Sitting in a venue closest to where she grew up, Lucy Rose is talking to me about her debut album, Like I Used To, and what embarking on her biggest string of solo dates feels like. Recorded in her parent’s house and mastered at Abbey Road studios, Lucy admits that whilst quite daunting, it is a relief to have the album out there, if not for herself but for her fans.
Since appearing on their critically acclaimed album Flaws, Lucy has toured with friends Bombay Bicycle Club for the past two years, an experience she has since described as an honour. Soaking up the reaction to her autumn tour, Lucy speaks of the increasing hype surrounding her album and how she has remained unfazed; her only concerns are how the fans have reacted.
Welcome back to Coventry! What’s it like to be playing a venue closest to where you grew up?
It’s good! I mean I stayed at my parents last night and my dad dropped me off this morning; it’s like 14 minutes from my house to get here, so it’s kind of mental to be this close to home. It’s one of those things where you say, “Oh I’m really glad that my friends and family could come and actually see what I’m doing”, but I’m also terrified to look out at the crowd and see people who have just never seen me in this environment before, and that’s a little terrifying sometimes.
Do you feel comfortable out there?
I feel comfortable in front of people that haven’t met me, but sometimes with friends they know me as me and we’re chatting away and then when I’m on stage I become more self-conscious in front of people I know seeing me sing and talk about my feelings and songs, because they actually know me.
You spent a long time on your debut, Like I Used To; were you glad to see it get out there, or were you sad to have the experience end?
I really wanted to get it out there as soon as possible. When we signed to Columbia we had a finished album and I think they were unsure because I kept saying “I want it out in September, I want it out as soon as possible.” Because we had been touring these songs now for a long time, for three or four tours, and it felt like we needed to get it out so the next time people bought tickets they could actually have the CD and should know the songs. I forced for it to come out in September, which put the label in fast-track mode; they had to do this massive turnaround only months after they’d signed me. It’s a relief to get it out, there’s nothing more depressing sometimes than people coming to the show saying, “When can I buy something? When can I hear something finished?” And you have to say “I just don’t know when it’s ever going to happen or not”. So it feels like a big achievement to have actually done it and have the album available.
How does it feel, going from having demos on MySpace to doing tours and to have recorded the whole album?
It feels good! That’s just the way it goes isn’t it, people start by doing demos and then they try building it and we’ve just been slowly building it for the last how-many-years, into something bigger. It’s not been a drastic jump anywhere; it’s just been a slow build.
Was there any sense of pressure involved, or feelings of people having high expectations?
There’s pressure in everything, isn’t there. In every part of your life, from taking exams at school to doing your job well, there’s pressure absolutely everywhere. When we recorded the album I remember thinking, “Yeah, I’ve made an album I’m really proud of, every song is how it should be and I think we’ve done an amazing job.” That’s all that I can do, I can’t do anything more than make something I love and you just hope that other people like it. And if they don’t that’s fine, music’s just an opinion, but hopefully some people will.
Did you have any inspiration from other artists whilst you were writing and recording the album?
I don’t know really, I didn’t key into any other people’s music and try and draw inspiration from it, I was just trying to write songs for me, they were just my songs and I was trying to do something original if I could.
What was the experience of touring with Bombay Bicycle Club like?
I’ve been working with them for just under three years and it was a great experience. It was a massive opportunity and a huge thing for people to hear my music, and getting a support with them was really great. They’re such a talented band and it was an honour to sing songs with them, it was a really good thing to be involved in.
Most of your songs are quite personal, did you always intend for that to happen or was it just the way it went?
Yeah, I didn’t sit down and say “I’m going to write a really personal song now” because you would never do that. All the songs that are on this album that mean a lot to me, I started writing them and singing them and thinking “there’s no way I’m going to sing this in front of anybody because this is literally telling somebody exactly how I’m feeling right now and I don’t really want anybody to know.” But at the same time, the reason why I started writing songs when I was younger was to have a release for me as an emotion. When I kept everything in I felt like I was going to explode because I didn’t really talk to anyone about how I was feeling, and writing songs was my way of dealing with my feelings and they were only for me. Over time I’ve written songs that mean something to me and that hopefully, another person can relate to.
The video for ‘Bikes’ is quite different to any of your others, was that your idea and how did it come together?
Yeah, all the videos have come from random ideas I’ve had and ‘Bikes’ was a way to shock people. I felt like I was being categorised before my album was even out. I felt like I was being pigeonholed into this ‘sweet, saccharine singer-songwriter’ and I just wanted to do something that was totally unexpected. Some people would think “that’s amazing” and others would think “what the hell”, but I just wanted to have the effect of making something that people would not expect. And I also thought it’d be a lot of fun to make, which it was.
Is there any song on the album that’s your favourite to sing live?
I think to play live, me and the band all like ‘Watch Over’ in particular; I just think the energy of the song is really good and it’s a lot of fun to play. There are certain songs like ‘Night Bus’ that sometimes when I play that there seems to be more of a moment; only one in ten gigs I get that real moment, which is quite rare.
Do you have any plans once the tour’s finished?
We have no idea what we’re doing next year whatsoever. I couldn’t even tell you if I’m going to be in this country or another country.
Where did the idea of having tea and jam on sale at your shows come from?
The tea came because I had no CDs to sell and I needed something on the merch stand, and I was obsessed with this certain blend of tea that I kept brewing and serving to all my family and friends constantly. The idea of having jam came through my housemate at the time, who had this friend who had just gotten a first from Oxford or Cambridge but she’s actually decided to start a charity making chutneys and jam from great fruit that wasn’t going to be used, to help vulnerable women in London. She was only my age at the time and I thought it was such an amazing thing to do, so I met her and we had a cup of tea and I said “why can’t I sell some of your jam at my shows, to help you along and have something interesting on my merch stand?” And that’s what happened.
You’re halfway through the tour; do you have any particular highlights?
Newcastle was especially good because of the quantity and volume of singing that we got, there was times where I could hear the crowd so much louder than I could my own voice in my monitors, which has never happened before, so that was really special. Cambridge was amazing because of the number of people that came, near enough 500, which was one of the biggest shows we’ve had and we weren’t expecting it. Liverpool was really good because they’re bloody funny; they heckled me but in a sort of nice way, and handed me pints of milk on stage. Dublin was particularly good because I had a crazy fly that landed on my mic constantly and wouldn’t leave me alone. That became a sort of comedy routine for twenty minutes when we tried to kill the fly. It was the first time I’ve laughed like that in ages.