As a youngster growing up in Carthage, North Carolina, Lucas Meachem had his sights set on a career in landscaping. As a teen, he had his own lawn mower, weed wacker and a green thumb. Plus, his family’s 10 acre property gave him plenty of opportunities to hone his skills. Then he discovered karaoke. Specifically, what Meachem found was the immediate gratification of an audience.
Meacham enjoyed performing people’s favorite songs and they appeared to love the way he sang them. With his trajectory change, Meachem began his musical pursuits in high school and landed at Appalachian State University, Eastman School of Music and Yale University. He was well on his way to establishing his name in opera, but he just could not stay out of the karaoke clubs. And that turned out to be a good thing.
One of his biggest breaks came after mezzo-soprano Susan Graham heard him sing at a karaoke club in Paris. After the baritone at the Lyric Opera of Chicago abandoned their production of “Iphigénie en Tauride,” Susan Graham said: I think I know a guy. The rest is history.
Meachem just concluded his stint as an Artist in Residence at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Department of Music. He will hold a recital Monday, March 4 at 8 p.m. at the Sunrise Theatre in Southern Pines.
Meachem joins host Frank Stasio to talk about his rise from karaoke singer to a Grammy award-winning baritone. Joined by his wife, pianist and opera coach Irina Meachem, he will sing his favorite songs from the worlds of opera and karaoke.
On the confidence singing gave him:
It all boiled down to the love of music … When I felt the energy from the crowd, when I heard them cheer, it gave me a lot of confidence because growing up I wasn’t always the most confident guy. I had acne. My teeth were crooked and I was little overweight. At the same time, I was also the student body president of my high school. I was a popular guy, but on the inside I needed that little burst.
On growing up in rural North Carolina:
I grew up in a very small town in Carthage, North Carolina. The paved road ended and the dirt road began, and at the end of that dirt road is where my house was. We loved it there. We loved living on the land and having a lot of acreage and just being able to run around and do whatever you want. But at the same time, the amount of opportunities to become a R&B superstar were few and far between where I grew up.
On not becoming complacent:
I feel like I’m just beginning everyday I wake up ... I’m of the opinion that if you think you’ve perfected your craft, there’s only one direction to go with your craft and that’s down. So I’m constantly a student of voice, a student of opera, and a student of the arts.
On getting his big break after an opera singer heard him perform at a karaoke bar:
I end up singing that evening karaoke in Paris with some friends. That eventually morphed into those friends recommending me for the biggest break I had in my opera career which was at the Chicago Lyric Opera. The question was: Excuse me, [acclaimed mezzo-soprano] Susan Graham, who do we hire to do this because the baritone just cancelled on us? She says: You know I just heard a guy in Paris. He was really good. His name is Lucas Meachem.