Wednesday, 17 June 2015
After what felt like hours of being lost within the heart of Birmingham's city centre, I found myself in the dishevelled backyard of the HMV institute attempting to locate the back door. Before you make any kind of presumptions about the nature of my wandering, it was all perfectly in check as I had the fortune of interviewing the sublime Lucy Rose before her show, only I had taken the wrong turn and ended up on a desolate roof top with nothing but pigeons for company.
Luckily, I managed to find my way and was lead upstairs to a small bar that overlooked the cityscape of Birmingham at sunset; there was Lucy, behind the bar with a small paper cup making a cup of tea as comfortably if she were in her own kitchen. For those of you who aren't familiar with Lucy, the Warwickshire singer-songwriter has featured heavily on Bombay Bicycle Club's last three records, released her debut album 'Like I Used To' in the Autumn of 2012, took a prime spot at Glastonbury last year and is in the process of releasing her follow up record 'Work It Out'. But looking at Rose, there is not one glint of pressure or stress in her eyes. She sits on a stool one leg on, one off and smiles intently at my arrival. It's not the first time we have met, me being a rather excessive fan it is more like our sixth or seventh meeting. Rose's charm is ultimately her strength, her warmth and kindness make it more like a catch up with a former friend, especially helped with the cup of tea I am offered. Immediately we begin discussing her year off after relentlessly touring the first record worldwide as well as touring with Bombay Bicycle Club. "It was weird!" Rose says, "But I guess having that 'me' time that I hadn't had before really was beneficial, just to write really."
Rose explains how most of the second album was written whilst touring the first album, songs like 'Cologne' or 'Sheffield' were written after touring these cities and being inspired by the people she met or things she was fortunate to see. "It's got a great cathedral!" she chuckles as I ask about the inspiration for Cologne. "Most of the songs are written after somewhere so I'm kind of glad to stop it at some places." As she is telling me this, she wanders back and forth from behind the bar, stirring her tea, adding milk, delicately holding the tea back. It's clear she doesn't like sitting still, something I only had to admire as my fidgeting felt extremely unprofessional. "All the songs I've written whilst travelling and on the road are full of excitement" she says when comparing it to her first record, "and as soon as it was written I felt like I could go back and play music again."
I ask more about taking a substantial amount of time off away from music, whether she could truly relax or not when there is an extraordinary amount of pressure, presumably from the record label and herself to carry on writing. "I suddenly went from not going to bed 'till the early hours of the morning, having really productive days to being at home like 'I've got no plans!'" she explains. "And I kind of had to stop writing a diary for that reason, I wrote one for years and years where every day was really exciting and then I came home and it was quite depressing actually, because every day just merged into the same and there wasn't anything I could do about it." Rose goes on to explain how she would only write songs when she had something to say, but there were days when there was nothing to say. "That's kind of really important I think."
'Like I Used To' is an incredibly personal album, one of poignant beauty that every young person can relate to if they ever succumbed to heartbreak, and I carefully ask Lucy if she was fully aware of how personal she wanted to make the record, as I don't wish to offend or upset her. She muses for a few seconds, calm and content, her eyes wandering around the room as if her thoughts were visibly escaping her head. "Joni Mitchell..." she says softly with a smile, "when 'Blue' was released - I watched in a documentary - she went to the record label and said 'it's finished' but they claimed it was far too personal and that they couldn't release it but she was adamant that it 'had to be released', and because she did that I was very much okay with writing a personal record." She pauses again, to collect her thoughts once again and the gleam of light from the sunset catches her eye for a second, as if her cue. "I felt it was important to release a record when I was personally exploring those sort of feelings and it helped me." She mentions her fans, who praise her for voicing the feelings of a generation who felt totally alone, "They would say, 'I felt like you understood me' in a certain way." It's a moment of beauty and for a moment she nervously chuckles, "But then there are those who see a personal album as something quite negative, like just a young girl talking about her feelings and stuff, but that was who I was when I wrote that record." The use of her phrasing suggests a growth and a maturity that she has rightly earned but is still finding her feet in the pond, but luckily she demonstrates a self-awareness that aids her through the use of her song-writing ability and her devoted fan-base.
Incredibly Rose is far from aware of knowing how popular and how loved she is. I recite my personal experiences and how the record helped me recover from a difficult time, but also I tell a tale from when I was in Coventry and walking past a busker who was singing 'Shiver', Rose's final single from the first record. Her eyes widen and she is genuinely moved by this, "That's awesome! Honestly that is AMAZING. I know most people wouldn't have heard of me in a million years." This leads on to her anxiety toward the reaction her music gets, "When I feel super anxious about my music and I can't go to sleep because I feel like people may not like it, I'll remember things like that and what other people say, it makes me feel better and it totally comes full circle."
The interview is rounded off as I come to the end of my ten minute slot, so I ask a series of quick-fire questions that involve feminism in the music industry, "I don't know the answers to any of these questions but if I see any girls out there doing it for the girls, I just love it. Fearne Cotton is doing it for the girls!", and if she could duet with anyone in the world, she answers without a second delay "Dolly Parton!". As we part ways and I wish her luck for the show, she hands me a tin of her specially brewed tea and embraces me in a hug. It's a moment where you realise that all of your idols, past or present, are all human just like us, they share our worries and our flaws; with her kindness and humble nature I am extremely confident that Lucy Rose will be the name on everybody's lips in households and gigs for years to come.