Add up the miles. 2000+ to the west coast, another 1100 to the Gulf Shore, and then multiply it by at least a dozen times. Lucas Cates, founder of Madison-based The Lucas Cates Band, has been on the road from one end of the country to the other, and almost non-stop since 2006. But recent change to the long-time lineup is giving Cates time to re-group and re-charge. As one of the few full-time, DIY working bands, he’s also now pursuing other interests. Yet Cates still has an eye on the music scene. He’s pulled together a new group, which will open a big show at High Noon Saloon January 22, and plans to include a sampling of songs from their new album, expected out in February. I asked him about his past, his future, and what he’s learned along the way.
Maximum Ink: Has music always been your focus?
Lucas Cates: I have a musical background but one I never took seriously until college. I played french horn and trumpet in high school, then dabbled at drums and piano but wasn’t great at either, so I finally learned guitar when I was 20. It was the first time in my life I felt like I had a natural ability to do something. I have always been drawn to acoustic guitar, and much of the music I was brought up on featured it. I think we are influenced by our environments and music has always been part of mine.
MI: And you have a new version of The Lucas Cates Band (TLCB)?
LC: Yes! New additions to the band are Cody Davis on bass, and Travis Drumm on drums. Both are extremely talented and humble players. Over the last few months of playing together we have become a cohesive unit and great friends. I think our new album, “Back to the Cocoon”, really captures that. We also have some great guest musicians on it: Kenny Leiser (Mighty Wheelhouse, former TLCB band mate), Darren Marabelli (Katie Scullin Band) put down some electric guitar parts; Andrew Traverse (The Mustache) played some killer trumpet; Jesse Warmka (also a former TLCB band mate) contributed backing vocals.
We were blessed to work with Dustin Sisson again at Blast House Studios for much of the recording, mixing and mastering. He is a phenomenal engineer who brings a lot of enthusiasm and spirit into the studio. He is officially our “behind the scenes” band mate and a dear friend. We couldn’t have done it without him. We also worked with Julia McConahay (SHESHE Band) of Deerwood Studios, and Lauren Homburg of Lo Marie Studios during tracking. They are also good friends, very talented and a pleasure to work with. I couldn’t be happier with how things went in the studio.
MI: Is there more of a back-story to the new TLCB C.D.‘s “Cocoon” reference?
LC: I’m glad you asked! “Back to the Cocoon” is a compilation of songs I wrote over the last year. In April of 2013, my former band mates and I went our separate ways, which was a trying time for me. I was facing a line-up change and contemplating a possible career change into nursing. This all lent itself to a period of tearing down and rebuilding, which is the symbolism the title of the album represents. I think it is a powerful metaphor for not only my efforts to redefine myself, but one we can all connect to in times of transition. I think we’ve all been there at one point or another.
MI: Describe the sound with your new band, and on the new C.D.?
LC: This album felt a lot like my first record, “Contradictory,” released in 2006. The focus was on the songs. Writing good lyrics, good parts, and great melodies. I won’t say there’s no “flashy” playing on the album, but it all fits—it’s cohesive and brought the best out of my songs. My music has evolved from record to record and I feel, as most musicians do, my latest work is the best representation of my abilities.
MI: Your first release was nine years ago?
LC: To date, this will be our fifth studio album. We have a sixth for sale that is a live show recorded in Pocatello, Idaho from 2008. All can be found at itunes and CDbaby! “Back to the Cocoon” just recorded really well and the production sounds great. We are excited to release it soon, but have a great show January 22nd at High Noon Saloon with The Westies. We’ll be promoting the release, and playing some of our new songs for the first time.
MI: Where do you find the inspiration for new songs?
LC: Songwriting is interesting for me because it comes and goes in waves. I can go two months without writing, and then I will spew out four songs in a month. I can feel it when it’s about to happen too. Let’s just chalk it up to, when the universe wants to speak, it will. There are many more experiences to be had and moments to reflect on. There is no shortage of material to work with, in my opinion.
MI: TLCB has been awarded for its hard work. What are you most proud of accomplishing?
LC: The 9 year lifespan of TLCB so far, equals six albums, 16 Madison Area Music Association Awards, one WAMI, and the opportunity to open for artists ranging from Gabe Dixon, to Night Ranger, Marc Broussard, the Gin Blossoms, and so many more. It’s been a whirlwind of experiences as a nationally touring musician. I’m proud of myself and the various players for their dedication and belief in the project. I am also humbled by the contributions each has made, not only furthering their own musical journey, but mine as well.
MI: What have you learned about yourself through all of this?
LC: Music has been a great lesson in life skills, organization, creativity, and perseverance. Nothing in this industry comes easily, and I believe luck is the crossroads of opportunity and perseverance. If you are doing all the right things, when opportunity knocks, you are in the right place at the right time. Music has taught me about who I am, my abilities, and how to create my own reality. It is valued across all walks of life, and is one thing that unites us instead of tearing us apart. A Beatle once said, “All you need is love.” I would add a great guitar.
MI: And what comes next for you?
LC: I’ll keep on writing and performing with my new band, also plan to continue playing regional acoustic shows, and I am now pursuing a career in nursing. Let’s just say the responsible adult in me would like to have a plan to fall back on, but the kid in me says it’s an excellent opportunity for me to have a career that allows flexibility to remain in touch with my passion. I have found great balance in my life between work and play, and I have reconnected with why I love music so much. It also feels good to let go of some of the unwanted financial pressures of having to provide myself a living with music, solely. I find myself to be healthier inside and out which has allowed my creative juices to flow. The last year and a half was a great learning experience and definitely a time of growth and reflection on how far I’ve actually come. I am confident I can be whatever it is I choose, and I don’t have to be afraid as long as I do my best.
MI: Some of this may surprise people, but what is something few know about you?
LC: Besides the fact I love the new Echosmith song, “Cool Kids?!” I don’t think I have anything else too embarrassing. I once missed jumping back on stage during Young MC’s “Bust a Move,” and landed on my face on the side of the stage. Let’s just say it wasn’t one of my best moments, but was clearly in sync with the title of the song! I was laughing so hard I almost couldn’t finish the song, but in my defense, it was a pretty high stage.
MI: Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
LC: Seriously, I want to express my deepest gratitude to all of the fans and friends we have made along the way. Some have donated generously to the cause, some have sewn us hats and made us gifts, some have housed us in our times of need, some have pioneered tours and radio performances, some have driven and flown hundreds of miles to see us play, and others have attended shows religiously and been following our adventures via facebook and our email list. I’m thankful for our families and their undying backing and know the importance of having cheerleaders. I’m so thankful for all of the love and support everyone has shown us and I know it will only continue. It is a blessing to feel loved and know you are appreciated. We all strive for that by the end of a lifetime, and if I went to tomorrow I don’t think I would have any regrets. Thank you to all of you and for your unconditional support.
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