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Notion 063 Feature: Lucy Rose

Back in March our online editor Seb Law toodled off to Texas to the musical extravaganza that is South by Southwest and while he was there he met up with folk-pop musician Lucy Rose to chat about everything from the experience performing at one of the biggest music festivals around to the writing process be this new music or a day by day diary! With a plethora of beautiful images shot by talented local photographer Alicia Vega, we just had to share the rest of these shots with you. To read the feature in Notion 063 head here to buy a copy. Or if you are super tech savvy and watch digital goodness, head here to be one of the first to get your hands on our brand new iPad app.

Seb Law: Heya Lucy! So you’ve just come in [to SXSW] from LA right?

Lucy Rose: Yes, the day before yesterday. We flew and did a gig as soon as we landed. We went straight to a venue and did a gig…

SL: Wow that sounds intense: how was the gig? You’ve played in the States before right?

LR: I’ve done acoustic support with Bombay before. But LA was kinda weird cause we’d just come from a four week tour in Europe where we were in different places all the time. It was only when we got on the plane that I suddenly I realised we’re in America and I’m playing a gig in LA. And I was like ‘this is a big fish, this is like seriously difficult!’ When you hear about of artists coming over and trying to ‘break America’ or play songs, – and I’m definitely not trying to ‘break America’ by the way – but just to do any shows which people are coming to see me is good!

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SL: Do you feel like there is a renewed interest in British artists because there has been a bit of a wave of people recently?

LR: Yeah definitely, like when I did an interview there this girl was saying things like ‘do you think it helps that British music is like taking over the American charts at the moment’, so I’m sure that helps; it’s great isn’t it?

SL: Yeah definitely. And this is your first time at SXSW as well: how are you enjoying it?

LR: I’ve done 2 days: I flew in, first day I was like I didn’t know what to expect really. I kinda thought it might be like Camden Crawl but on like steroids or something.

SL: That’s what I’m expecting! Camden Crawl but with more pick-up trucks.

LR: There are just so many people! I got here and people are just proper partying like really hard straight away on the first night. And the gig was good. It was really weird cause Huw Stephens was there because it was his British Embassy show, so there were all these crazy new things I’ve never seen and there’s Huw Stephens like home comfort. And the show was really good, it was really busy; we started playing and I was about to embark on a slower song, a more acoustic song, and then I decided to cut it from the set cause it was like 9 o’clock and people were wanting the upbeat stuff. So then I cut the slow ones, and then suddenly I looked at the clock and it had 10 minutes left and I had like one song left.

SL: Oh no!

LR: So I was like ‘what are we gonna do?’ I’d written this brand brand new song which I’d taught the band on the road in Europe, and I’d written my lyrics on the plane from London to LA – on the 12 hour plane I’d just sat and written like all my melodies and lyrics for it. So I was like, let’s do the new song. By this point cause there was quite a lot of people you know talking and whatever and I just thought, this is in the spirit of SXSW in a way, let’s just do something we’ve never done before.

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SL: Yeah definitely, there’s something really spontaneous about that. How do you find the plane as a writing environment?

LR: I’ve never done it before. I’ve never really written on the road before, because before when I wasn’t signed or anything, I was doing gigs here and there when I could and writing all the time really, whenever I had free time, which I had lots of back then!

SL: Whereas not so much now.

LR: Yeah, I’m actually having to write on the road, it’s completely different. But writing on the plane was good, I mean, I think the music’s different this time, the new stuff more so than the first album because I’m not writing it just acoustically, I’m writing all the band stuff first which is a pretty different way of writing for me. Then I feel like the song has a feel which then is going towards my lyrics, whereas before the lyrics would often give the feel of the song.

SL: How did it go down yesterday then? Presumably it was the first time you’d ever performed the new song?

LR: Yeah! We did it yesterday and the first time was two days ago. And then, it went down really well and I think some people came up and they thought it was the highlight of the show, which was really nice. But we need to get better at playing; it was messy to say the least!

SL: Yeah but it’s great to do that spontaneous thing…

LR: Oh and my pedals had broken as well, on the plane. You know the band ‘The 1975’? They lent me like their distortion pedals, ‘cause they were on a couple after me. They were hanging outside and they just ripped their pedal boards apart and gave me all these pedals. Total legends.

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SL: That kind of stress must be a part of of touring as well, you know you lose your equipment, or things break…

LR: Yeah totally. This sort of touring is insane. And also you’re just going from one venue to another super-fast. You’re throwing the gear back in the van, driving super-fast. Like yesterday, we did three shows and…

SL: That’s a lot by anyone’s standards

LR: Yeah. And the first one was at 12 o’clock in the blaring sun which was really good. The second one was in a conference centre with seats, really formal. And the third one was at someone’s house party. And then as soon as you finish you’re running off to the next one.

SL: Which show did you prefer out of those three? I’m guessing the house party rather than the conference centre?

LR: No I don’t know though. The house party I enjoyed more when I wasn’t playing cause then I was watching everybody else and that was really fun because it was just really chilled out. It was for Thirty Tigers, there was this amazing bad-ass soul singer on after me. He was just going for it and the neighbours afterwards were like ‘Girl, you got an amazing voice’ to this like massive white guy. He literally sounded like a woman, he sounded like a big black woman, but was just this white geeky guy.

SL: Oh wow. It wasn’t Rhye was it?

LR: No.. It was a band called ‘St Paul’s and the Broken Bones’. It was really good.

SL: That sounds awesome.

LR: The coffee shop gig for Sofa Sounds one was good. Their whole thing is about booking bands but not telling anyone who they’ve booked. So we rocked up and there were people just drinking their coffees and not knowing what to expect, and we just played some songs.

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SL: I guess that’s the kind of joy of something like SXSW is that there is a real sense of open mindedness about the whole thing…

LR: Yeah. There are gonna be some bands that you’re gonna know and be like I wanna go watch these bands! And then the rest of the time, it’s just wandering and finding, it seems to be what people say. Yes like when you’re playing and people didn’t even hear about you before and ‘I was just wandering past and went in cause I heard some music’ and that’s the whole point about people discovering new things.

SL: It’s kind of like an IRL version of the internet! Anyway…it’s been quite a while since the record came out, right?

LR: It was September last year. I don’t even know what month we’re in anymore!

SL: So I guess we’re 6 months on…

LR: Six? God it feels longer than that, it does feel like a year

SL: How do you feel about the record now you’ve had a bit of time to you know digest it and play it live and feel the reception and stuff – what are your feelings about it now?

LR: My feelings are… I don’t know. It’s a really good question. But I don’t want to say the wrong thing. And almost the right thing about how I feel about it seems harsh on it, which is not how I feel. I’m trying to phrase it in a way, it’s like… For me it’s like my favourite favourite T-shirt ever and I love it, but you know, it’s maybe like slightly shrunk, and you’re wearing something else now.

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SL: You’re kind of aware that it’s your favourite but that you can’t wear it every day or something like that?

LR: It’s like it’s my favourite but I feel like I’m moving on from that. You know what I mean, you know you have a T-shirt that you wear all the time for like, it’s your favourite favourite favourite thing or something, but then you suddenly stop wearing it. I just feel like I love the album and I’m really pleased with how we did it and going around recording it in my parents’ house with no money, but that feels so long ago. And now I’m just hoping that people get to discover it in as many places as possible, but I’m not… I feel like with this album, the right sort of people will find it. It’s not something that I would ever want to be pushed 100%, do you know what I mean? It’s not like it’s mainstream or anything like that; it’s really quite raw and quite lo-fi. And I just feel like it’s a discovery album and I just want people to discover it themselves, and if they like it then great and almost, I don’t want it to be judged, is probably what it is.

SL: Yeah, of course. It must be difficult though because obviously we’re the journalists, the amateur judges of your work.

LR: It’s difficult. Everyone’s judging music themselves.

SL: I think I read something about you: that you only read interviews if they’re sent directly, or you kinda stumble across them if they’re linked to you on Twitter?

LR: I never read anything really. Sometimes if management or somebody goes ‘Oh I saw there was a review of something in this’ then I just say ‘roughly was it alright?’ But I never read it because they always say to me that reading, even reading the good ones, is as dangerous as reading the bad ones.

SL: Yeah, you don’t want to start believing your hype…

LR: Or if they write something about you; it’s always dangerous. People are just writing what they think about you, it’s not necessarily anything that is nice.

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SL: I can totally understand you. I suppose a lot of the stuff that I’ve read in interviews with you is the last year of you building your confidence in singing and songwriting, and it sounds like you’ve kinda reached a new point with that as well; being able to write on the road and things like that… Do you feel a lot more confident?

LR: I feel like I’ve got a lot to prove and a lot to give. And I don’t feel like… I’ve just got to be patient because I just want to do the best I can. I’m not confident at all, I’m like the least confident person. I just feel like I have a lot to give musically and I’m just waiting for the right time if I get given it to do it.

SL: I think there was a point, maybe about a year ago when you said you’d listened to that Loudon Wainwright song and it kind of changed your approach to catharsis and singing and honesty as well. Have you had another point like that since or are you still in that same frame of mind?

LR: I don’t know because to write those sort of songs I have to be on my own, like fully own my own for quite a long time, as in a few days, and not talk to anybody. Otherwise I don’t know how I feel about anything. You know when you keep busy all the time and you keep doing things, I don’t think you really know, I don’t ever really know how I’m feeling. I’m like oh I feel a bit tired today, or I’m feeling good today. But to really know how you’re really feeling about where you are at a point in your life and how you’re feeling about different people and doing different things – the only way to get that is to stop completely and then just be on your own and be in your head for a few days. And I haven’t had that so…

SL: When was the last time you had that?

LR: Oh my god…

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SL: A long time ago! Christmas?

LR: Well Christmas I was with my family so much. It’s when I’m at home, I mean when I’m in London at my flat is really when I have it. And then yeah Christmas I went home and I was with my family and it was really intense so, I don’t know the last time I’ve had it. Maybe that was why the plane was good. Our travel agent booked us all in different seats, so I had a seat on my own and it was 12 hours of alone time, which is almost probably the only reason why I could have written anything.

SL: It’s quite nice to have that space…

LR: So nice! When you’re younger, you’re always like ‘fuck a 12 hour flight that’s so awful!’, but I sat down and was like yes. I’ve got 12 hours and no one can ask me to do anything with it cause I’m on a bloody plane.

SL: I remember you saying that your songwriting is always improved by seeing other people’s songwriting techniques and SXSW is quite a good place for that. Is there anything that you’ve picked up that you’ve thought ‘Oh I like that, I’m gonna try and do that?’

LR: It’s more a striving thing really. When I go to gigs I’m always amazed by how many brilliant people there are around and even if you go to an open mic there’s always a few people that you’re like ‘you’re so good, you’re so good and you’re doing open mics’. And it’s one of those things that always inspires me massively cause I’m like there are talented people everywhere! But this is different because at SXSW there are tons of bands and some are probably playing to the level of playing to 5,000 people, they sound that good, and you go in and there are 20 people watching them. And it’s one of those things: you just, you see all that going on and you realise how difficult it is. Here there are just so many fucking good bands. It makes you think, right, I’ve got to really work hard, and strive to write as good music as I possibly can. It just raises the bar a little bit.

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SL: And do you feel like that’s a challenge that you’re daunted by or you’re just like yeah I can get on with it?

LR: Totally daunted by it, but I suppose it’s just like horses in a race. They always race faster if they can see another one in their peripheral vision.

SL: That’s a good analogy, I like it. So you’re kinda in the middle of a tour now? When do you finish?

LR: I think I’m bang in the middle. We did three and a half, nearly four, weeks in Europe, and normally you have a break after that – so you’d do a European tour and then you’d have a 2 week break or something. But we had a gig in Cologne, we finished the gig at like 11 or something. We drove 4 hours to Calais through the night, cause we were flying the next morning after that gig in Cologne so we drove through, we went Germany, Holland, Belgium and France, we got the Eurostar train at like 7 in the morning, so we’re at check in at like 6. Got that, got into Folkestone, drove straight to Heathrow, got to Heathrow and it was like 3 hours til our plane. And we got on this LA plane and because we’re on a working visa, it says ‘on this trip, what other countries have you been to on this trip?’ and I was like…

SL: All of them?

LR: Well I was like, even in the last 12 hours I’ve been in 5 different countries just driving. And then we landed and the guy at the passport control asks you loads of questions, and he was like ‘So how long are you here for?’ and I hadn’t thought about it. And I was like ‘a month’. And then I realised that I’d landed and I’m not leaving for a month. And then it suddenly dawned on me that I feel like I’ve done a really big tour but I’m just about to embark on something so much bigger than that in a way, especially in America when the driving is insane.

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SL: But you seem like quite excited and positive about it as well. You’ve just finished a month of touring in Europe and you’re still quite buzzed…

LR: It’s the sun isn’t it?

SL: Yeah it’s the sun, it’s definitely the sun!

LR: It’s such nice weather. I know it sounds really stupid, but I’m not partying at all and I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying going and seeing bands but having like a Coca-Cola so that when I go to bed I feel good, and when I wake up I feel good. And I know that sounds really stupid.

SL: No, not at all. I completely agree. Sometimes you just have to be like that, right?

LR: Well otherwise just the whole thing will be like… Sometimes when I’ve done tours before drinking and I look back and I just can’t remember any of it really. This time I’m keeping a diary. I am drinking, like on Saturday night, you should see me, I will be having a drink, it’s the last night!

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SL: Amazing! And you’re keeping a diary as well?

LR: Yeah.

SL: Sorry, is that a bit of a personal question?

LR: It’s terrible. No it’s a terrible diary. You should read it.

SL: I’d never do that!

LR: It’s like “I woke up. And then I brushed my teeth. And then I got in the van and we drove here.” And it’s like a really formal informative diary. I don’t write anything personal in it, and I don’t write anything like if somebody’s had an argument, I don’t write that in it cause I’m like I don’t want to remember that. It’s just the good things. So when I’m 90 I’ll look back and I’ll get reminded of the things I want to remember in a way.

SL: Yeah definitely. That’s a great idea.

LR: It is just really matter of fact. Like I’ll be writing “…and then I did an interview sitting on a porch.”

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SL: And I guess to kind of round off, what’s the thing you’re looking forward to most in the next six months?

LR: In the next 6 months, I’m probably most looking forward to…

SL: Summer and festivals? Or…?

LR: I think recording. Obviously we’ve got the UK tour which I’m really excited about and then all the festivals I’m so excited about. But I think I’m excited for the first time because I hate recording music, like before I did this album I hated it. So I’m excited to know what’s gonna come out of it, cause we’ve got loads of song ideas and I just don’t know how they’re gonna sound finished in a way.

SL: What was it that you hated about the recording process?

LR: How long it took. I’m a really impatient person. So I’d just be like ‘Right, that guitar take’s ok’ and they’d be like ‘Let’s just do a few more’. Or like my guitar player or my drummer would be playing and I’d be like ‘That take’s perfect!’ and then we’d do like 3 more hours worth of it. And I’m just like for fuck’s sake.

SL: That’s why today’s shoot was so nice! Go. Shoot. Done.

LR: That’s exactly how I like to work. Otherwise you could do a thousand shots and the best one will still be in the first ten or something. And it’s the same with recording. You can do 20 takes and you’ll use only take 2 and 3 and that’s it. That’s just the way it is.

To buy a copy of Notion 063 which contains the Lucy Rose feature article click here. To view our brilliant iPad edition click here. To see more of Alicia’s brilliant photography click here.

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