Tony Lucca Revives the Ghosts of Laurel Canyon

Most alumni from the Mickey Mouse Club either fade into obscurity (experiencing the ongoing vengeance of their stage parents), or go on to mega-plastic pop stardom like Justin Timberlake or Brittney Spears. For Tony Lucca, the path was decidedly more twisted. Growing up in a musical family from Waterford, Michigan, Lucca was singing and playing guitar with great proficiency by the age of 12, when he became a Mouseketeer in service to Disney. The onset of puberty being the natural end of that gig, he moved to Los Angeles, where he appeared in numerous independent movies and the short-lived series Malibu Shores. However, a life on screen was not for him, so Lucca returned to his roots, and shunned the ’90s pop racket in favor of his own personal brand of music.

Lucca recently finished work on his fourth full-length studio effort, Canyon Songs [Rockridge Music]. Written and recorded almost entirely in the canyons of the Hollywood Hills, Canyon Songs is a collection of poetically soulful songs that pay homage to the spirit of the Laurel Canyon singer/songwriter community that thrived in the late ’60s, and throughout most of the ’70s.

Was the singer/songwriter transformation a natural one, or was it a reaction to the harder music you were playing back then?

It felt natural, because I didn’t make any conscious effort to do any sort of style. To be totally honest, I wrote about the vices and obstacles I had to deal with in trying to garner attention from the record labels. Most of my music has been quite eclectic in nature—which I love because it’s like listening to a good mix tape—but the labels have a hard time with that, because it’s difficult to package.

I sometimes think that the Beatles wouldn’t be able to get a deal these days because they were so eclectic in their output.

When you look at all the iconic heroes from rock and pop music, the vast majority of those artists took great risks musically, and they came up with truly original bodies of work. They reinvented themselves when they felt like it. Now, it seems the industry and popular culture want to have little to do with such maverick artists. It’s the age-old gripe of emerging artists: The system wants to fit them into some sort of marketable style, create a hit song, and then follow that hit up with another hit just like it. Many artists just aren’t wired that way.

What guitars did you use on the album sessions?

I have two 1973 Martin D-35s. One was my father’s. He bought it new, and I watched him play it while growing up. I love the rich low end and bright top end the old Martin dreadnoughts have. I’ve never had any trouble finding my voice with these guitars. While recording Canyon Songs, I also used a vintage Gibson J-45 that had the greatest recorded tone of any guitar I’ve ever played.

How did you set the stage for recording Canyon Songs?

We did the whole record using Pro Tools, but we tried to use it as a convenient medium, rather than rely on its massive editing capabilities. We tracked the drums and bass at my buddy Josh Kelly’s project studio in Beechwood Canyon. I kept everybody comfortable with a steady stream of good food and drink. People just came up on a Sunday afternoon, and we hung out and tracked. I really wanted everybody to have a cool, relaxed time. We did the vocals and overdubs at my old cottage—which has since been converted into a studio by an old friend.

How did your fascination with Laurel Canyon develop?

I just always had an affinity for Laurel Canyon and the people who live up there. For years, I kept my eyes peeled, and I finally found a cottage. I moved in, and started writing songs that I believe had an honest and organic spirit and intention—like the great Laurel Canyon singer/songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s.