Lucas Chaisson on Calgary and Live Performance
David: With me here today is local songwriter Lucas Chaisson. I first met Lucas at Alberta Music Industry Association Songwriting Workshop, and we were in the same songwriters’ circle. So I was rather blown away by your songwriting skills, especially, you know, being so young. You’re 15, right?
Lucas: Yeah, 15.
David: So, tell me what it’s like to be a minor in the music industry. You must not be able to play a lot of bars or anything like that.
Lucas: Yeah. In Calgary, Calgary is kind of tough. I think the Ironwood is good as far as youth playing goes. And the Ship & Anchor has a cool license like that too, but even like jams and stuff are tough to get into when there’s alcohol served.
David: Right. So what are some of the other alternate venues that you play at?
Lucas: I play a lot of shows at small theaters and folk clubs, festivals, and stuff like that. And actually, where I’m from (I’m from Cochrane), I started hosting a jam at a local coffee shop called the Java Jamboree for kind of a youth-friendly environment, where the young singer-songwriters from Cochrane and Calgary and area can kind of come in, and try some of their stuff.
David: Cool. So you’ve found some decent alternatives here and there, and as far as venues go?
Lucas: Yeah, yeah; it’s been, it’s tougher but it’s still been working out.
Chaisson on Songwriting Inspiration
David: What inspires you to write your songs?
Lucas: Oh, wow. It’s kind of, it comes from everywhere. I can’t explain what a lot of my songs are about, but if I really pick a part of them and analyze, I guess I can find deeper meanings in them.
David: Name some of your musical influences.
Lucas: Musical. Martin Sexton is definitely a huge, huge one. And guys, old blues guys like “Honeyboy” Edwards, and people like that. Just, I don’t know; roots and stuff.
David: So that probably gets you some odd looks when you mention some of the older blues guys.
Lucas: Yeah, for sure. I don’t know if it really deserves weird looks or anything. It’s just good music.
David: Well, absolutely.
Lucas: Yeah, definitely.
David: But I mean, you probably had to do some digging to find some of that.
Lucas: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Just a lot of it’s just people that friends and other musicians have mentioned to me, and I’ve checked them out. I really started to like them. So…
David: Cool. Name some of your driving influences, or driving force behind your music. What keeps you going?
Lucas: Spiritually, kind of, I guess it’s just that I love doing it. And I guess the driving force behind my music right now, physically, is a promotion company called U22 Productions. And they’re pushing me farther and farther in the music industry, so it’s really good; a really good program. I think their website is you U22.ca, if anybody wants to check them out.
David: Yeah, tell us a little bit more about U22.
Lucas: It’s a program that, it was established by a lady who works for CKUA, named Rhea March.
Adam: Good folks at CKUA, good folks.
Lucas: Yeah, they are. And she, she pretty much tries to promote performance opportunities and mentorship opportunities for young artists in Alberta.
David: Have you found any other useful resources in that vein?
Lucas: In like the same area?
David: Well, for like booking shows, marketing, that kind of thing.
Lucas: Yeah. It’s; I don’t know. I think you really have to take advantage of everybody you meet, or try and…
David: Not take advantage!
Lucas: Not take advantage of them in that sense.
Adam: Hey, he’s only 15!
Lucas: Yeah. Just everybody can help you out, in a way.
David: Yeah, totally. There’s a lot of people out there doing different things. Like me, doing a podcast.
David: So what are some of your career goals as a musician, if any?
Lucas: I’d like to just kind of make an honest living at it, I guess. I don’t know; I’m not, I don’t think I’m destined for fame or super-stardom, kind of thing. But I can’t see myself being totally happy if I’m not involved in the music industry somehow.
David: So you wouldn’t call yourself overly ambitious, but you still have that desire to create and be a part of music?
Lucas: I guess I’m ambitious, but I’m not–the prospect of making a living making music entices me a lot more than the prospect of fortune and fame, kind of thing. So, whatever happens.
Keeping Control Over Your Music
Adam: So what would you say to a production company that said to you, “Hey, we love what you’re doing!” We love this and we love that, and everything. And then like, but, “We want you to change this for a little bit more market appeal.” Because there’s always going to be a little bit of that maneuvering. But what’s the; how do you figure out where the line is between: Okay, I’m willing to maneuver a little bit, versus oh shoot, I’ve just sold out!
Lucas: That’s a tough question. It’s kind of; it’s a thin line, I guess. But if there; I don’t know. If I in the end can contain, or retain artistic integrity and control of what I’m doing, then I think that’s a good deal to make, if it’s going to be my name out there. But I wouldn’t want to drastically change my music, or hand over my stuff that I’ve produced creatively, to a production company and let them toy with it.
Adam: Yeah, it’s always a tough balance between how–especially as you get more popular–how involved you can be with all the stuff, versus how much; you obviously want to make sure that your music is still representative of who you are.
Adam: And what you wrote in the first place. You sit down in a coffee shop on a dark, stormy night and you pencil something in a notepad, and then it goes through the studio machine. And you want to make sure that you can still sit down there at the coffee shop and listen to the song and go, “Yep; that’s what I wrote.”
Lucas: Yeah, for sure.
10 Years from Now…
David: Yeah, that’s cool. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? I know that’s a big question. Obviously, you’re still going to be doing music; I get that. Where do you see yourself?
Adam: That’s not fair! You’re asking him about two-thirds of his life right now!
David: Yeah, but he’s an old soul.
Lucas: I don’t know. Right now, the plan is after Grade 12 to do kind of a Canada, Canada-wide thing, and then come back.
David: Like a tour?
David: That’s awesome.
Lucas: If that doesn’t just skyrocket right off the bat, maybe come back and get something to fall back on. But at 25, I definitely hope to be touring; to be, I don’t know, a well-known name in Canada, and touring some other places, exotic places. See the world kind of thing.
Adam: Exotic places like Saskatoon.
Lucas: Yeah, Saskatoon. There’s a lot of those.
David: Saskatchewan River.
Lucas: Nordegg; that’s a big one.
Adam: Oh, Nordegg, Nordegg! Shout-out to the folks in Nordegg.
What Instruments Do You Play?
David: All right. Well, let’s talk a little bit more about your music. Would you consider guitar your primary instrument?
Lucas: The guitar is definitely my primary instrument.
David: Do you play any others?
Lucas: I fool around on some. I can play harmonica; I can play bass guitar (but I guess I consider that guitar). Yeah, guitar is definitely my main instrument.
David: And your voice?
Lucas: My voice is also a main instrument, I guess.
David: Also an important part of what you do, since you’re very much a songwriter, right?
David: I’m also blown away by the fact that you can play guitar really well, especially for your age and the amount of experience you’ve had. You’ve played for about three or four years, right?
Lucas: I’ve actually; I’ve been playing for nine years now.
David: Nine years. Okay, that’s significant. Little bit more than I thought.
Lucas: Little bit longer, I guess.
David: But you’d started really young, so I mean…
David: Did you pick it up pretty quickly at that age?
Lucas: It was pretty bad, actually. I played with my thumb, I think, for the first three years. Solely my thumb.
David: I’ve done that.
Lucas: Yeah. And I think my classical–I did classical training up until Grade 5, RCM, so I think that definitely helped a lot with technical skill.
David: Are you finding good support from your parents and all that kind of stuff?
Lucas: Oh yeah, for sure. They’re really supportive of what I’m doing. Always willing to drive me wherever I need to go.
David: Awesome. Any other people that have helped you along the way?
Lucas: There’s way too many people to name. But everybody who’s helped me to get into play a place, or just given me kind words after hearing a song, or come out to see me play. I think they’re all important.
David: Very cool.
David: So I’d like to talk a little bit more about your guitar playing. Where did you learn? Did you have teachers?
Lucas: I have a teacher; his name’s Martin Russell. He teaches in Cochrane, and he’s been my classical teacher for the past little while. Actually, just this year I decided to skip the classical part of my training, and I think I’m going to try and continue my guitar education by going to different workshops and stuff; learning from different kind of genres and different people’s points of view.
David: Cool. So you’ve primarily had classical training to this point?
Lucas: Yeah, primarily. And then taught myself all the other stuff; just kind of built around that.
David: That’s awesome.
Advice for Someone Just Getting Started in Music
David: What advice would you give to someone starting in the music industry today? This might be a little bit of a tough question.
David: Because you’re just getting started yourself.
Lucas: I think I’m just starting myself. But I guess, just play wherever you can. There might be someone in the audience at this gig, terrible gig that you hate playing at a coffee shop, or whatever, that can get you another gig at another coffee shop, that it kind of builds up. After that, maybe…
Adam: Yeah, there’s no such thing as a bad gig.
Lucas: I don’t think there is.
The Calgary Music Scene
David: Yeah, that’s a really good point. Tell us what your impression are of the Calgary music scene.
Lucas: I think there’s a lot of great people, and great people as far as artists go, in the Calgary music scene. But I think it’s a lot harder to showcase those artists, as opposed to even just the scene in Edmonton. It seems like artists are a lot more easily showcased. More easily, yeah.
David: So you find it a tricky city to get out in.
Lucas: It’s kind of a tricky city, but at the same–I think if you’re a great singer-songwriter, you’re a great session bass player, or whatever you do in the music industry, you’re going to get out of it if you’re good at what you do.
David: So, you’ve had a chance to see a bit of the Edmonton music scene as well?
Lucas: Yeah, I have, just through U22. It’s a really vibrant arts scene up there in Edmonton.
Adam: Yeah. I’ve heard a lot of the same stuff, actually, from a lot of people. In fact, I recently had a promoter come to me, and we were talking about a tour he was running. I was like, “well, why don’t you stop by Calgary? Great city and everything.”
And he kind of looked at me and he said, “Do you realize I can get 1,000 people out in Edmonton?” He says, “In order to get the same amount, I’d have to spend 10 times more on advertising to get the same amount of people out in Calgary.”
It’s just, the culture’s a little bit different. People in Edmonton enjoy live music and like going out to see it, and stuff like that.
Adam: I hate to be bashing Calgary, but…
Lucas: Yeah, Calgary is a great city.
David: It’s true.
Lucas: But even in; it’s a weird, just the western kind of theme that we have going on. Not primarily–Calgary’s kind of shying away from that even, but in the surrounding towns and everything, it makes it–there’s a lot of great country singers in town.
Adam: If you do well doing country covers, great.
Adam: But there’s a scene above and beyond that.
Lucas: There is.
Adam: And part of it also is, I think for a number of years, honestly, Calgary didn’t have that good of a scene. And now the artists are really developing.
Adam: I’m seeing artists in Calgary now that five years ago, everyone went, “Well, you have one of those guys,” and now we’re getting like– you’re going to coffee shops and you’re seeing amazing guys.
Adam: That have wonderful voices, and they’re amazing singer-songwriters. And that have like, some of them have three or four or five major-label releases behind them, and stuff like that.
Adam: So, I think the people of Calgary are still just getting used to the fact that this is a city where you can still go for an amazing night out. And you can go to a coffee shop and you can go to a restaurant, or you can go to a club or someplace.
Adam: And you can find some amazing local music here.
David: That’s right.
Lucas: Yeah, for sure. Even just out of the people that I’ve met musically, throughout my very short endeavors. Like, guys like Random Task Collective; they’re, I don’t know, they’re all like n16-year-old kids, and they’re already, they’re playing with the Arkells. And Michael Bernard Fitzgerald; he’s pretty big in the city and stuff. And yeah, I think it’s definitely going to take some time to get used to all the great live music, but I guess it’s a blessing as well.
David: Yeah, it’s always interesting to hear the different vantage points of how people see the Calgary music scene. And on the whole I agree; it can be a bit of a tricky city, sometimes, but it’s a great place. It’s a great place to be. You have a gig coming up in Edmonton, don’t you?
Lucas: I do.
David: So, tell us a little bit about your upcoming gigs.
Lucas: Next weekend, which would be the 18th, 19th, and 20th of September, I am playing up in Edmonton at the Royal Alberta Museum, as part of U22 Fest. And part of that will be, I will be filming a TV special for CBC.
David: That’s awesome.
Lucas: Yeah. And there will be workshops by Karla Anderson and a bunch of great people on the Saturday. And then Sunday night another concert, so it should be a great weekend. It’s part of National Arts Day, or Alberta Arts Day.
David: Yeah, that sounds like a blast. So, do you have a website? You have a MySpace, obviously.
Lucas: I do have a MySpace. You can visit me at MySpace.com/lucaschaissonmusic. And if you want to become a fan on Facebook, you can just type my name into the ‘find people’ bar, and I will pop up.
Adam: And the “people” bar–it’s the only bar he can go to, folks!
Adam: So be sure and take advantage of that.
David: You’ll see the spelling of his name in the show notes. Actually, it’ll be the title of the podcast, so it should be pretty obvious.
Thoughts on the Music Industry?
So, what are your thoughts on the music industry at large? Everything seems to be changing a lot right now. Maybe you haven’t seen a whole lot of that, but you probably are aware that it’s changing.
Lucas: Yeah, it is. I don’t know if it’s changing for the better or changing for the worse, but I do like that there’s a lot more independent labels springing up everywhere, and artists starting their own labels, trying to make it there without record company money. And I think that’s a pretty big thing to be happening.
Adam: Yeah, it’s interesting, because the access to resources for artists is at all all-time high. It’s fairly easy for most people to get together kind of enough money to put together even your own studio, produce a lot of your own content, release it, distribute it. Especially with iTunes, the distribution game has gotten way, way easier to play.
Lucas: For sure.
Adam: It’s easy to get your music out there.
Adam: On the flip side, however, it’s become really, really, really hard to market your music and to actually get it out to fans. Because getting into iTunes is like yeah, you’re one of millions and millions and millions of tracks.
Adam: And unless people really find you–so, they’re not going to be seeing your music. And it’s also the same thing with getting on the road and getting on tour. There is a lot of people trying to do it right now; and there is a lot of good talent. But it still seems to me that the good talent, the really good stuff, starts to rise among that. And it doesn’t matter as much, the location. You’re seeing people that are listening to stuff that comes out of Montreal, and then listening to stuff that comes out of Seattle, and then listening to stuff that comes out of Hong Kong.
David: A variety of stuff, yeah.
Lucas: For sure.
Adam: It’s crazy now. It used to be there was, you play this genre, and you market yourself to this genre, and you do that. And now it’s, you put yourself up and you hope that people love what you’re doing. And you know there’s people out there that love what you’re doing, but finding them and connecting with them can be a little difficult sometimes.
David: Yeah. The music scene seems to be primarily run by musicians now. The corporate types are kind of going the way of the dinosaur age, and that’s why there’s so many indie labels. And software and hardware is becoming a lot more affordable for recording, too. So it allows for a lot more opportunities, in a sense. Do you feel that’s a good thing on the whole?
Lucas: I do in some way, but on the other side, there’s a lot of bad decisions that musicians can make, especially with choosing a place to record their CD.
Lucas: Because there’s a lot of places that are great, and that are run by musicians and people who care about putting a great product out. And there are a lot of places that are run by people who had money to throw together a studio.
Lucas: And are looking to make some cash off artists.
Adam: To all those people who are looking to make cash off artists, I’ve got to tell you… The recording industry is not a good place to invest your money! Bring it on Hall Street somewhere, please; do us all a favor!
David: Yeah, yeah; music is kind of a funny thing going on with that, where people can just kind of throw around the money and put a studio together, and they don’t really care about the artist or the music. And that’s, gradually that’s also going the way of the dinosaur age. But it does seem to be a prominent problem at least here in Calgary, where you have the oil industry, and people have a lot of money to kind of throw around.
Lucas Chaisson Interview Conclusion
David: You just heard “Looking Glasses”, by Lucas Chaisson. And I’m of course, David Andrew Wiebe sitting here with Lucas, as well as my friend Adam Burwash.
David: What’s up?
Adam: Uh, no. We’ve worked together for far too long for this dialog to be anything but funny. Of course, to all of you listening, we apologize for all the inside jokes–the 300 of which you’ve missed so far in this episode.
David: Yeah, that’s right! Any closing remarks, Adam?
Adam: Oh, a big shout-out to my brand-new wife, Megan, of course.
Adam: I couldn’t leave without that. I’ve been out of the loop, on honeymoon and everything, but you’ll be hearing more from me in the upcoming weeks and months as Red Flame starts rolling, rolling into high gear. We’ve got some stuff I can’t quite talk about yet, but it’s exciting though.
David: Yeah, we’ve got some good stuff on the way. Lucas, any closing remarks on your part?
Lucas: I guess I’ll give a shout-out to anybody in Edmonton, if they want to come down and check out that Royal Alberta Museum gig. And to anybody who checks out my music and digs it, there will be a CD on the way. So, if you can find a way to contact me through MySpace, Facebook–or you can email me at LucasSamuelChaisson@hotmail.com. I’ll make sure you get one.
David: Thanks a lot, Lucas.