It was the biggest stage he’d ever performed on — a space that can hold over 24,000 people — but 26-year-old Lansing singer Lucas Holliday didn’t flinch at the Palace of Auburn Hills. He belted out the lyrics to Maxwell’s 1996 hit, “Ascension,” as Maxwell himself cheered him on and the crowd roared.
“That was crazy, thousands of people looking at you,” Holliday said. “You have to pick groups of the crowd out, because if you don’t — at least with me — I’m sitting there looking at the magnitude of all that, you know, people up in the rafters.”
Just a few weeks ago, Holliday, a graduate of Lansing Community College’s commercial music program and singer for local band Tell Yo Mama, was working his cashier shift at Dollar General when a customer, Sharee Nakia Robinson, shot a video of Holliday singing “Ascension” and posted it to Facebook. The video went viral, quickly racking up more than 600,000 views.
Then Maxwell caught wind of Holliday’s ability.
“First it was on Instagram and then on Twitter,” Holliday said. “He kept on saying ‘Oh he kills it’ and ‘Yeah this is great’ and eventually said ‘Find out where this guy is at, we’ll fly him out to Detroit.’”
But Holliday didn’t take the comments seriously until Nov. 21, when ABC’s “Good Morning America” invited him to talk about his nearly overnight rise to fame. During the segment, he received a surprise message from Maxwell inviting Holliday to join him on stage for his Detroit tour stop.
“I was hoping he would have said something in his comment like ‘This kid is great,’ and that would have been enough for me,” Holliday said. “But he came out with a whole spiel, and then I was like ‘OK, yeah. Let’s do it.’”
Just four days later, “everything happened” and Holliday was performing on the Palace stage with one of his favorite artists. Maxwell is one of the “trifecta” of artists Holliday listens to and sings on a regular basis.
“(Maxwell’s) ‘Urban Hang Suite’ is one I come back to every now and then,” he said, adding that D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar” and Donell Jones’ “Where I Wanna Be” are his other two go-to albums.
“These are old acts, but I want to bring that flavor into stuff I do now,” he said.
The timing of the viral video has been great for Tell Yo Mama, which released its first album, “Good Thang,” Nov. 12. Holliday describes the group’s sound as being a mashup of “funk, blues, soul, groove and jam machine.”
“It’s all high energy and crazy fun,” Holliday said.
The group recorded most the album in the studio of Lansing rock ‘n’ roll legend “Boogie” Bob Baldori, former keyboardist of the Woolies. Baldori has worked with several rock ‘n’ roll icons, including Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. According to Holliday, his input on the record was incredibly valuable.
“Bob is an uncle of Jacque (Baldori), who’s our other singer,” Holliday said. “She was talking with him about the band at one point, and he said, ‘I’ll have you come through here.’”
While the viral video has caught the attention of talent scouts, Holliday said he doesn’t plan on abandoning his band anytime soon.
“I want to be smart about where I want to go with music, and I do want all of us, all seven of us, to come along for the ride,” he said. “What happened here is my contribution to us. Hopefully we can continue with that.”
And don’t expect Holliday to rush out to Nashville or Hollywood anytime soon. He wants to grow his career, but with Lansing as his home base.
“I feel like I can do that from here,” he said. “There’s a lot of different people in the mix that I want to get involved with. I’m not trying to rush into some big deal and be a superstar just yet. I want to work, and I want to build.”