If you judged Tony Lucca purely on what you saw on The Voice, you didn’t get to see all of him. While his history and interactions with coach Christina Aguilera made the headlines, what that often eclipsed was the fact that he’s a dynamic performer whose work ethic and confidence absolutely earned him the honor of being Team Adam’s finalist.
Regardless of where he started his career or who he knows, the bottom line was could he compete? He answered that question with a resounding yes, whether it was his version of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” that caught the attention of John Cusack, or his turning Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” completely on its head (#8 in my list of top moments from the season), or his oh-so-appropriate and so fantastic rendition of The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?” that was practically daring the audience to answer that question.
Yet if he seemed to catch fire near the end of the season, maybe it’s because we weren’t wise to what he was doing. His fellow competitors raved about him all season long. Team Cee Lo’s Tony Vincent told me in March that he “really, really impressed me…His style is very unique and when you see what he does on his original material, his talent is unprecedented. The guy’s authentic, he’s endearing. You care about what he’s singing about.” Justin Hopkins was a strong supporter of Tony’s all the way through the finale, and season one champ Javier Colon said he really thought that Tony would bring home the title – not the first person who’s made that statement. Tony was always a tough competitor – he just raised his game even further when it mattered most.
In essence, Tony is what The Voice is all about: a hardworking artist who has put in the time and effort but is looking for that next step in order to improve their game and/or bring it to the national stage. “I came into this whole experience with the hopes of getting some newfound exposure, making some new fans, and to see how I stacked up against my would-be contemporaries,” he told me. “I’ve always been told that I have a strong voice, and the fact that the show was into exposing established artists that have interesting stories, I thought ‘I’ve got that too.’ It was really, ‘Hey, let’s see how this goes.’ I made a lot of important impressions and met a lot of wonderful people, and had an incredible experience.”
He picked the perfect coach in Adam Levine, who not only helped Tony with his existing skill set, but worked with him to do things that he wouldn’t have considered on his own. “There was plenty for me to learn and there still is plenty for me to learn,” Tony said. “Adam really empowered me and gave me a sense of confidence that only comes from risk and return. [He was] showing me how to take stronger risks with the opportunities that are made available to you. I really got a handle on that this season. I’m able to understand my value a little better than maybe I had before. Maybe feel like I’m bringing a little more swagger.
“I never really saw it coming,” he continued, speaking of his trajectory on the show. Though he’s much more than the constant questions about Christina’s comments toward his performances, he recognizes the benefit those moments brought as well, explaining that if they hadn’t happened, “it wouldn’t have compelled us to move in the direction that we did, and I wouldn’t have tapped into something that excited me tremendously.
“As we got deeper into this thing, we realized it wasn’t so much about vocal prowess as much as it was really capitalizing on the fact that I do have maybe the most experience as a performer. I was never going to outsing Jermaine Paul, or Chris Mann for that matter, but the one thing that Adam and I realized was that maybe no one was ever going to outperform me. Juliet Simms had a few incredibly undeniable performances. Both of us could argue that we can connect with our material in a way that maybe others can’t.”
The turning point in Tony’s tenure was clearly his performance of “Baby One More Time,” which turned the pop song into a rock anthem that had the entire audience cheering when it was over. Once he and his coach saw the reaction to their daring idea, they continued to take calculated risks all the way to the very end.
“As we got closer [to the finale], we saw what people were responding to. After the Britney song and after ‘How You Like Me Now,’ it seemed like people were getting excited about those type of choices and [were] not so impressed with the predictable choices that some people were making,” Tony said. “I felt like everyone [else] was really digging into something you might expect from them. For me, the most unpredictable song was what we went with. America had its say and clearly they’re not as enamored with the drama or the riskiness or the danger element as Adam and I were.”
Yet Tony has no regrets about his Voice experience, and nothing but kind words for his competitors. He’s happy for Jermaine, and he’s not bothered by the reaction to any of his performances, explaining that “We sort of brought it on, knew what we were getting into, and wouldn’t have been able to do it if we didn’t have the patience and the tolerance to deal with the backlash.”
And even though he might not have won the title, he took away something possibly even better than victory. On the final night, he, Jermaine and Chris got to sing with Hall and Oates, who were one of the choices Tony once told me he’d love to perform with. “Hall and Oates was my first concert when I was seven years old,” he said. “I’ve been a lifelong fan of them for almost 30 years now, and to be able to tell those guys that as well, it was pretty cool. It was made cooler by the fact that my folks were there; my folks are big Hall and Oates fans.”
So what comes next? “My hopes are to build on the momentum that we gained from the show, and foster this edgier, more performance-oriented material,” Tony explained. “In the past I think I’ve just kind of stayed safe with the acoustic singer-songwriter thing. I’m really fired up about the sound and the performance aspect of what we achieved on the show, and I personally want to see more of that. Kind of a cross between Adele and the Black Keys – something soulful, but something organic and fun.”
That may also include a future collaboration with his coach. “According to both of us, that’s something we really want to do,” he added. “We had a really good time those last few weeks. I think we both really are inspired by each other in a very legitimate way.” Tony points to their finale duet as an example of that inspiration: “We continued to teeter out on a limb together – doing something very naked and honest and refreshing for the sake of the show. That he and I could just sit there with an acoustic guitar and really connect with an amazing song was really powerful.”
For this writer, it’s easy to see why Adam connected with Tony and believed they could win it all together. Adam is one of music’s true good guys, who knows what it really means to work for your success, and so is Tony. Here’s an example: when I arrived to cover the Universal CityWalk concert that happened before the finale, even though he was getting ready for a satellite media tour and I was at least 30 feet away from him, Tony noticed I’d shown up and acknowledged me. And while he didn’t have time to chat that day, he still stopped to say hello and gave me a hug. That’s a gentleman, as well as an outstanding artist. It’s unfortunate that his heart and his talent got a little bit lost in, or at least encumbered by, the things that happened along the way.
With everything said and done, Tony has some very smart words when it comes to looking toward his future, one that’s not obfuscated by his past or what someone else thinks. Now, he told me, “I get to move on, and do my thing, and let the music speak for itself.”
For more on The Voice, you can follow my Voice-exclusive Twitter at @bigredchairs.