Lucas Stagg just seems to get better - Waterloo Region Record - By Patrick Finch (2015)
Toronto singer-songwriter Lucas Stagg is releasing his 10th record since venturing out as a solo artist in 2005. Actually, 'solo' is a bit misleading since Stagg has always had a band behind him, but the prolific writer is certainly the captain of his ship. On his latest, "Off We Go!," Stagg is again backed by his tried and true rhythm section of bassist Danny Alac and drummer Cleave Anderson, and he continues to challenge himself as a singer, a guitarist, and a storyteller.
"I'm always enveloped in the new material," Stagg told me. "I suppose that's a good enough reason to have it recorded. But as a songwriter, I just don't push it. I wait until the right melody or lyric comes along, then pursue it. As far as performance goes, I feel my vocal ability and guitar playing has come a long way since those early days. It's all subjective though, isn't it? I still have people come up to me at shows to tell me how much they enjoy that first album. Then I think it's really sweet that they took that time to come to my show, and hope they sorta like the new stuff.”
Stagg has been in the industry long enough to know his patience is a virtue; it's time for a new record when the songs are right and the stars align. Recording album No. 10 with producer Aaron Comeau was no different.
"I never seem to be at a shortage for material," he said. "So, kinda like writing, I hold out for the right moment to come along. What kind of record will it be? Is the studio compatible? Is the producer interested in what I'm trying to do? For "Off We Go!" I looked ahead at the band's live schedule and figured out when we'd be able to hone in on these songs. That's when I booked (Comeau's studio) The Trailer.”
After being knocked out by some of Comeau's other production work, Stagg was confident that the young producer could capture his band's new tunes as honestly and simply as Stagg wanted to hear them.
"He's, like, 23 and disgustingly talented," Stagg marvelled. "We didn't want a lot of overdubs. Ninety-nine per cent of pre-production happened at rehearsals and shows. We went in (to the studio), at noon, recorded 13 songs, ate a pizza at 5 p.m., drank a few beers ... We tossed one song but the rest made it. The foundation is all off-the-floor, including the lead vocals. I laid some mandolin down a week later, but everything else is how it was that afternoon.”
"Off We Go!" is raw without being careless. All three men contribute methodical performances; clearly a band sharpened by relentless practice, performance, and dedication to their leader's muse. Stagg's catalogue is stacked with records that best their elder siblings and clearly chart their writer's growth. It's a case of a great writer, with a great band, getting better every time someone presses 'record.'
"I never sit down and say 'OK, now I'm gonna write this type of song.' It doesn't work for me. Most of my favourite artists' records still hold up, and I believe it's because they came from a place of honesty. I write songs and make records that reflect the moment for me, us, our band. Not what's trendy today. Those always get left in the dust. We're constantly mulling over sets and new material. (Danny and Cleave) have both worked extremely hard to keep this train rolling. They're two of my favourite dudes ever.”
Stagg's schedule remains as busy as ever — he generally books gigs nearly a year in advance — and his volume of work is testament to his restless muse. He's built himself a legacy and it catches Stagg off-guard that sometimes folks just want to hear some tunes he wrote 10 years ago. It can be a little embarrassing, but he's thankful all the same.
"We're closing in on the 10-year mark," he explained, "so things get forgotten. It's cliché to say, but it's like having a photograph of a time passed. There's history building with the folks who come see us in the cities and towns we play regularly. We're eternally grateful for that."