Lucy Rose by Paul Woods

Interview: Lucy Rose

Lucy Rose is a frequent visitor to our shores, having grown up in Warwickshire, and now living in London. She thrilled Belfast during the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival late last Spring, she captured the hearts of a packed Empire Music Hall in the Autumn and tomorrow night she’ll be in the Mandela Hall supporting City and Colour. Our resident Lucy Rose fan, Paul Woods, asked the talented singer-songwriter a few searching questions.

Lucy Rose by Paul Woods, at the Empire Music Hall.
Lucy Rose by Paul Woods, at the Empire Music Hall.

Welcome back to Belfast, Lucy! You’ve been here a lot in the last year or so… what are your impressions of the city, and the Northern Irish people?
Really good, it’s a beautiful place and the people have always been super friendly. Definitely got no complaints or I wouldn’t want to keep coming back. I’ve actually made some friends now with people who’ve come to gigs so have some local information about where’s good to go.

Now, you’ve done lots of interviews (I watched at least 25 on Youtube!) and in all of them you come across as very down-to-earth and very humble. Do you think that is why you have gathered such a following across the globe, because ‘everyday’ people can relate to you? Because you express in words what others cannot?
Maybe, it’s really hard to try understand any of it. I hope that people can relate to me and my songs as its means I’m not alone in the feelings I’m feeling when I write them. For me talking to and meeting people who’ve liked or connected to my music is what makes me want to continue, as it gives all of it purpose.

You’ve spoken about songwriting, and the dichotomy of it being a gift, but also a burden, with the constant pressure to create. Do you think you’ll ever get tired of it?
I’m sure it will be nice to reach a point in my life where I retire from songwriting as yes, it can be a burden. When the moment is there you have to take it. If that means cancelling all plans then that’s what you do. It does feel very self-centred sometimes, but I think it’s due to my lack of understanding how it all comes about. It still remains a total mystery to me.

You write your own songs… would you ever write for someone else? And can you envision ever co-writing a song?
I’m not sure co-writing is for me; well definitely not for now. I find songwriting an extremely personal experience which I’m not inclined to share. I mean I would obviously love to write a song with Feist as she’s my hero but in all honestly it’s more down to whether I would be able to perform in that environment. I’m not sure if pressure and giving yourself a day to write a song works for me.

You started writing fairly early in your life… do you worry about running out of experiences to write about? Worry about ‘plateauing’?
Haha now you’ve said that, yes. At the moment I’m still growing as a person and learning a lot about the world and what my views are on it all so don’t feel like there’s a lack of material, more that there are so many songs nowadays that it’s hard to describe that feeling in a way it’s not been described before.

You’ve stated that you’ve been inspired by a lot of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Phil Collins growing up… do you listen to modern music? Who are you listening to at the moment?
Yes, I do listen to modern music, I love Sufjan Stevens‘ new record, “Carrie & Lowell“, Nadia Reid, Logic, Ghostpoet, Wilco, Ben Folds, Ane Brun, all sorts really.

Do you go to gigs yourself, when you have time?
It really is one of my favourite things to do, I love going to gigs. Normally on our days off on tour we’ll try go see a gig. We’ve seen SOAK, The Staves and plenty more while we’ve been on the road. Very inspiring to see live music.

Lucy Rose by Paul Woods, at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.
Lucy Rose by Paul Woods, at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

You’re part of a very strong generation of young, British, female singer-songwriters… Gabrielle Aplin, Laura Marling, Birdy, Ellie Goulding, Rae Morris, Lianne La Havas, Rachel Sermanni… do you compare yourself to your contemporaries?
I really try not to, I don’t think it’s too healthy to compare and definitely isn’t to compete. I’m just happy so many female musicians are getting their music out there, it’s a very exciting time. And lucky for me I’ve met nearly all of the above and they are all LOVELY!

Do you interact with them, is there a mutual support there? I know you and Rae became good friends from your early days of gigging around Camden, etc.
Rae is actually my sister-in-law, so she’s family and a hugely important person in my life. I remember meeting Lianne years ago when we both played a gig at the Slaughtered Lamb [in London] and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. And recently I got to collaborate with both Gabrielle Aplin and Rachel Sermanni on Dermot O’Leary’s show when we sang three Christmas songs, which was so much fun.

You’ve said that early in your career you had ‘no luck’ and spent 5 or 6 years struggling to find recognition and success. Was there a moment when you realised that you’d ‘made it’? Do you consider that you’ve ‘made it’?
I don’t consider that I’ve made it but now I can live off being a musician which is a huge luxury. Before that I was always working in bars, clothes shops and doing music whenever I had free time. But none of it would have happened without so many people’s support, coming to shows, making little acoustic videos. After we had recorded the first record [“Like I Used To”] and completed it was only then that some record labels showed interest.

What advice would you give to someone who is in the same situation that you were in, shuttling around the London small gig scene with no sign of a break?
I really have no idea. My story is my advice but I’m sure there are so many ways are trying to do music. For me the most important thing, and it still is to this day, are the songs. Write the best songs you can, never settle for a few good ones and feel content, always keep pushing yourself to write better and better songs, ’cause that’s all people want really.

You’re a voracious traveller… from what I can see you’ve been on the road for a long time now, with only a couple of short breaks, and shortly you’ll be heading off to India and then hopefully to Central & South America in May… do you enjoy travelling? What’s the best part of it all for you?
Yes I love travelling, the excitement of being in a different place everyday, meeting new people, seeing new things. I guess that’s why everyone loves to travel. I’ve never been in India or South America so I thought I should give it a go and see what happens.

Now that you’re travelling more widely, do you think you will start incorporating musical influences from those places into your music? Your last album was full of song lyrics inspired by places… can we expect some sitar on the next album?!
Gosh, again I’m not sure, I don’t want to cross it out as an option, so who knows! At the moment album three is shaping up and I’m really happy about how the songs are sounding. I think more than the sounds I’m hoping the places I’ll visit will inspire me to write great lyrics, get perspective on what’s important.

What plans do you have for your music? “Like I Used To” had a very ‘acoustic’ sound, for want of a better word. “Work It Out” was more electric and more produced… what can we expect next? Or have you found your sound now?
That’s for me to work out but I don’t think it’ll be like either of the other albums.

Finally, when can we expect to see you back in Northern Ireland? Feel free to break any exclusive news with us :)
Haha, I wish I had some exciting exclusive news but for now I don’t think I’ll be back until I have another album under my belt.

Lucy Rose supports City and Colour on Tuesday 23rd February 2016. A few final tickets are still available.