Guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist

Sep 14th, 2018 | By | Category: Connecting With, On The Cover

Lucas Haneman came into the world against all odds. Little did his parents, Wayne and Darcy, know, not only would he survive, but he would go on to become become a successful musican. In January of 2018, Lucas and his band, The Lucas Haneman Express, represented Ottawa at the International Blues Challenge in  Memphis, finishing in the top 40 of almost 250 competing bands.

Readers who are fans of Mary Cook will recognize the name Haneman. Lucas is the grandson of Mary’s brother Emerson, who’s exploits, growing up in ‘30s, she loves to share with readers.

Mary Cook talked with Lucas about his amazing survival, and his life in the music world.

Y@H:  You were born in a hospital in Farmington, Connecticut very premature and weighing not much more than a pound of butter and with severe visual challenges.  First of all, tell us about the story you were told by your parents about your birth.

LH: I was 2.5 months premature.  My parents tell me it was a fairly touch and go situation, as my lungs collapsed a few times within the first couple of weeks of being alive.  With a 40% chance of surviving, I was put into an incubator until the age of about six months, with trips here and there to have operations done on my eyes. I’m told that I was born with two completely detached retinas, but when I was two weeks old, they managed to partially reattach the right one via an experimental procedure called “Open Sky surgery”.

I don’t take my vision situation too seriously. In fact, I poke fun at it whenever possible.  I don’t mean to sound trite in saying that, I just think it’s better to make light of unique situations instead of wallowing in some sort of self-pity party.  I’m simply glad to be alive and to have the small amount of vision I do have.  I always tell people to try covering your left eye with one of your hands, then squint heavily with the other, and you’ll probably be seeing about the way that I do.

Y@H: How old were you when you became interested in the guitar?

LH: There is a picture of my father playing guitar, and in this picture you see a 9-month-old version of me hanging off his shoulder, trying unsuccessfully to reach the strings, but very determined none the less.  My parents tell me that they can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in the guitar.  As a very young kid, I’d make anything a guitar … tennis rackets,  paper towel rolls and rubber bands, cardboard cutouts, and then toy guitars when I turned three.  I finally got a ukulele when I was five, then my first real guitar (a quarter-sized Degas nylon string) on my sixth birthday.  I was over the moon excited!  From there it became a process of trading, then buying slightly bigger guitars as I grew, although thankfully, I still have that first guitar in my closet.

Y@H: Without vision, how did you learn to manage scales, and even which strings were which?

LH: At a very early age my father helped me greatly, after all it was because of him that I wanted to play the instrument so desperately in the first place.

In general, I started off learning by ear after my father showed me the first five or six chords that every guitarist should know (G/A/C/D/E&F).  I’d listen to songs from my parents CD collection, or even songs on TV, and try to figure them out by ear, using the small amount of vision I had to aid me when applicable.

I remember being infatuated with Eric Clapton’s Unplugged album so much so, that I wore out two cassette copies of it! My parents had to resort to buying me two copies of the CD, as the first one got scratched up through overuse.  Eventually, over a period of a few years, I memorized every song and every note of every solo on that CD.

My parents also used to record  the PBS show Austin City Limits every Saturday night.  On Sunday morning I’d be up bright and early, guitar in hand, standing right next to the television screen to try to figure out anything I could that these great blues, folk and country musicians were playing.

At the age of 8 my parents sent me to my first guitar teacher named June.  She helped me learn how to finger pick and she taught me some great songs.  After a while, June told me I should find a different teacher because I wanted to work on styles like blues and rock.  My parents saw an article in the Kanata Courier about  a guitar teacher by the name of Wayne Eagles who was, and still is, a professor at Carleton University.  Wayne told my father that he didn’t usually take on young students, but my dad reassured Wayne that I was a serious little kid, and that I wasn’t going to waste his time.  The following Wednesday, I went to Mr. Eagles’ house for my first lesson, and I took lessons from him right until the week before I moved away to Montreal to study jazz at Concordia University when I was 19.  He was an amazing teacher, and taught me all the basics (and more) of everything I know.  He not only taught me blues, but also taught me classic rock, funk, country, finger-style acoustic, traditional jazz and fusion music.  From age 13 until 19, I was mainly working on jazz and fusion with him, which really helped my ears get stronger.  Wayne taught me most of the chords, as well as all the major, minor, pentatonic scales and all the modes.

Y@H: Your father was a great help to you in mastering the guitar, how did he fit into what you were trying to do in music?

LH: My father helped me initially in learning the names of the strings, the names of all the basic chords, as well as how to play them.  My father is the reason why I play.  He has a pretty big repertoire of classic rock and folk songs that he can sing and play (although he’s very modest and doesn’t want to admit that he’s a pretty good all-around player).  I think he really helped my ear develop as well.  When I was young he taught me many songs, and when I was older he would just start playing tunes, so I’d have to figure out how to play something that would fit in.  We jammed together on a weekly basis when I was growing up, sometimes multiple times a week for at least an hour each time.  In fact, my step-grandfather Chuck, was a fairly good fiddle and guitar player too, and he taught me songs in much the same fashion when I was young.  They’d both be brutally honest with me, and would always make me feel that I had a lot of work to do to get better.  This attitude has stuck with me after all these years.

Y@H: You went to university in Montreal, and traveled alone by bus. I understand you often refused to even carry your white cane.  Where did this severe independence come from?

LH: I studied Music at Concordia University, and had a really fantastic time during my studies there.  The city is full of vibrant musical talent, and many different cultures as well. I made many friends in university, and really learned a lot about performing and musical maturity while I was there.

Initially, making the move to Montreal was a big change for me.  One, I was out of my parent’s house for the first time; two, I was meeting all kinds of new people, and three it forced me to be independent, and responsible for myself in a whole new way.  As a kid and teenager I was staunchly and fiercely independent. My parents never made my “disability” seem like a big deal to them, so as a result, it was never a big deal to me. I’d ridden a bike as a kid (sometimes successfully, and sometimes with many funny scars as a by-product). My brother and I would go hiking, climbing things, jumping off other things, and just acting crazy like most kids.  When I got to high school I’d walk around with my friends and I completely refused to use my cane.

When I was about to move to Montreal, my parents told me that I’d have to start actually properly using my white cane.  At first I didn’t get it, but when I moved to Montreal I completely understood.  Montreal’s a high-paced city with cars, buses, and a very advanced Metro system.  Using the cane allowed me to be completely independent any time of the day in that city.

Y@H: It didn’t take long for you to become involved in the concert scene in the Nation’s Capital. Do you remember your first performance?

LH: I’ve been fortunate to be involved in Ottawa’s live music scene for a long time now. My first performance was at a grade 1 talent show. My friends and I dressed up as a fake Peter, Paul and Mary, and we played Puff The Magic Dragon.  I stood in the middle with my guitar and we all huddled around one microphone.

Y@H: Since then, what have been a few of the most memorable gigs you performed in?

LH: Some of the most memorable of my life thus far have been opening for the late great Jeff Healey, sharing the stage with the late great blues legend James Cotton, performing with Canadian Jazz great Guido Basso at the Governor General’s Residence, performing with the great jazz trombonist Curtis Fuller and the late great David Fathead Newman (who used to play saxophone with Ray Charles), opening for blues legend Robert Cray last summer, and opening for the Dave Matthews Band (one of my all-time favorite bands) this summer at the Ottawa RBC Blues Fest.

Y@H: You did group performing, and in fact, isn’t that how you met your wife Megan Laurence, who is an accomplished musician in her own right?

LH: I’ve been performing in groups quite regularly since I was 13.  At times I made the common musician mistake of playing in eight or so bands at once, so I got used to playing many different styles of music.  In late 2013, I made a move towards being a solo artist, and having my own band –  The Lucas Haneman Express.  Just after making that move, I took a trip to Nashville and New Orleans and came back in early 2014 feeling very inspired and optimistic about the future.  It’s funny how life works out.  In February 2014, I was doing a gig at a little pub in Ottawa, and the drummer was having a singer he knew out to play a couple of songs with us.  This singer was my now wife, Megan Laurence.  We hit it off really well, started hanging out, and started officially dating in April of that year.  I’m so blessed to have a partner who not only understands and encourages me as a musician, but who is in the business herself.  I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to do it any other way.  Megan’s an absolutely amazing human being in every sense.  She’s encouraged me to be a front man, to be as successful as I can be, and to keep my head up when the unorthodox business of being a full-time musician and band leader seems to be pulling me in all kinds of directions at once.  Megan performs as a vocalist in the Express, and she’s also helped me be a much better singer than I’d otherwise be.

Y@H: Has your music been enough to financially sustain you and your family?

LH: Megan and I have both been extremely lucky to never have had a normal 9 to 5 job.  We’ve both sustained ourselves on our teaching work (Megan teaches vocal, and I teach guitar), as well as performing.  When we combine the two, we’re both making our livings as full-time musicians, and this allows us to pay our mortgage, bills and support our beautiful 10-month-old baby Kensley.  We’re extremely lucky, as I have too many very talented musician friends who struggle to make ends meet.

Y@H: What lies ahead for Lucas and Megan?

LH: In late 2018, or early 2019 the Lucas Haneman Express: myself on vocals and guitar, along with Megan (vocals), Martin Newman (bass), and Jeff Asselin (drums) will be releasing our 3rd studio album Catch The Westbound.  We’ve been working with acclaimed producer Brian Moncarz (Our Lady Peace, The Trews) out of Toronto, and we couldn’t be more excited about the way the album sounds from front to back.  It’s our most robust, most artistic, yet most commercially viable statement so far, and we can’t wait for people to hear it.

We plan to be traveling a little further from home again in the coming months and year to promote the new release, so please stay tuned to see us in a town or city near you! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube or our website www.lhexpress.ca

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