Preview: Lucas Stagg At The Wooly - By Paul French (2019)
There’s a kind of romantic notion to the idea of the troubadour lifestyle. In fact the term troubadour dates back to the Middle Ages, when they were considered the shining knights of poetry. They made chivalry a high art, writing poems and singing about love, refined damsels and the glory of the gallant knight on his charger. In a modern context, it continues to refer to poet/musicians. Bob Dylan would be a great example, from his folk beginnings, and breaking into his electric period. The concept had further exposure during the 90s alt-country movement which included bands like Wilco, Son Volt and Drive By Truckers.
It’s a fine tradition, and one of it’s finest Canadian practitioners, Lucas Stagg will be extolling its virtues on Saturday night at the Wooly. The Kitchener native has released a dozen albums over the last decade, with each being a reflection on his “choice of the troubadour life, and the peaks and valleys of building an audience one gig at a time.”
Stagg is a true slave to the song. His mantra is “writing better songs, making better albums and playing more shows.”
If you’re a fan of country and rock n roll, great, edgy songs that are at times narrative and confessional, get yourself to the Wooly on Saturday night.
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."
Lucas Stagg Band Comes To Town - The Ontarion – Nick Revington (2014)
The similarity to the iconic Canadian band is no coincidence; drummer Cleave Anderson was the original drummer of Blue Rodeo, appearing on their first two albums, 1987’s Outskirts and 1989’s Diamond Mine.
“We’ve got a good little unit going. [Anderson] wasn’t the original drummer in the Stagg Band, but I had been playing shows with him in Toronto, with different musicians. But he joined the band once our other drummer parted ways with us,” said Lucas Stagg.
Indeed, Anderson did not play on Good Things, which has been in the works for a long time.
“I recorded the album two years ago, with a fellow named Paul MacLeod, who plays here Monday nights. [MacLeod] used to play in The Skydiggers and him and I used to go on tours – well we still do, but just more infrequently than we used to – so we’d be on the road, and the songs two years ago … he’d get up on stage and play a bunch with me,” said Stagg. “So when we got back from this certain tour, I had some studio time booked so we just went in and popped off the tunes. It’s taken way too long to get finished, but here we are.”
Good Things, and the opening set it spawned, features a few upbeat numbers like “She’s a Ghost” and “Bittersweet,” alongside softer ballads such as “Tulum,” though a certain melancholy feel pervades the whole thing. In this way, it made sense for the band to perform its contents as a separate set from the rest of their material. Instead of mixing material between sets to provide variety, the Lucas Stagg Band chose to emphasize the continuity within their bodies of work. This tactic proved particularly successful in the absence of an opening act; in effect, they opened for themselves. It also made an excellent antidote to the stresses of the preceding week. The first set made for easy listening to relax to after the work week, before the later sets provided a danceability to really let loose to, if one felt so inclined.
While Good Things was available at the Jimmy Jazz show, the official Guelph release of the album will take place next month.
“I had this gig booked for a while, so it just so happened tonight the CD was available,” said Stagg. “Tonight was going to be the [release party], but it didn’t really fall in line with what the club wanted to do, so it’s going to be at the Cornerstone next month.”
Even though Good Things is hot off the press so to speak, the band isn’t easing up.
“We’ve got a new record actually recorded, with the three of us. We’re mixing that,” said Stagg, adding that it would bear more resemblance to the band’s rock and roll side.
LUCAS STAGG SHOWS RESILIENCE ON STUBBORN MOON - By Jason Schneider (2012)
I thought if the moon is stubborn enough to come out like that in the middle of the day, almost like it was battling the sun, it’s a perseverance we can all share in. By the time I got to rehearsal, I’d written lyrics for the song Driven, which includes the line, ‘Driven like a stubborn moon, glowing in the afternoon, no prisoner of the dark.’î
Stagg’s determination and resilience are well known to anyone connected to the K-W music scene. Although the rootsy singer/songwriter has lived in Toronto for the past four years, he has maintained close ties to this area, using the Boathouse in Kitchener’s Victoria Park as a base of operations of sorts. During off hours, the venue has been where Stagg and his rhythm section, bassist Danny Alac and drummer Chris Flannigan, rehearse. Stubborn Moon is their second release as the Lucas Stagg Band, put out by Kitchener label Busted Flat Records.
We wanted to make a recording that tells the truth about this band, which is why it was mostly done live off the floor,î Stagg says. The nucleus was Danny, Flan and I being excited about the new material. Half of the songs on the record were written within two months of recording it, so as a band, there was a freshness there. We felt like we were kids in the basement, just bashing out tunes, grinning from ear to ear.
Having recently turned 30, Stagg is starting to feel comfortable acknowledging the body of work he has built up over the previous decade. He also says he’s feeling more comfortable with who he is as an artist. ìToronto finally feels like home. I’m playing with some great musicians both there and abroad, and have become close friends with many of them.î
He adds, The first three years here felt like a whirlwind. There were constant jaunts around southern Ontario, out to Montreal, New York City and Nashville. Meanwhile, I was still playing quite a bit in the Tri-City area, as well as recording and rehearsing there. The new songs are a direct representation of growing through tumultuous times as a songwriter and the three of us working closer together as a band.î
Although Stagg is set to hit the road this month with Busted Flat label mate Paul MacLeod (whose new album Gauge he produced), he says that he’s planning to spend more time closer to home for the rest of this year, focusing on more writing and recording.
Next year is looking like the year to really put in some real mileage,î Stagg says. ìI’m looking forward to going back to Nashville. I know a guy there now named Billy Block who has his own show on TV and radio. He was Frank Black’s drummer and later became his tour manager.
Last summer I sent him my tune Kensington Girl. He dug it and asked me to do the show. It was great because you play Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge live to air on Sunday for his radio show, rehearse with him and a crack bass player Monday, and do the showcase Tuesday which then gets aired on TV. My next trip to Nashville will be my sixth in as many years. Before that, the band and I are planning a return to New York this fall for a handful of dates and a video shoot.
LUCAS STAGG - by Care Humphries FOR VELVET ROPE MAGAZINE (2012)
He’s no stranger to the region. Actually, he’s probably the guy you shared a pint with the last time you were at the Boathouse before he strutted across the room, picked up his guitar and went straight into performing a set. I recall in my own previous experiences with Lucas Stagg wandering directly into him, staring up (he is that tall), and realizing before he said anything that this was the guy I’d already watched live on stage a dozen times, and was eager to see again.
Can you imagine keeping up with the independent music community in the fashion Stagg has? The guy puts out record after record, and yet, his music is fresh, his sets are new, and the stories are always different – although consistently delivered with that undeniable Lucas Stagg stamp he’s become recognized for. How does he do it? And how does he tour with it? The secret may always be safe with Stagg, but as far as CD releases and tours go, he’ll be back at that Boathouse on Friday, April 29th with Stubborn Moon and a show you don’t want to miss.
Spending most of his life moving across the country, Stagg is now partial to calling Toronto home, however, returning often to the region where Danny Alec & Chris Flannigan (his bass player and drummer respectively) still hold residence. In addition to the Stagg players, both his record engineer and distributor are still rooted here as well. ìKevin, Mo and crew at the Boathouse have let us rehearse there since the bands’ inception three years ago,î explains Stagg. ìBoth Danny and Flan live here, so that’s made things a hell of lot easier. We’ve recorded both albums at River Edge Recordings, a few solo records, with another in the works. Mark Fortuna as engineer is extremely dedicated whenever we get a new project together. Paul MacLeod and I have been touring around Eastern Canada for the last three years as well, and I recently had the privilege of producing his latest record, ‘Gauge’ at River Edge. And of course, Mark Logan at Busted Flat has been a huge help in getting these records out there. Without this team of people in K-W and their professionalism, life would be a lot more difficult for me.î And although Stagg calls Toronto home, he’s quick to praise the entirety of this side of the province. ìThere is a connection with musicians across Southwestern Ontario, and Canada for that matter, so once you start the ball rolling, the community as gets more tightly knit,î he tells me adding, ìWe’ve been hosting the Stagg Band Fridays at the Boathouse now for just over a year, where we get T.O. bands to come down and be featured, and they always head back to the big smoke with a fun show under their belts. A good room can help make for a solid show, so it doesn’t really matter what city you’re in.î
Since bursting on the scene as both a solo musician and the lead of the Lucas Stagg band, Stagg would begin releasing records in 1998, with this latest project numbering 8 in his discography. 2011’s Stubborn Moon is chalk full of intricate roots/rock, and I’m consistently impressed with Stagg’s capability of releasing a project that translates well live, knowing this project will follow in its predecessors foot steps by faring well with fans. ìThis record is still pretty fresh for us, Stagg tells me, ìbecause half of the tunes were written about a month before we recorded. With ‘Concrete’, we’d been playing those songs for two years, developing our sound as a band. ‘Stubborn Moon’ is the band with our friends having fun with new material.
And that material is housed on his record he’s having released with the aid of Busted Flat records – the label Stagg has been affiliated with for years. ìMark Logan has been very efficient, in that when he decides he’s putting out your record, you’re in good hands,î Stagg remarks. ìWith the roster he’s built over the years, the CBC is on top of whatever is released by Busted Flat, which has been a definite plus while touring in Canada. The slick, new BF website is extremely accessible. Folks can now buy any of the artists back catalogue with the click of a button.
Claiming that he’s been a songster for as long as he can remember, (ìPlayed in rock n’ roll bands as a kid; Play in rock n’ roll bands as a big kid.î), Stagg can also add producer and music video director to his growing list of accomplishments. Two of his notable videos for local independent artists, Nicole Aube and Christen Zuch, are testaments to his creativity. ìI made a video for ‘Under The Gun’ after our last bunch of shows in New York City,î says Stagg about getting behind the camera in the music industry. ìIt’s so easy to post these now via Youtube, Vimeo or whatever. The response was immediate, and extremely positive. It’s nice for me, because it gives me another creative outlet. At the same time, I have a serious love / hate relationship with the bloody computer.î
Stagg goes on to praise his tour partner-in-crime, Paul MacLeod, with whom he’s planning to head out with again in support of both of their new releases. ìPaul is a consummate professional. We just got back from a seven date trip to Montreal and back. Getting to work with Paul first hand on ‘Gauge’, it was so cool to see a new project you’ve been part of be so well received. The first tour we did in 2009, we knew of each other, but didn’t know each other. We had such a blast we went out two more times that year alone. Six tours later, the audiences and the shows keep growing.î
MacLeod will be on-hand to support the show at the Boathouse alongside Tanya Philipovich in a show Stagg says will include performing the record from start to finish. ìTanya will be starting things out with Paul on guitar. We’ve got Jim Wolfe on keys, which is a huge part of this record. We’ll be performing the album, front to back with all three of our guests, who are also featured on the album. We are having so much fun with this new material, and it definitely translates into the live show,î Stagg says.
LUCAS STAGG & PAUL MACLEOD: A SURE THING: The Seahorse Tavern - by Sarah Greene FOR THE COAST (2011)
"We're playing 21 shows in 18 days," says Lucas Stagg, on day four of his eastern-Canadian tour with Busted Flat labelmate Paul MacLeod. The two songwriters embarked on a similar tour this past October and Stagg says it went so well that they decided to do it again, this time in support of Stagg's Great Big Gone and MacLeod's new album, Bright Eyes Fade. Though they met on Waterloo's songwriter scene, they got close on the road. "Until we were in the car together for eight hours last time, we had spent five minutes together," Stagg says. "Now we're really good friends." They also share a common appreciation of punk rock---Stagg refers to the previous day's Joy Division morning and Replacements afternoon.
The tour is taking Stagg and MacLeod off the beaten track, to places like Picton, Tweed and Perth. "You've got to play smaller cities," Stagg says, citing the limitations of playing only Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. Though Stagg now lives in Toronto (with his girlfriend, singer/songwriter Tanya Philipovich), he grew up in Kitchener, Ontario.
Southwestern Ontario is an important place for MacLeod, who spent lots of time in Toronto while playing in The Skydiggers, but calls Kitchener home. "I like where I live," MacLeod says. "And distancing myself from my family and the people I'm close to would be a detriment to what I do." MacLeod's last album, Close and Play (2000), was produced by (then lesser known) Hawksley Workman, and caught the attention of Maple Music. "'Broken Wing'---they loved the song," MacLeod says. He remains independently minded as he works on completing his next recording. He also plans to pick a venue for a live DVD performance. "Something close to home," Macleod says. "And something meaningful for an audience that helped get me started.”
LUCAS STAGG - EASTERN CANADA - By Shain Shapiro FOR ECHO (2010)
To save money and increase promotion, labels often package their roster on tours to promote not only the individual product, but also the methodology of the label as a whole. In many cases, this is the best method to get the most out of touring in Canada, which can often be an expensive and arduous process. Take local folk label Busted Flat Records, whose two artists, Lucas Stagg and Paul MacLeod, will embark on a tour of the east to promote both their records, as well as the label’s identity and ethos. “Paul MacLeod and I are going on the second east Canada tour in support of our new releases on Busted Flat Records: Paul’s Bright Eyes Fade, and my Great Big Gone,” explains Stagg over a series of emails. “We are kicking off at the Starlight, and then moving on to do a circle of shows through the wonderful eastern provinces and back. It’ll end in my current hometown, Toronto, at the Dakota Tavern in mid April.” Everything Busted Flat does, as with most up–and–coming labels, is done independently. This tour was booked by the musicians, and all the marketing and promotion is done in–house, creating a model that compliments their dusty, Nashville–influenced Americana. “Being independent assures I have the hands–on opportunity to meet and work with people in music, friends, who I will likely be working with for a long time to come,” adds Stagg. “That’s everyone, from fans, promoters, media, other songwriters and bands, to the manager at the hotel in Moncton, who promised to give us a better deal on our room this time around.”For Lucas Stagg, the Starlight show this week kicks off the final push for Great Big Gone, the songwriter’s latest collection. After this, Stagg will move on to preparing another record, this time with his band, creating what is promised to be a more electric affair, compared to the more relaxed, down–home feel of Great Big Gone. “The Lucas Stagg Band album, Concrete, was just recorded at River Edge Studio in Kitchener, so I am moving on to focusing on that after this tour,” replies Stagg. It will be released later this year, as well as a video for the lead single, ‘Under The Gun’. We will celebrate that release with more touring, so this will be the final time I will be focusing on Great Big Gone entirely when playing live.”Great Big Gone is a patient, calm listen, one that showcases the core qualities in Stagg’s songwriting; one influenced by early ‘60s Canadian songwriters, the spirit of Nashville and the rockabilly of Neil Young. The record was completed patiently, as Stagg did not have any timeframe or schedule to keep to. Instead, the songs ebbed and flowed through various recording practices, eventually ending up where they are on record – a loose, solemn take on roots, blues and alternative country. “We recorded the album at Dan Walsh’s (Fred Eaglesmith and The Flying Squirrels) studio on Lake Erie. I had just finished another record where Dan played lead guitars, and we decided to do a more laid back record at his place,” adds Stagg. “There was no real time frame, or boundaries with the record, which created an open atmosphere. I think that’s what made such a relaxed recording experience.” On Great Big Gone, Stagg borrows from all the greats clouding Canadian songwriting history, but in doing so, carves out his own niche within the style, one that emphasizes the importance of the emotion in the song, so much so that what you say is as important as how you say it. “These are songs, and production styles that can’t bullshit,” affirms Stagg. “It’s impossible. That’s why I’m touring with Paul. He shares similar values when it comes to this. We’re both performers, but also music fans. A favorite saying of his is, ‘The singer/songwriter is the new punk rock.’ I agree. The origin of all great music is truth and honesty, and that was definitely the initial intent of punk rock. Hank Williams and Robert Johnson had it down, but so did the Sex Pistols.”Stagg and MacLeod will take turns playing solo, with each other and with their respective bands at the Starlight, to fully explicate each angle embedded in the songs. With Stagg, that means both solo acoustic and full band numbers. “There will be solo sets form both Paul and I, intertwined with rock sets, as it is the tour kickoff show.” So go celebrate not only Stagg and MacLeod, but also Busted Flat Records as a whole, one of the best local roots labels around. Tickets are a tenner.
LUCAS STAGG SETTLES INTO A NEW SCENE - By Jason Schneider FOR NIGHTLIFE (2009)
Even though Lucas Stagg's new album Great Big Gone contains several specific Toronto references, he's not ready to completely cut ties with his hometown yet. The Kitchener singer-songwriter moved to the big city about a year ago where he's since found a niche within Toronto's roots music scene, but he says Great Big Gone is a collection of material that more accurately encapsulates the transition he chose to make at this point in his life.
Produced by former Fred Eaglesmith sideman (now solo artist) Dan Walsh, and released on Kitchener label Busted Flat, the album is a much more quietly intense work than the prolific Stagg has done to this point, and the overall vibe pays tribute in part to some of his musical heroes such as Townes Van Zandt and John Prine.
"Dan was playing on another session I was doing last year with (producer) Rick Hutt, and during a break I played him some other mellower songs I had," Stagg says. "Two weeks later I recorded this whole new record at Dan's place in Port Dover so it ended up being a pretty productive month."
Stagg goes on to explain that he had no real plan to release Great Big Gone until he received the final product from Walsh. "I just laid down my guitar and vocal tracks, and two weeks later I got a disc in the mail with all of these great parts Dan had put on. That's when it came into focus for me that the whole thing had a cohesive mood, rather than just being a bunch of songs. It was a totally new way of recording for me."
That mood he describes was also a reaction to the rootless existence Stagg was living at the time, bouncing back and forth between Kitchener and Toronto, as well as touring in the Southern U.S. In fact, the album's title track was written in Nashville just prior to the recording sessions.
"It's called Great Big Gone for a reason," Stagg says. "I didn't really have a home at that point. Now I'm pretty confident that the next thing I put out will be more of a Toronto record, because I'm starting to get settled and I feel like I'm finding my spot within the scene. I want the travelling I do from now on to be planned."
Stagg will indeed be hitting the road next month with fellow Busted Flat artist Paul MacLeod for an East Coast tour. Those familiar with both of them might expect some hefty bar tabs at the end of each night, but Stagg says they've already laid out some strict ground rules in that regard.
"I'd heard that Paul was itching to get on the road, so I made a few phone calls and got the tour together. Once it was obvious that it was going to happen, there wasn't really much to say about what we needed to do to make it profitable. We have some Mondays off though, so I can imagine that our Sunday night shows might get a little crazy. We both do regular Sunday night gigs anyway, so it will probably be good to stick to that routine."
GREAT BIG CHANGE FOR LUCAS STAGG - By Robert Reid FOR WORLD BEAT (2009)
Change has been the order of the day for Lucas Stagg.
Relocating from Kitchener-Waterloo to Toronto and joining local roots label Busted Flat Records for his fourth studio album are just two of the most obvious changes in the prolific singer-songwriter's life.
Production-wise Great Big Gone is Stagg's best album to date. He has honed the road-weary, love-weary persona of the peripatetic roots artist. But this time he has in his corner Dan Walsh, a labelmate and ex-Fred Eaglesmith band member who is on intimate terms with the alt-country style Stagg has been exploring in recent years.
Stagg has never sounded better. His vocals place his lyrics in stark relief against the bare-bones accompaniment of Walsh on guitar, dobro and bass, labelmate Duane Rutter on piano and guitar and Tanya Philipovich (who co-wrote the title track) on harmony vocals.
Stagg has a busy fall before him. He's currently touring Eastern Canada and Ontario with labelmate Paul MacLeod. They recently performed a wrap-up concert at the Boathouse, in Victoria Park.
With Great Big Gone Lucas arrives at where he has been headed over his last four albums of original material.
STILL GOING, STAGG & STRONG - By Patrick Finch FOR ECHO (2008)
“Success depends on your definition,” explains Kitchener-Waterloo’s hardest working entertainer, Lucas Stagg. “In a place like Nashville, (Stagg’s Mecca), there are many different entities that create the spectrum of that particular songwriting community: there are the writers with publishing deals who get up at 8:00 am and go to the office from nine to five to write songs; there are the ‘Idol’ types who are there to get famous, almost a sick, dying need to be famous. “The ones I consider most successful are the songwriters who go out and kill the locals every night with the greatest song ever written. I mean, it may not be “Like A Rolling Stone”, but those motherfuckers will make you believe it is when they’re singing it through you.” If that is indeed Stagg’s definition, then he is certainly successful beyond measure. Since releasing his solo debut in 2004, Stagg has seen his audience multiply, and his stock rise through the roof. Three more full-length releases have surfaced in as many years, and somehow each record is stronger than the last. By paying attention to the careers of his heroes and the ears of his audience, Stagg has refined his craft, (and his new band), into the well-oiled machine that has been burning down crowds nightly since the recent release of his self-titled fourth record last month. Stagg is obviously a highly motivated, dedicated writer and performer, but he couldn’t do it all himself. “I was listening to Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger, and figured we could get these tunes soundin’ like that by recruiting a full band. There’s an energy with the band that can bring a song into a new dimension.” Not content to only switch things up by employing a full band, (guitarist Jesse Aultman, bassist Scott Wicken, drummer Andy Miller, and back-up singers Marcy Dwyer and Craig McNair), Stagg also changed his recording studio. While his previous records had been cut at Cambridge’s Hi-Fi Way recording facility, Stagg instead chose to work with local soundboard guru Mark Fortuna at his studio, The Bunker, for his latest effort.
“Mark showed me The Bunker Studio, and before I left that day, the decision was made. It's an old Frank Lloyd Wright-style mansion with a salt water pool and massage chair. How could I say no? He also had some great gear, and a real excitement to work with me, and me with him.” The talent and enthusiasm of Fortuna, and Stagg’s band, (particularly Dwyer’s dirty-sweet June Carterisms and Aultman’s twanging Stratocaster licks), raise these recordings above anything Stagg has previously attempted. “Doin’ Time” and “People Talk” are raucous, beer-swillin’ country anthems, while “William Holden”, “Glory Bound”, and “Love’s All That Matters” tread gently and reverently over the sort of heart-breaking, lesson-learned tunes that Johnny Cash could have called his own. This is not to say that the new record is a complete departure for Stagg. He’s been building towards this album for a couple of years, while strengthening his local presence and continuing to look to his mentor, (rock ‘n’ roll journeyman/painter John Mars), for guidance. “John knows what I’m trying to get done on a record. He’s got something like 20,000 records, and any rock, folk, or country record that has ever generated serious merit is in there. We just recorded his new album at Grant Avenue Studios in Hamilton, and it’s killer!” Stagg’s obvious affection for Mars’ work extends towards many others in the local community. He’s put in his time giving a boost to the scene, (particularly by putting on his own shows and inviting any and all artists willing to put their songs on the line), because he understands how important a strong community of artists is to his, and to everyone’s success. He also has no time for hangers-on, and docile artists expecting success to come to them. “All of my friends are in the music community here, helping each other out, and if that were to cease, we’d all be pretty screwed. There needs to be more though. I hate it when I play a show with someone, or hook ‘em up with a show and then I get an email letting me know that they can’t wait for me to book their ass another show. It’s basically like saying, ‘I’m a lazy shit who will never help anyone but myself, so fuck you’. I tend not to waste any more time with those types.”
Stagg tends not to waste time with anything. Despite still being in the midst of his CD release tour, he’s already in pre-production for his next record, (“We’ve got seventeen songs, but I’m still writing,”), and is prepping for a tour south of the border. This may sound like an astoundingly cramped agenda, but it doesn’t take much to keep vibrant artists inspired and motivated. For Stagg, keeping his ears full of his heroes is enough. “Townes Van Zant, putting the song across to the audience on ‘Rear View Mirror’, or Springsteen laying it down on ‘Nebraska’. And I spend a lot of time in the car with a shit-pile of Richard Buckner and Steve Earle records."
LUCAS STAGG: Album Review - By Rod Nicholson (2007)
Former Room 101 lead singer/songwriter Lucas Stagg has released his second solo CD. By turns confessional and narrative, the tunes here are presented in an unadorned performance and production style that throws their lyrical and melodic content into sharp relief. Name-checking this material influence-wise would include some fine artists such as Joe Ely, Townes Van Zandt and John Prine. Lucas Stagg measures up well against such vintage stuff while projecting its own clear style, no mean feat in itself. Whether it’s the James Burton chug of ‘Hell Bent’ or the straight-up country cautionary tale ‘Doin’ Time’, the order of the day is sharp playing, strong clear vocal harmonies and melodies that stick in the mind. An impressive outing, and well worth a look in.
I just call 'em like I see 'em.
LUCAS STAGG: Album Review - By Robert Reid FOR WORLD BEAT (2007)
Most artists launch careers with self-titled albums.
But Lucas Stagg, a Waterloo based singer/songwriter, isn’t big on rules. He declined to make his third studio album of original material selt-titled.
The album continues the alt-country journey Stagg embarked on with Play For Keeps and continued with Love, Or Lack Thereof.
The main difference this time out is Stagg has assembled a band that provides the ideal backdrop to his postmodern cowboy songs – equal parts parody, tongue in cheek pastiche and genuine homage to a rich tradition.
Co- produced by Stagg and his longtime sidekick in art, John Mars, the album features Stagg on vocals, guitar and harmonica, with Good Brothers’ bassist Pete Sisk, Sue Foley’s drummer Tom Bona and Jesse Aultman on guitar, among others. Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor lays down a solo guitar track. (FALSE: Kreg Geelor did)
Corb Lund is garnering acclaim with his contemporary cowboy music. But Stagg proves you don’t have to hail from the foothills of Alberta to write convincing songs about the Wild West.
LUCAS STAGG: Album Review - By Sean Palmerston FOR EXCLAIM (2007)
Kicking off with the quasi-political “Doin’ Time,” Waterloo rocker turned folkie Stagg keeps the arrangement on his third album simple. Sticking mostly with acoustic guitars, upright bass and drums, the upbeat songs seem to work well, especially the harmonica-led “People Talk,” the rollicking “Hell Bent,” and the horn-augmented “The Wrong Place.” That doesn’t mean his slower material is sub-par; the haunting dual fingerpicking of “Isabelle” reveals itself as a mid album high point.
LUCAS STAGG & HIS WORK WITH WILLIAM HOLDEN - By Jason Schneider (2007)
"I've probably wrote a hundred songs last year." Lucas Stagg says this with the nonchalance of a northern Ontario tree planter reviewing his daily quota. For the K-W roots-rocker, the challenge isn't writing his songs, but giving them the proper attention once they're made available.
But Stagg admits he's coming a lot closer to bridging that gap with his new self-titled album, his third in three years. "I started this record at the same time I was putting out the last one six months ago," he says. "We ended up doing 18 songs, and then I narrowed it down to 12 by the time we finished in January, which was hard. Basically, I wanted it to be the kind of album you could play over and over again in your car with knowing that it's ended."
To accomplish this, Stagg says he wanted his backing band to play a bigger role than before, and the results are definitely his most textured music to date. Lyrically, the album continues to champion Stagg's fondness for misunderstood underdogs, best heard in the song William Holden, inspired by the great actor who met a sad end through alcoholism.
"I went through a phase where I only watched movies made before I was born, and William Holden kept popping up in a lot of them," he says. "I did a little research on him, and I think I wrote the song the morning after I watched The Wild Bunch. It's one of those things where on one hand you have to admire the guy for not caring what anyone thought of him, but it was that stubbornness that ultimately did him in."
Stagg describes how his newest work came together: "The 12 songs on this album are definitely the best of everything I wrote last year. I found that the throwaway stuff was sounding too folk-based, or reminded me too much of someone else's song that might have been floating around in my head at the time. It really came down to, if I couldn't believe what I was singing with all my heart, then it wasn't going to make the cut."
Not surprisingly, Stagg is already in the planning stages of his next recording, working with producer Rick Hutt at his Cedartree Studios. Stagg says at this point it might be a sparse album in the spirit of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, but for now he's going to enjoy playing his upcoming shows with his band.
"It's funny, everyone I'm playing with right now has just had a baby, or is about to, so I'm feeling like the odd man out. In fact, our drummer might get the call to go to the hospital right in the middle of one of these shows, so that could make things interesting."