British singer-songwriter Lucy Rose launched her second record Work It Out last summer and this fall she toured in Europe. A Bit of Pop Music had a chat with her about the making of the album, the word ‘success’, how to deal with people who want to make you ‘cool’ and what aspect in Lucy’s life is more important than music!
How did the way you worked on your second album differ from what you did on the first?
My first album was recorded with no expectations and was built from songs I wrote in my bedroom. I was unsigned at the time and had to beg for favours to get it done. It was recorded in my parents’ living room. It was a difficult process, but at the same time empowering and fulfilling. For the second record most of the writing was just effortless and fun. I was on the road, had a label who helped me to perform in the States and I had an album out so for the first time in my life I was in a place that I always wanted to be.
Where there any tough periods in this recording process as well?
For Work It Out I was dealing with a label and they were deciding when my music would come out and in the first meetings they thought the songs weren’t really there yet, so that was hard for me to accept. I had to go home and try really hard to bring out the best in myself.
How did you deal with that?
(laughing) I bought a dog! The thing is, you feel less weird walking on your own in the park when you have a dog by your side and I needed these walks to get my mind off my work. I could sit with my guitar for eight hours and nothing would happen and I accepted that this is the way it works.
Did you feel more pressure as people did have expectations this time around?
The people who listened to my first album seemed to have the deepest connection to the emotional songs like ‘Bikes’ and on the second album I tried for example a heavier sound for ‘Cover Up’ and the more electronic and carefree ‘Our Eyes’. It’s a different direction and I didn’t want to give the listeners the feeling I was letting them down, but I also had to follow my musical heart that did not want to write the same kind of songs again.
You said earlier that making a living as a musician was all you wanted. Is it everything you were hoping for?
I didn’t know what to expect. I absolutely love what I am doing. I feel lucky and grateful to have my dream job, but at the same time it gives me the feeling I never have the right to moan about anything at all! (laughs) That is sometimes frustrating because even though I am over the moon with the way I live, there are hard parts, like with every job.
What does frustrate you in this job?
(thinks for a while) The word ‘success’ probably. As a person and an artist I feel very successful because I get to do what I love, but I don’t crave to be the next big pop star or best musician in the world. I think in the music industry ‘success’ is narrowed down to what only three or four acts can achieve a year. The heads of the rest of us are just above water surviving. We are raised in a society telling us that everyone can achieve anything, but in reality not everybody is able to do what they love. The people who miss out on their goals or dream job then think they must have done something wrong. I try to ignore that and I feel successful playing a small venue. I go back and forth between me being happy about what I have achieved and others telling me I haven’t sold enough records.
“Anyone can call me unsuccessful because I did not make enough money, but if my music has helped out someone to feel better, for me that is successful. To have a positive impact on somebody’s life through music is all I care about.”
Would you say the discourse around popular music is focused too much on sales and money?
The thing is that we are all working in a business and so it makes sense that success is expressed in terms of money. Anyone can call me unsuccessful because I did not make enough money, but if my music has helped out someone to feel better, for me that is successful. To have a positive impact on somebody’s life through music is all I care about. The people who thank me after a show or write a letter have no idea how much impact they have on me, because that is why I love what I am doing.
Is there any music that helped you through hard moments in the past few years?
Definitely British artist Scott Matthews. He releases brilliant albums and is an inspiring artist to me. He mainly plays intimate venues and he is my favourite artist. I don’t like someone more because they have sold a million records. That is not how I rate my music. He has affected me more greatly than anyone else and that is what counts. I feel grateful that he is still recording! I also listen a lot to Lana Del Rey’s new record. Some of her lyrics I find so descriptive in a beautiful way. She can paint a whole picture with her words.
She sure can! I just have to ask you. You recorded an eye catching video for first single ‘Our Eyes’ with edible clothes and animals. Why?
We discussed what the first video should be and stupid conversations of what I was going to wear came up. I couldn’t handle all the image related nonsense around the ‘new Lucy’ and them saying “Oh my god, she has got to look so cool”. They thought I needed to be more sexy and likeable for people to like my songs better. I was like; I am absolutely not doing this!
So you were like: I’m going to wear some food instead?
Yeah I wanted to look stupid and dressed up in chips and dog biscuits. I did the exact opposite as I did not want to enter that world. It is something weird that people didn’t see before and I hope it makes them laugh.
What was the reaction of the people who wanted to make you ‘cool and sexy’?
I think they got to a point where they were so irritated by me, they were fine with the script that said I was going to be attacked by dogs! (laughs)
Amazing! You wrote a song called ‘Shelter’. What brings you shelter on a rough day?
Definitely my loved ones. For a long time I genuinely thought that music was the most important thing in my life. It turns out that music indeed makes me extremely happy, but that is not the thing that keeps me satisfied when I go home. That is when you need people around you that you deeply care about. Nurturing these relationships is more important than anything else, even your own dreams and aspirations.