What do Canadian 20-somethings have in common with Jamaican dancehall music? Everything, apparently. Lucas DiPasquale went viral in 2014 with his acoustic mashup of Popcaan tracks and just recently he was at SXSW, performing with bands including The Posterz and The Lytics.
We caught up with Lucas in the lobby of absurdly luxurious Austin hotel The Driskill to get his side of the story.
Was this your first SXSW?
LD: Yes, it was incredible. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never been to Austin, never been to Texas. Honestly, other than Miami, I’ve never been to the southern United States. I’ve never really explored down here, and it’s just a different United States – different than the big metropolises like New York and Chicago, way different. I love that.
I got there on Tuesday. I had some good meals and did a few shows on Tuesday and Wednesday, and saw some great acts.
Did you see any bands that you thought were really good?
LD: I saw Anderson .Paak, Jake Bugg, both of them just incredible. Blew my mind. I saw Jack Garratt at a Playstation kind of event, he was…as a person who uses loops onstage, I have an acoustic guitar, and I try to do my own one-man kind of thing? He blew my mind. Just incredible.
You’ve been playing guitar since you were eight-years-old. What inspires an eight-year-old to pick up a guitar?
LD: I actually asked for drums. I always had rhythm, but my parents were like “Ehh…I don’t think so, let’s get you a guitar.”. So it kind of just happened, and then I didn’t really start playing until I was 14 or 15 years old, and then I just started singing all the indie and alternative music I was listening to, and some of the rap music, trying to play it on the guitar.
And then you had that viral video.
LD: I kind of just played whatever I wanted on guitar through high school, and then in my first year in university, at the end of it, I made a Popcaan cover and it did well. It started my career.
Did the idea for your video initially come as a joke that turned into a realization that you were actually really good?
LD: I didn’t take it as a joke, but I saw it as just a cover. I listen to that music, I wanted to show my buddies that, and I was just like “Yeah, this is cool.” It’s like singing anything else. And it did well, it got a lot of attention, a lot of people respected me for that more than they respected me for anything else. I like all music, so I was just happy that people dug it. I was flattered by it; dancehall people, Jamaican people, people who are invested in the culture really liked it.
You look at artists like Iggy Azalea, who are doing something in the same kind of vein as you, and they’ve had these intense knee-jerk reactions from the public. Was that something you were concerned about?
LD: It’s still something I’m concerned about. Cultural appropriation is a discussion, it’s a conversation that needs to be had, and it’s a real thing. When you’re not real about it, or you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, then people should be upset with you. But I covered the song because I love rap and dancehall music. So music that’s not necessarily made by, you know, my race…hip hop is born in New York, so it’s “not supposed to happen”, but through the internet and by other means of communication, the music got to me. And I love it. So I just sing whatever I sing.
Are there other artists in Toronto that you feel deserve more recognition?
LD: There’s a guy named John River who’s just an incredible rapper. I’m not sure how much you know about Toronto, but there’s a greater Toronto area; so he’s from Mississauga, I’m from a place called Markham, which is just 45 minutes outside Toronto. And I don’t know him or anything, and I just started listening to his music, but I think he’s gonna bust.
You were in college when you released your video. Did you leave school to pursue your career?
LD: Yeah, so after I made the video I got a few emails from music people and record labels, asking if I was serious about it, and I don’t really know if I was, but I took a few meetings. And then my manager now, I signed to him a year and a half ago, to his production company, and it kind of just started it.
Was it a hard decision to leave school?
LD: I really liked school. I was at Ryerson for radio and television arts, and I loved it. I still love it, I still go back and make videos and stuff. But I was also waiting to do this for a while, and I think I can do this well, and I really want to perform for everyone. It was hard in the sense of “Do I want to stop going to school?” But it was easy in the “Yes, I’d like to make music. Yes, I’d like the opportunity.”
Are you considering moving to a place like New York or Los Angeles to pursue your career, or do you think you have everything you need in Toronto?
LD: Currently? Absolutely, I think I have everything I need. The future changes, and you never really know what’s going to happen, but I love Toronto and as long as I have what I need, I’d stay there forever.
What are your favorite places in Toronto to listen to music?
LD: I listen to a lot of rap music, I listen to a lot of indie and alternative music, but it’s still established artists; they’re always playing at the ticketed places like Sound Academy. My aunt sings at this jazz bar called The Rex, and I just went there the other day and I love being there.
You just released your first EP in October.
LD: There are four songs with a live version of one of them, so five tracks. That was crazy for me. It felt like my career was leading up to that, and it happened, and I was like, “Wow.”
Do you have a song from there you enjoy performing the most?
LD: I think “Come Home” is a lot of fun to play when I’m not in Toronto, because it’s about going home to Toronto and I really feel it when I’m playing it.
I’m going to be releasing a new album, probably this summer, and there’s a song called “Pager” that I’m going to start working on. It’s about my family, and I always play it in my sets. Every time I’m singing about my grandpa, and my mom and dad, I really feel it. So that’s probably my favorite song.
Do you find you’re often inspired by your family?
LD: I’m close with my family. They’re so supportive, and they’re different. I’ve been exploring the world and meeting new people, and you meet such lovely people most of the time, and you meet some people who just aren’t like your family. You realize you have really good parents and I have two brothers, they’re twins, and they’re all really good people. So you realize how blessed you are when you start exploring people and realizing what you had and what other people had and it’s cool.