It’s surprising that Canada’s highways don’t have permanent tire treads ground into them by Saskatoon folk artist Zachary Lucky. The young 22-year old musician has been a steady touring machine since 2009 and slowly gaining a larger and larger following all across the country. After putting in time with pop acts Tuxedo Mask and We Were Lovers, Lucky decided to go solo and hit the road hard. “I wanted to try something on my own, but I never thought I was going to end up as a folkie,” he confesses. Throughout 2010, Lucky played 150 shows across Canada and spent almost eight months away from his native Saskatoon taking time to tour and record on his own as well as with other artists.
Career musicians seem to understand the importance of being away from their hometown so as to reach audiences they normally otherwise would not reach. Lucky seems to be well aware of this. “I grew up watching hardcore bands with extreme work ethic who would hit the road for three or four months at a time and they would play every night! That style of touring is just what I was introduced to. I didn’t initially realize that, as a folk musician, you can just go out on tour for a couple weeks, come home, then go out for another couple weeks.” This model of constant touring and unceasing invested time and effort seems to have moulded the young musician’s vigour and also perhaps why, surprisingly, a large portion of Saskatoon’s music scene has not been introduced to his rugged, yet gentle roots/folk sound. “Yeah, I tour a lot, so when I’m home, I like to lay low.”
Zachary is not the only member of the Lucky family to perform on the road. His grandfather, Smiling Johnnie Lucky, was a country & western musician based out of central Saskatchewan who released several LPs, hosted jamborees, and toured all over Canada for almost 50 years! “He wasn’t incredibly well-known outside of specific dance hall circles, but he had some specific claims to fame,” notes Lucky. “He was the first musician to ever play gigs in the Arctic Circle and also the first artist to do extensive tours of northern Aboriginal reserves. It’s quite an honour for me to come from that lineage and to have sat at the knee of such a great, hard-working musician.” When Smiling Johnnie suffered his first stroke in 2009 while Zachary was on tour, Lucky realized his time to be with his grandfather was limited, and so spent a large amount of time at the family homestead before Smiling Johnnie died a few months later on June 25, 2010. When asked how important it was to have those remaining months with his grandfather, Lucky acknowledged, “He was the only other person in my family who was familiar with what I’m trying to accomplish and the path I’m on.” Laughing, Lucky also admits that his grandfather would often encourage him to choose a different profession. “He had a very biased and perhaps skewed view of the Canadian music industry. When he was more active on the tour circuit in his younger years, it was strictly the American industry that made money from music and dictated how things played out in Canada. I don’t think he had ever accepted the fact that Canada is now at a point where festival promoters in Europe are booking musicians based on the fact that they’re a Canadian artist. Canadian musicians are now viable exports and the world is taking notice of the great music coming out of this country.”
Beginning May 25, Lucky is heading out on the road with a backing band named after Smiling Johnnie’s own group, The Prairie Pals. Zachary Lucky & His Prairie Pals will spend the next five weeks touring east, including a special stop at Toronto music festival North by Northeast. “Hopefully people will come out and enjoy it. My band is comprised of some good friends and musicians who have helped form my songs into great new renditions.” Along with future plans to release a 7” in the fall and a new full-length in early 2012, old fans and the recently-converted alike can be rest assured that this bearded band leader won’t be slowing down any time soon.
Zachary Lucky & His Prairie Pals will be kicking off their eastern tour at Jale (backroom of Cafe Sola) on Wednesday, May 25. Lucky’s songs are available for purchase on iTunes and BandCamp. Physical albums are available at the Vinyl Diner in Saskatoon.