An interview with Lucy Rose

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Lucy Rose is currently on a full UK tour, promoting her second album, “Work It Out”. bite interrupted the singer-songwriter’s pre-show set-up at Komedia to sit down in her dressing room and chat about her new sound, singing for Bombay Bicycle Club and the male-dominated music industry.

Have you been to Bath before?

Yeah we played Moles a few years ago! I love it and my drummer is from here, so every time we go to play Glastonbury we’ll stop en route.

How did you want this album to be different from your first?

I didn’t want to make the same record twice. I guess it’s very easy for people to think, you know, this musician’s this and it’s all quite one-dimensional and this is what this musician does, but sometimes you just want to push yourself and find out what you are capable of, which is a different thing [to what was done before]… I’d discovered this pocket of music, which was acoustic and quite folk, but very very stripped back, and I felt like I could play music like that and that was something I really enjoyed doing. [With this album] I wanted to push myself to discover, musically, if I was capable of a different type of sound which would excite me as well.

So how would you describe the sound of this album, compared with the last one?

It’s very difficult because every song is very different. I mean, you take the singles and they’re all definitely way more pop than anything I’ve done. The frustrating thing for me is that the singles might be what people are judging my whole record on. I wanted this record to have a lot of variety in it, with different moods and feelings, and I feel like it really does. It’s not just one particular sound, there’s definitely light and shade. Generally with any type of music I make, I certainly think about the sound, but at the same time I like to think about whether it’s going to make someone feel something. That’s all I really want to create in whatever music I make and whatever words I use – just make someone have any sort of feeling when they listen to the songs.

When you’re making music, is it making you feel something?

With writing, yes. I guess there’s a moment where you delve into a part of you that you haven’t before, or you start writing a song and it’s leading towards a subject that can be uncomfortable to go into sometimes. I guess it’s those moments when you push through that sort of barrier and you do it because you’ve got to write about things that are important. To me, there’s not really much point otherwise.

Do you think that this album has any particular message or theme to it?

Unfortunately not – I love those sorts of concept albums and I think they’re really clever. I am probably a bit to self-involved to do that; I think about things that have had a direct impact on my life.

Well maybe in terms of a theme, it’s more like a documentation of a period of your life then.

Exactly, that’s what I keep thinking about. With the first record, the message was “this is who I am” and the two years of my life while I was writing the songs and discovering an extra part of me. And then with the second record, I had new experiences and it’s a new sort of section of my life. I went through some great things and I think, generally, I was really happy, which maybe I didn’t feel so much when I was writing the first record.

Is there a particular song on the album that you’d say is your favourite?

I really love Nebraska, I really love “Work It Out” and I really like “She’ll Move” – generally the downbeat ones – to listen to, for personal reasons. But the upbeat ones are so much fun to play live, which was something I was thinking was maybe missing from the first record; it was all very downbeat. I really did want to make people smile as well as make them feel something.

Before your first album came out, you did quite a lot of singing for Bombay Bicycle Club. How is it different singing for a group and singing your own stuff?

I’m very grateful for both experiences, because when I’m singing for Bombay Bicycle Club, I feel like they’re doing me a huge favour, letting me come on stage and sing with them. But then being able to come out on stage and sing my own songs, I feel unbelievably grateful that the audience are there for me. When I was touring with Bombay Bicycle Club, I was just like, wow, this is what it would feel like – and that was amazing, but it also made me think, I kind of want this too and that I would have loved to do what they were doing, which was going around playing their songs every night.

Which is what you’re doing!

Which is what I’m doing now! Yeah, singing with them was a huge confident boost, which I think led me to being able to take that next step.

Do you think their style has influenced your music?

Probably. I think generally, like I was saying, I was trying to make people smile as well at the gigs. When I’m on stage with Bombay Bicycle Club, nearly start to finish everyone is bouncing, having a great time, and that was an element of my set that I think was missing. Then I went and toured with Bombay and I thought man I want to do this, I want to kind of rock out a bit more and have fun. Because beforehand I was quite serious, I was a serious person on the first record – all of it meant too much, almost, every word. So with every gig I was devastated if anything went wrong. Whereas now there’s more of a light-heartedness to the whole set live; it’s slightly more care free and I guess it’s just generally a little bit better for my soul [laughs].

There’s a rumour that Danny Dyer may be making an appearance in a future music video – will this be happening?

Well, I hope so and I think he hopes so, but apparently there’s no budget to make another music video, so I’m thinking maybe not.

Maybe he’ll do it pro-bono…

Yeah I just need everyone to do everything pro-bono for me and then we’ll see what happens. But that’s the truth for now!

Lucy rose 2A few people – reviewers and critics – have talked about the nature of your music and your persona being maybe too nice. Do you think it’s possible for a musician to be too nice?

Everyone I seem to meet is really nice! They’re nice, good people, musicians. I think that’s the weird thing about it – “oh, you are nice people? That’s wrong…” You’ll definitely meet the odd dickhead at festivals and think “oh you’re unbearable to be around”, but then 90% of people you do meet are nice and lovely. I don’t know, maybe I am a bit annoying because I don’t walk on the stage like “yeah I’m here, this is what I’m meant to be doing”, I’m more like “this is incredible, thank you so much for coming. That’s just who I am and it’s like fuck it, if that person thinks I’m too nice then just don’t come to another show, I don’t really care. The one thing I have learnt is that it’s impossible to please everybody and if I am going to put this really honest representation of who I am through, musically, then there’s no point in disguising it with some other personality on stage. The whole point of what I want to do is the opposite of that kind of dressed up, become the best version of you, get your hair done thing… If I could, I would just go on stage with no makeup on like now, if I was that brave.

I don’t know, it’s just this whole perception that you’ve got to be mysterious; you’ve got to look great for people to be interested in you. I think people just see through that anyway.

Well you have managed to keep an extremely straight fringe.

Really? I cut it myself, it’s quite long actually… I was thinking I should trim it.

If you keep it that long you don’t have to worry about your eyebrows.

That is very true actually…

In your music video for “Till the End”, you’re playing football in a group of all girls versus a group of all boys; how important is that message of Girl Power to you?

Very important! That song sounds like a love song, but it’s not – it’s a song about friendship and how your closest friends can influence you.

Even yesterday, someone asked me why I covered a Taylor Swift song [‘Bad Blood’] in the Live Lounge and I said, well, I wanted to choose a girl’s song to cover. They said [sounding confused]“why did you want to choose a girl’s song?” I don’t know, I just always want to try and somehow stick together with the girls. Especially in this industry where it is kind of tough sometimes.

When have you found it tough?

It’s only tough because there are just men everywhere. They’re just everywhere. My booking agent’s female, the person who runs my label is female; I am drawn to working with as many women as possible, because they are so rare to come across I guess, in the industry. The whole industry is very male-dominated. The football thing is totally separate; I guess I am all “Girl Power” in any industry. Across the board, I’m definitely a massive feminist; the football thing was just another thing about gender equality.

As much as we want things for women, men have also got it bad with the pressures of earning a certain amount of money, being successful, being the breadwinner and not showing weakness, don’t ever cry, don’t show too much emotion – all that stereotypical crap, which is putting men into this very small little box that they have to live in, which is not helpful either.

I guess, as a girl, I was definitely into sports and into things that apparently, made me like a tom-boy. I thought, when I was ten, “oh I’m a tom-boy, I’m like a boy… I’m kind of a girl who’s a bit like a boy, that’s really weird”. But that’s absolutely ludicrous, that’s nonsense. So I guess I just wanted to put that forward – if there was a girl who enjoyed football, she would watch it and think that’s normal. I guess it’s about girls doing things that apparently aren’t girly, but actually they are girly. Rant. Over. [laughs]

If we looked at Spotify now, it would appear that women are dominating the charts and the music industry – we’ve got Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Rihanna… Do you think women are genuinely being very successful right now or do you think there’s still an overriding element of “what is appealing to men” in the work of female musicians?

I think everyone, men and women, are doing things to try and be appealing, in all industries. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I think the treatment, once you’re in the music industry, is the same and perhaps it’s more that how male and female musicians are written about is wrong. Like you’d hear “Ellie Goulding looked stunning in her gorgeous dress as she sang”, but you would never hear “Ed Sheeran looked stunning in his jeans and… top.”

Page 7_ Lucy RoseIf you had 5 seconds to convince someone to listen to your album, what would you say?

I couldn’t do it. I am not a very good saleswoman. I’m not very good at selling myself – it’s like the same struggle of writing a personal statement to go to university: “I play hockey… and this makes me a good person….” I understand the point of it, but to me it’s all very bizarre.

Is that your least favourite part of being a musician then, trying to get people to listen to you?

I guess so, trying to get people to listen to me just feels awful. I guess I just want people who would enjoy my music to be exposed to it somehow… I think there are people out there who would enjoy my music and haven’t heard it before, but I don’t want to try and win over people who would not think of me as their cup of tea.

I guess the easiest way to sell your music without selling your music is to get your songs into TV shows, which you have been doing.

I believe a lot of musicians think “please can I get an advert or some sort of exposure…” It’s just so hard to do that! I was so lucky with Shiver [which appeared in Season 4 of HBO’s ‘Girls’], because I didn’t even have a publishing contract. I’d been dropped from Universal, no one was trying to get my songs on anything, I’d been fully dropped as an artist after my first album. That’s something that is very normal in the music industry, but no one really talks about it. So nothing was happening and then there was this music supervisor in America who loved the song and got in contact with me and was like, “I’ve been trying to put Shiver in any programme for two years, I just love the song”. Having that one person want to do that for me is totally priceless. That’s what it comes down to; you’ve got these big companies, all very self-important, and all it took was one person to connect to one of my songs after somehow discovering it and take that sort of leap of faith in me and put it in a TV programme, which helped me exponentially in America to expose people to my music. That’s the best way of doing it; not because someone has been told to do something [promoting the music], but because someone has fallen in love with the song.

Lucy Rose later went onto perform a winning set at Komedia, to an audience of people who had evidentially decided her music was their cup of tea. Oldies, ‘Middle of the Bed’ and ‘Shiver’ saw the crowd loyally singing along, while Rose performed most of her set on her tip-toes. From the smile on her face during “Till the End”, it looked like she was genuinely enjoying herself and, by the time Rose got to the final two songs of the night (‘Our Eyes’ and ‘Work it Out’), she had certainly succeeded in her quest to create a more cheerful, dancey live performance. Even the security behind the stage was moving.

‘Work it Out’ is out now – make the first move for Lucy Rose and see if you’re a fan.

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Jessica Brough is the Editor of bite (2015/16). She writes about music and popular culture.

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