It’s difficult to comprehend the idea of worry ever creeping into Lucy Rose’s head, such is the sweetness of her dulcet tones and charming demeanour – both on stage and off. And yet, following the release of her second album, the singer-songwriter and Bombay Bicycle Club graduate found herself no longer reciprocating the wide eyed wonder found on 2015’s Work It Out; creative direction was without a compass and ideas for a third album were nowhere in sight. Weathering the storm and marching on through adversity, not to mention nauseating altitudes thrown into the mix, Lucy is now preparing for the release of her third album – a record that might not have been were it not for an intrepid eight week acoustic tour of South America last year.
Back on English soil and back among the madness of album promotion, Lucy finds herself hopping from radio tours to a schedule of extensive interviews, each attempting to unpick a piece of her heartfelt craft for their own pages. So when it’s our turn, we catch Lucy mid lift journey on a mid-afternoon in June. Testament to her mobile service provider, we manage to hold signal, before retracing her steps across South America toward the making of Something’s Changing, released 7th July.
“It's been a very manic day, but I'll be twiddling my thumbs in a few months no doubt. It's always nice to be busy in this period before an album release though, otherwise I'd be panicking a little bit that nobody cares about my record”, Lucy begins, earnestly.
Contrary to the upbeat energy surrounding her new album, the road to Something’s Changing wasn’t a clear path from the offset, and the album’s spontaneity owes everything to a trip of a similar impulsive ilk. “A big part of why I enjoyed my first record (Like I Used To) was down to people not really knowing who I was just yet, and still people went out and bought it, which was really crazy to me. Then moving on to my second album (Work It Out), a lot of effort was spent on drawing in more fans, improving exposure, and things like that - so at the end of the process I found myself unsatisfied. While all this was occurring I'd realised I had friends in so many countries that continually Tweet and message me, although I still hadn't gone to see any of them. From there I had a realisation: why am I obsessed with creating new fans when I haven't even visited half of the ones I already have? That's why I decided to take the trip to South America.”
In search of a new direction, or at least a new found perspective, in regards to her own music, Lucy agreed to play an eight week tour of the continent, with each show requested via social media, arranged and facilitated by her fans. Not only did the tour allow her to connect with a patient and passionate fan base residing in countries such as Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Ecuador, Brazil, Paraguay and Mexico, the run of free shows delivered an introspective relief that had seemed an elusive achievement when housed in the UK, with the change of scenery catapulting Lucy away from what she describes as “the business side of things”, which had grown ever more demanding with popularity.
“Things have become much more attached to social networking, and how often I'm posting on Twitter, which generally comes coupled with comments such as: 'oh Lucy, you need to pick up your Twitter game', and all that crap. When you take a step back you have to ask yourself whether your music is actually reaching people simply by the number of Facebook and Instagram likes it can pick up. So when travelling around South America, it was amazing to actually meet the people who actively liked my music and felt a connection, rather than finding myself sitting in front of a computer screen staring at numbers.
“When in the UK there is an expectation to play extensively, and at times it can feel like it's not quite so much about the music anymore; the lights, the show and the venue become much more important to the whole experience. Whereas when I went to South America, people were just happy that I turned up. So much of it felt like: 'great, you're here'; let’s proceed to sing-along with everything we've got as an audience, which I found to be an amazing way to say thank you for coming all this way."
As well as solidifying a lifelong connection with fans situated halfway across the world, the South American tour brought Lucy closer to the slower, melancholic, and more recently, less travelled songs in her discography – tracks that had started to become drowned out on the boisterous UK festival scene. Over the eight weeks, requests would pour in for songs such as ‘Shiver’, ‘Night Bus’ and ‘Gamble’, providing one of the most unexpected and yet welcome surprises of the trip.
“Playing them all again really put me back in touch with myself as an artist, and also my guitar. The experience made me think about how much I want to write a new record, complete with the type of songs I'd be playing regularly on the tour; those that really connect with people”, Lucy explains, before centring on the trip’s importance to Something’s Changing: “I don't think I'd have written the songs - before the tour I was struggling to figure out what the hell I wanted to say in my music; what's important and what's my message in this world? It would have been virtually impossible to make simply another record, not just Something's Changing, without the trip to South America.”
Drawing together her new found perspective and experiences, Something’s Changing stands to be Lucy’s most harmonious and comfortable effort to date – a feeling reflected in the ease and mercurial nature the album was recorded, totalling just over two weeks of studio time.
“I had a very clear direction I wanted to take. I hit the studio with all of the songs, a strong idea of what was going to feature on the album, and, importantly, I knew how I wanted to record it, which was in live takes. Recording in live takes with great musicians meant that we worked through the material a lot quicker than normal.”
Produced by Brighton based producer Tim Bidwell, whom Lucy would travel down to visit via train during the recording process, Something’s Changing takes a step away from the shimmering pop sounds found on Work It Out, and averts back to the country and folk influences that helped shape Lucy’s wandering aesthetic earlier in her career. For Lucy, the new record is as much about rekindling a relationship with her sound, as it is detailing the emotions felt while traveling.
“I think I've always dabbled around [my sound] and been close to it, but right now I feel as though I've fully committed to who I am. I was a little conscious about small things such as adding pedal steel to the record, given its strong association with country. But I came to the realisation that I was worrying too much over whether my songs would sound cool and modern, so rather than worrying, I matured and came to understand folk and country are the key elements of my sound, and I should be proud of that.”
Gearing up for a run of shows to see out the rest of the year, the theme of simplicity has carried over from the South American tour and into Lucy new, stripped back live show – which she informs is now free from the influence of pedal boards and drum sequencers. “We have a great band, great musicians, no pedals plugged into the bass - just a great amp with a great player. And that's the same for me; my pedalboard has gone out of the window to make everything sound much more real and organic.”
With the weight of the her backpack and the business side of things now free from her shoulders, Lucy has re-channelled a love for music, and strengthened the tangible bond with her guitar. For Something’s Changing isn’t a closing chapter on her new found perspective – it’s merely the blueprint for what’s still to come.
“[Something’s Changing] is the big picture, and everything else will fit in around me; this vibe – because I think it really is a vibe; turning into a bit of a hippie and living out of a rucksack, travelling around with my guitar and living in different places. It's made me the happiest I've ever been, and I guess that's what I was always looking for. So it's exciting to pursue this vibe I'm currently on and keep moving forward.”
Lucy Rose plays Bestival, East Lulworth, in September, and can also be caught at The Plug in Sheffield in early November.
Something’s Changing was released Friday 7th July on Communion records.
Photo courtesy of Laura Lewis Photography