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From Law Man To Piano Man: Lucas Jack Connects With His True Passion

Courtesy photo

A few years ago bankruptcy attorney Lucas Jack discovered that law wasn’t his real calling and decided to pursue his true passion—music.

When attorney-turned-songwriter Lucas Jack sat down to write material for his latest album, Before I Forget, he was faced with an unusual task. He had to learn to write songs all over again—mostly at the insistence of his producer, Mack Damon.

Credit Courtesy photo

“He didn’t like any of the songs I brought him. He said, ‘I think you need to write new songs that are pop friendly.' I was writing songs that were five or six minutes long, and they had five, six, seven verses—all kinds of weird instrumental stuff in the middle of them," Jack says. "He said, ‘Look, you need to cut out all the fat and maybe start over.’ So, I just wrote a whole bunch of new songs under his guidance. He said, ‘Make ‘em between three and four minutes. He really helped me to become a better songwriter.”

He admits that working with Damon wasn’t always easy but his background in law prepared him for some of the more heated arguments.

“I fought with him a lot on tons of stuff but I think iron sharpens iron, and we fought and fought and fought over a lot of stuff," he says. "But I really didn’t ever take it personally. I just wanted the songs to be better. So, it wasn’t really that difficult for me, especially coming from a background of being an attorney—that’s a pretty confrontational environment to be in all the time. Everybody’s arguing with each other constantly.”

Working in this new pared-down style still provided its challenges, such as on the album’s opening tune “You Belong To The City Now.”

“That song had much simpler chords than I was used to writing," Jack says. "And that, to me, was a very poppy sound that I didn’t used to write with but that’s what we were going for. "I sat there at the piano for hours and hours and hours and tried to think, ‘What would this piano intro sound like if it were something I might hear on the radio.’”

This new style didn’t just require Jack to consider simpler chord structures. He also had to more carefully choose his words for lyrics.

“I used to have an unbelievable number of internal rhymes and alliterations," Jack says. "I was just sort of acrobatic and I had to really simplify that. There still is a lot of internal rhyming and wordplay and stuff like because I really do enjoy smart lyrics or interesting rhymes, but I had to cut most of that out and I think it makes for a better song.”

It just doesn't feel right to me, sitting at a keyboard...you have to see the guy's ankles. It just looks so much cooler to have a piano. There's nothing more lame than seeing 'man ankles.'

And better became a word that Jack returned to several times throughout the recording of the album, including on the song “Go,” a tune that came about at producer Mack Damon’s insistence.

“We were sitting around in the studio and he said, ‘You know, we need some more up-tempo songs. We need some fun stuff, we need some summery kind of songs. We need a song like that.’ So I tried and tried to write a song like that," Jack says. "I’d had the opening riff for a long time but never knew what to do with it. So I decided to write a song with a chant in it, that ‘Gooooo.’

“And then I moved it over from piano to a Wurlitzer sound," he says. "That really made it into more of a funky sounding song. Then we added a bass line that was funky, and it turned into a funky, light-hearted summery kind of song.”

Jack is currently supporting the album with a run of dates through the Midwest with his brand of upright piano rock. True to the name he dreamed up for his brand of music, it features Jack playing piano—a piano that he brings with him to each city. That’s not the easiest instrument to bring to a gig.

“It’s extremely heavy. But it’s part of our show," Jack says. "I want to bring back an organic sound of someone playing a real piano and someone playing a real bass and someone playing real drums. Also, it just doesn’t feel right to me, sitting at a keyboard. First of all it’s kind of lame to look at because you have all of these wires sticking out the back of what is essentially just a big computer with keys. Then you have to see the guy’s ankles. It just looks so much cooler to have a piano. There’s nothing more lame than seeing 'man ankles.'”

Lucas Jack performs this Thursday evening at Barleycorn’s.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.