For most of his adulthood, the Saskatchewan-born and newly Ontario-based singer-songwriter lived out of a suitcase, initially as a member of alternative-leaning bands, and later as an alt-folk turned sombre-country solo artist. That nomadic lifestyle was the realization of a dream. From the easygoing love letter to Canada that was “Everywhere a Man Can Be” to the ghostly “South Carolina Murder Ballad”, his last record, 2016’s Everywhere a Man Can Be, was loaded with references to being on the road.
It also captures a time when Lucky got word that he was going to be bringing another human being into the world, with “Sell All You Have” chronicling his leaving the Prairies for Orillia to start a new, more domestic chapter in his life.
“In the last four-and-a-half years I’ve ventured into the realm of being a father,” Lucky says from his home in Orillia. “It’s been a bit of a juggling act, trying to figure out how to be a good parent, making sure you’re home for the birthdays and important moments, but also realizing that the only way you can make a living as a musician these days is being on the road.”
One of the spinoffs of the wonderful chaos is that it’s helped make him more focused.
“It has changed my perspective—honestly, it’s kind of lit a bit of a fire under my ass over the past four years,” Lucky says. “It’s made me want to work harder, not necessarily more, but to try and be a little more wise with how I use my time.”
When he started playing solo in his early 20s, Lucky was heavily influenced by the grey-skies folk of artists like Iron & Wine, which coloured his monochromatic 2012 full-length, Saskatchewan.
Everywhere a Man Can Be veered towards beautifully downcast alt-country. That had everything to do with Lucky discovering the great Townes Van Zandt.
“He’s like the gateway drug,” he says. “As soon as you hear him, you realize there’s a whole world behind that door. Townes Van Zandt was the snake that bit me that sent me down that path. He’s responsible for the journey from folk music to whatever you want to call what I’m doing now.”
The one constant running through his work is that Lucky sounds old before his time. Don’t expect that to change on his untitled next album, a stripped-down affair that’s recorded and ready to roll out once all the scheduling logistics are worked out. Lucky says the way he sings isn’t an affectation; he sounded that way long before the kids arrived and sleep became a fond memory.
“I’ve always felt like an old soul,” he says pensively, “and I’ve always hung out with older people. It’s just my nature, and I don’t know what that is, honestly. But it definitely comes through in the songs.”
The Zachary Lucky Trio plays the Mission Folk Music Festival on July 28. For more information and to buy tickets, go to the website.