Interview: Lucy Rose

Interview with Lucy Rose

Lucy Rose


She’s fulfilled her vocal obligations for Bombay Bicycle Club, so singer-songwriter Lucy Rose is now preparing for world domination on her own terms; initially through the medium of travelling up and down the same motorway... We climbed into her tour van for a catch-up.

Questions and answers

We’re in Brighton: you played Newcastle last night. Who books your tour itinerary?

I don’t know: I want to kill them! We drove from London to Newcastle yesterday in this van. Got there, did the show and drove to Sheffield and arrived at an awful hotel at the side of the motorway at 2am, and then got up at 8am to get here. Everybody’s got cabin fever!

Is this your first time at The Great Escape?

I played two shows here last year and it was one of my highlights: it was really, really good. I’m really worried that nobody will come tonight, but last year loads of people came to both shows when they were only a few hours apart. I didn’t know that we were headlining tonight until an hour ago.

How do you feel towards the crowd at festivals like this, rather than the audiences at your own shows?

I haven’t done very many of my own headline shows. I’ve done lots of supports and I’ve been building up in London, but I’ve not had the chance to do too much touring in the UK yet. Festivals are scary... everybody is popping from one place to the other. I’ve looked out five minutes before I’m due on stage and there’s three people standing in the room and it’s like, “Oh my God... This is going to be so bad!” And then when you eventually go on, it’s fine.

At festivals people just feel a bit more up for it, but at the same time you’ve got to win over quite a lot of people who are just checking you out and who don’t actually love you and your songs.

So is it a full-band show tonight?

Yes. A lot of people know me from the acoustic sessions on the internet, but I’ve never wanted to be an “acoustic singer-songwriter artist”. I’ve always wanted to have this much bigger sound and have a band and it takes a long time to find the right musicians to work with. I have all these ideas and all the parts in my mind and being able to hear them is one of the best things.

It’s frustrating writing these new songs that are much fuller but harder to play acoustically the way I want them to, so playing acoustic sessions limits me to playing the same acoustic songs all the time.

It’s late in the weekend, but are you hoping to see anybody else at The Great Escape?

I hope so, though somebody has ripped the Saturday page from the itinerary in the venue. My sound engineer also does the sound for Palma Violets, so I said I’d go and watch with him.

You’ve been touring a lot with Bombay Bicycle Club lately. Are the two projects quite separate in your mind? Has your involvement been influencing you?

I’ve been working and touring with them for two and a half years, and I think they’re amazing so I’m sure it has been influencing me in many ways. But they’re totally separate things. I don’t have any creative input in Bombay Bicycle Club: Jack’s written everything and we work on what works with my vocal range. I love being part of that, but for me creating something is the thing that makes me truly happy and they’re two different things.

What have you been listening to recently?

Feist’s album Metals, and I really love The Maccabees’ new album, Given To The Wild. They’re both really great. I dip into the old classics all the time: I’ve just been rediscovering Grace by Jeff Buckley. I used to love it as a kid, but since recording my album and learning more musically I’ve returned to it and some of the songs – like ‘Lilac Wine’ – are just so beautiful. And obviously you can’t go wrong with Neil Young at any point.

Which Neil Young album would you recommend?

There are a lot of songs that I love from Harvest.... Sorry, some of my band are just going without me. That’s it: it’s over. The dream is over.

Oh dear. So now it’s a solo show?!

It is, I’m afraid... But I would go with On The Beach. It’s small and concise. And everyone in the world’s heard Joni Mitchell’s Blue, I imagine. It’s the greatest album of all time.

Do you emulate Joni and Neil as songwriters?

I don’t try and copy anyone. I really want to do something as original as possible, if that’s possible. There’s so much music available, it feels like everything has already been done, but I like to think that what I do is unique in a way. It might not be, but I have a lot of ideas for the next album already.

Is the first album finished, then?

Yes. I’ve just signed a deal and it will be out in September. I honestly thought I was going to be unsigned for the rest of my life: for so many years, no one understood me. It’s easy to be seen as a “girl singer-songwriter”, which I was pushing so hard against. So I thought screw it and started recording this album, thinking, “Nobody’s backing it, nobody’s into it”. We had no money, so it was recorded at my parents’ house.

I recorded all these new songs and new ideas. It was only by showing people the finished product that I was able to say, “This is the album. This is who I am. This is what I want it to be. If you get it: great.” I’m not the kind of artist who can be moulded. I’m so set on the artist that I want to be, it was the only way it could have worked.

So it sounds like this debut album has been a long time in the making?

Some of the songs are two/three years old. I feel more detached from the older songs, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not good or that they don’t mean something to me. I just need to get them out, and I just want this album to be an introduction to who I’ve been over the last two years.

As a performer do you think that you’re getting more confident? ‘Red Face’ is so-called because you felt shy about performing it live, right?

When I first play a song to somebody, I get quite embarrassed. You create something out of nothing in your bedroom that means something to you and you really like it. And all my lyrics have to be really personal. And then you have to play it to somebody and let it be judged, and it will be judged. Immediately.

All the songs are personal, and I have found it hard to make myself perform a lot of them for the first time in front of audiences. It’s really difficult. When I first played ‘Red Face’ to the band and I was trying to describe how I wanted the drums to be and the bass, I was embarrassed and I got a bit of a red face! Everybody said it was a terrible title and that we should change it before we released it, so we tried a few different ideas, but eventually... we said let’s just call it ‘Red Face’.

Is that typical of the songwriting process where you have this vision and you have to communicate it to the rest of the band? And is that easy to do?

I’m so impatient... it’s frustrating when I have a drum idea and I say, “Can you play it like this? Not like that! Do it like this! Get off the drums!” I’m trying to explain what’s in my mind; I must be quite a pain in the arse to work with sometimes...

There’s nothing more exciting than having a new idea and then hearing it with these other instruments accompanying you. When you’ve got something in your mind and you hear it in real life, it’s one of the best feelings.

Do you have any specific ambitions for the album?

I don’t know which is more scary: success or failure. They’re both as terrifying as each other to me. It’s difficult to know what success is, isn’t it? For anybody to like it? Even if it’s just a small amount of people that enjoy it. If there are musicians starting out and they find it an inspiring album that would make me more happy than anything else: if I felt that I was inspiring other musicians to make music.