-length solo set, an appropriately eponymous, deeply personal, 10-track self-portrait of a man now ready to lay the foundation for his own identity as a solo artist.
“When words alone are not enough, you need to say it in a song,” says Dezen, when asked why he felt now was the right time to write and record his inaugural full-fledged solo album. “And so when I made this record, it was because it had to be made. It was already coming out; I just needed to find some place to put it.” Historically stingy with his use of multiple musical tones, on Alex Dezen, the album’s namesake songsmith manages to marry his sometimes somber, sometimes pithy prose with, for him, a precedent-setting deeper well of rich chords. “Every time that I discover a new chord, I’m kind of like a kid in a candy store. I just kind of go nuts and I want to put it in every song. I definitely expanded the chord vernacular on this record.”
As Dezen describes, a creative burst during a stint in Ohio over New Year’s 2015 sowed the seeds for tracks that would be recorded in Los Angeles during January and February. “I didn’t write like 30 songs and just kind of pick the 10 best. These are 10 songs that I had to write.” The first tune on Alex Dezen that flowed from the skillful songsmith’s prolific pen was the McCartney/Beatlesque “Blackbird”-inspired “Elephant,” which Dezen points out is not quite as focused biographically as the bulk of the other nine sonic slices served up straight from past personal, and often painful, experiences. “The good thing about writing these songs is that when I have to talk about them I can just say, literally all you have to do is read the lyrics. Because it’s not like its coached in some kind of flowery metaphor.”
Dezen’s prowess for writing celebrated songs of every ilk is undeniable. In 2010, he earned his master’s degree from the University of Iowa after completing two years at the institution’s Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In 2014, Dezen released a series of four solo EPs. In March 2015, following a seven-year split, the original Damnwells lineup reunited and released their fifth studio album, a self-titled collection featuring 11 tracks. In addition to his contribution to The Damnwells’ vast canon of songs over the 15 years the band has been recording, Dezen has written for others and worked with a variety of superstars, including Dave Grohl, The Dixie Chicks, Justin Bieber and Kelly Clarkson, among many others. Earlier this year, he collaborated with the American dance company Pilobolus Dance Theater, composing the music for the dance piece “Wednesday Morning, 11:45 (2015),” which was performed at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.
The lyrical focus on family and friends, politics and pop culture portrayed in songs such as “Ode To Ex-Girlfriends” (a tender tribute to a series of exes and their moms), “If You Can Say I Love You On A Greeting Card How Can It Be True” (a tale of domestic drama), “Into the Hands of Hazelton” (a sonic
equivalent of a buddy road picture), “Leonardo” (a tip of the cap to his girlfriend’s fantasy celebrity freebie, Leonardo DiCaprio) and the intensely personal “I Don’t Want To Be Alone When I Die,” led to Dezen’s decision not to collaborate with other writers on any of the songs on the record. “These are all me. This is me saying I needed to say a couple things, and put a couple things to music that did not require the sort of witticism of a clever line that I could only get from someone else, or a better melody here. It didn’t require those things. It just required me.”
In addition, Dezen completely turned upside down his career-long songwriting methodology of melody coming before lyrics and his preference for not using too many chords in past compositions. “For this record I thought that melody was important, just like chords and lyrics and everything, but I did feel that the melody had to serve the lyrics and the music had to serve the lyrics and the production had to serve the lyrics; that the lyrics were the focal point of this record. And I think that for me, it definitely changed. The lyrics come first. In the way in which I approached this record, I’m not writing pretty lyrics, I’m just writing what I think is the truth.”
The truth is exactly what Dezen tackles on one of the album’s most powerful performances, “A Little Less Like Hell.” The song is replete with references to 9/11, Osama bin Laden and hateful and caustic YouTube comments aimed at President Obama, among other recent newsworthy events, all of which are fodder for the pundits, and includes the conversation sparking line: “But what I’ll never understand is why / Regardless of how hard we try / We need somebody on the cross / Just to make up for the things we lost.” As Dezen explains, “To make ourselves feel better about things that have happened which are inexplicable, things that happen which we cannot control, we have to find a guilty party; we have to find someone to hang up on the cross. And I feel like after 9/11 we had to find an enemy, we had to find one fast, and we found the wrong one. We live in an eye for an eye culture. We have to have someone on the cross, we have to have a target because we live in a culture that has our crosshairs up at all times.”
By contrast, Dezen deals with a completely different type of truth in the nearly word-for-word true story he tells of having to sell a now ex-axe in the aptly titled “This Is The Last Song (I’ll Ever Write On This Guitar).” “I had this Martin D-35 guitar forever. It was a guitar that I often used and would often write on. But I fell on hard times and I needed the cash. So I took to the internet and posted this guitar…and this guy who I mention in the song chimed in and said, ‘hey I wanna buy it.’ So I sold it to him. And at the time I was writing for this record, and it was all very autobiographical, and I thought, I can’t sell this guitar during the writing of this record and not write about the selling of this guitar. So I literally sat down with that guitar and I wrote the last song that I would ever write on that guitar.”
An unabashed and self-professed sentimentalist, Alex Dezen proudly wears his heart on his sleeve on his forthcoming full-length solo debut, while also fearlessly putting his heartbreak on display as well. Living on both ends of the emotional spectrum has served him well, whether writing for his band The Damnwells or now for his own collection of confessional cuts. “I’m very sentimental. Sentimentality is my bread and butter. I’m very nostalgic. I think to be a songwriter – at least to be a songwriter of confessional songs – you have to be pretty sentimental. But being that you’re a sentimental person, it does wind up confusing the motion of the narrative of your life. We should be going forward.”
Make no mistake, on his stellar solo set, Dezen does look back on his life, perhaps as far back as age 12 when he purchased his first guitar, a knockoff Stratocaster. But without question, he continues to move forward in his never-ending pursuit of professional perfection of crafting quality songs, while continuing to search for the seemingly equally unobtainable goal of personal bliss few of us will ever obtain. In other words, as only the finest songwriters can do, Dezen’s songs simply mirror the lives of so many of us who understand that the most personal songs are actually the most universal as well.
at World Cafe Live
3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, United States