Lucy Rose is considering a sea change. Calling us up from her home in London, she’s contemplating moving to the slower-paced Brighton where she recorded her fourth record, No Words Left.
“It’s just time for a change,” she tells us, having lived in the city for 13 years now. “You reach that point when you’re like, ‘Is this it now forever?’ So I’m trying to prove to myself that it doesn’t have to be, I guess.”
The gently-spoken, inquisitive 29-year-old Brit thrives in a constant state of flux, travelling to every corner of the world to play shows and living with her fans along the way. Starting with an electronic pop sensibility in 2012’s Like I Used To, Rose has consciously leant into channelling the veteran inspirers who resonated with her: the introspective, folk writing of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.
In No Words Left, Rose has journeyed far from her pop roots, forming a darker, stripped back album. While she felt the pressure on while making her first three records, she explains now, that, “this record is more of a way of being.” No Words Left was written while reading poetry of Carol Anne Duffy, William Blake (a collection selected by Patti Smith), and Pablo NeRuda, as well as Joni Mitchell’s new biography Reckless Daughter and documentaries on Neil Young’s processes.
She speaks with Music Feeds about using art to pinpoint a feeling’s origin, the exhaustion that comes with over-analysing those same feelings, and the priceless perspective she’s garnered from living with fans while touring.
Music Feeds: Congrats on your new record No Words Left. How are you feeling about it coming out into the world?
LR: I don’t know really. It feels like the whole [production] process is really unconscious, whether it’s writing or recording, you’re just following some sort of vision and you’re never questioning it? And then I get to this period of time where it’s coming out and I just question absolutely every decision I’ve made, every song and every lyric, and it’s kind of a terrible time. It’s just like, ‘Oh God, is this it? Is this as good as it’s going to be? Is it the best of me?’ Which, I think it is. So I’m looking forward to people hearing it so I don’t overthink the whole thing.
MF: This record feels like it’s holding a lot of hurt, but it’s also still quite hopeful, like you were trying to transgress a rocky period in your life and starting to rebuild. Do you remember what frame of mind you were in while writing it?
LR: I essentially don’t like thinking about it. I’m not sure how good it was to be honest, my frame of mind, when I wrote a lot of these songs. I feel it was a weird, complex time and I tried to analyse why I found myself feeling the way I did, and why these songs came out. For a period of time, I guess, at the end of that summer and autumn it just felt like a perfect storm of things that happened. And I guess in that perfect storm I wrote this record. My frame of mind was pretty low and pretty confused.
MR: Did you have a lot of support from your friends and family while you were unpacking those feelings, or was it more of a process where you felt you had to isolate yourself and go into a room and get everything out?
LR: I’m not even sure I knew what I was feeling at the time, so it wasn’t like I was completely aware that I felt the way I felt and that I needed to talk about it. I dealt with most of it completely privately. And then I took on a support tour in autumn – and I just couldn’t do it. I think that was the point I realised I probably should talk to somebody about what was going on. But until then I’d written the majority of the record, just going through it on my own a bit.
MF: Do you feel comfortable talking about the experiences that inspired the record, or would you rather keep it private?
LR: There are just so many different things. Actually, I just got a therapist, which is hilarious and amazing. I saw them the other day and I was like, ‘What made this happen?!’ Because I think I’m just as curious as anybody else in a weird way. And they said something quite interesting, which I’d never thought about really. I thought I’d written all these songs processing a lot of different feelings, going deeply into the feelings and writing about them. They were just like, ‘that could just be completely and utterly exhausting.’
I had never actually thought about that because I was like, this is just what I love – like to sit, and divulge it, and to pinpoint and go into so much detail about such emotions has got to be exhausting. That was quite interesting to hear – it could have almost been that kind of creative burden that you’re under, that I was pursuing. I just laugh about it all now – I don’t know if that’s good.
MF: I think some people really thrive in unpacking darker feelings in art and for other people it can be quite triggering. It depends on how you carry yourself, maybe?
LR: Definitely. I think if I asked other musicians, there would be a lot [of similar experiences]. I could be like, ‘Hey, let’s go for a pint. Let’s talk. How bad is it for you? And your writing?’ I might start that. That might be like a new thing I could do.
MF: You could start a little artist support group.
LR: Exactly. There’s been a few times where someone was like, ‘Why do you have to tell everyone about yourself?’ And then a friend who’s in a band, she was like, ‘Oh my God, so many people ask me that as well’. So it’s like, okay, that makes me feel much better. Because I don’t feel as if I’m sharing too much of myself, but it seems as if I might give off that impression through my music.
MF: I think with folk writing and music that is very inspired by Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, it’s a part of the craft to deal with personal stories. It’s kind of unavoidable.
LR: That’s good to know. That’s exactly what I’m going to say next time. [Laughs].
MF: You’ve allowed your fans to act as your tour manager before. Do you think you’ve learnt a lot more about your music by spending so much time with fans?
LR: Yeah. Sometimes I can just get into a horrible routine. Well, not a horrible routine, but a sort of under appreciative routine of being on tour. Sometimes I don’t value how important every show is to individual people. Sometimes in Latin America, when people go to see an international artist, they can be paying off that ticket for like, six months out of their salary. Or they’re saving up for six months. Like, ‘I’m not going to go out for the next six months, I’m not going to buy any beers, because I know I want to buy this ticket for this gig and it’s going to be one of the best nights of my life’. Those things gave me huge perspective.
I realised how important it is. And we all know that, like every musician knows that. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are people who care on almost the same level as you do, or more so than you do, about even your own music. I’d never known that if I hadn’t spent three days living in someone’s house talking to them – and about music and their stories and all of those things.
MF: I read in an Independent article from 2015 that you’d …
LR: Oh Jesus.
MF: Yeah, sorry. [Laughs]. I’m going to bring up a quote.
LR: Oh God.
MF: You said you felt guilty about working in a field you love so much, which I think is something a lot of artists struggle with. Do you still feel that way?
LR: No. No, I don’t think I do anymore. I think, 2015 must be like, the second record. And now it’s fourth record. I think I felt guilty because I was like, ‘Oh God, I’m living my dream job.’ Now I think I’ve realised though that it’s okay to see that it’s not the perfect way of living either. Even though it’s what I love, for a long time I felt like I could never, even in my own head, have known about how it could sometimes be a hard job. And in a way I can’t even call it a job.
MF: You’ve been involved in the music industry for a long time now. What do you think are the three biggest lessons you’ve learnt throughout your career?
LR: So far my biggest lessons would be: don’t be scared to be different, say no more, and you can never go deep enough into it I don’t think, in a creative way. I think there’s so much depth to be discovered within your own music and within life. There are so many avenues to explore, so don’t be scared to go in deep, really. Submerse yourself more, is what I mean. I wish I’d done that sooner.
Lucy Rose’s ‘No Words Left’ is out this Friday, 22nd March and she’ll head to Australia in June. Catch the dates right here.