British Folk Singer Lucy Rose Goes Indie Pop On Her Second Record

“I just wanted to try something different.”

by Sarah Rowland

Lucy Rose, who grew up in England, discovered her love of music while she learned to play the drums. Not long after, she taught herself to play the guitar and started writing songs. After beginning her career touring and singing for Bombay Bicycle Club, she decided to become a solo artist and wrote her first album in 2012. Work it Out is her second release, and a true testament to her musicianship and evolving talent.

When she started writing the album, she set out to make a clear departure from 2012’s folk-pop release Like I Used To. Though it wasn’t an easy task, she didn’t want to make the same album twice. These days, she’s trading acoustic guitars for synth instruments, and in the process, she crafted something totally new. While the music behind the lyrics may sound different, she hasn't lost her talent for introspective songwriting. We chatted with the artist about the process of creating her sound, Kendrick Lamar's amazing "Bad Blood" cover, and transitioning from her basement to a recording studio. 

You got interested in music when you started playing drums in your school orchestra. How did you get from that point to where you are today as a solo artist? 

I was really like any kid at school who just enjoyed the music lessons and the music part of school. My sister played drums, so of course I copied her and taught myself in our basement so I could join the orchestra. I guess my interest in music grew, so I saved up bought and guitar. I taught myself again and started writing songs in my bedroom. Like many budding musicians, I moved to London and played open mics for years before finding other musicians to play music with, and then I started selling out bigger shows. I made my first record in the most DIY way—I borrowed equipment from all my friends and made a record in my parents living room. I guess that's where it all really started. 

You’ve mentioned influences like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. Is that the type of music you grew up listening to?

It wasn't, and I still find it hard trying to remember the music that we grew up to. I'm sitting with my sister now, and she's reminding me—lots of Phil Collins, Queen, Pink Floyd, Barry White, and Crowded House. I only got into more singer/songwriter music like Joni Mitchell on recommendation from people at open mics. Then I delved into a whole new world of music I'd never known.  

For those who aren’t familiar with your music, how would you describe it?

My first record was more acoustic, folk, and alternative. But my second album has taken a little more of an upbeat, indie-pop feel. I just wanted to try something different. 

How do you find the music scene in London? 

Incredible. It’s one of the most exciting places to be in the world as a musician. I've met all my greatest friends from open mics. I started putting on my own nights at a pub called Monkey Chews, where I booked the acts and sat on the door. I think I might have nearly turned down Robert Plant from a Delta Spirit gig, as he wasn't on the guest list. But I realized my mistake just in time. Some of the best times of my life have been from being a part of the music scene in London.

You had your a tour in America earlier this year. What was that experience like?

I toured America a year and a half ago and then we managed to go twice for two eight-week tours. We drove 14,000 miles the second tour, starting and finishing in Chicago doing a full circle. It was genuinely the most fun time of my life, and of my bands’ lives as well. We all loved exploring the country and meeting all the guys after the gigs who had just discovered my music from the videos me and Orestes had made. 

You recently covered Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" for BBC Radio 1. How did you decide to cover that track? 

We were looking at the Radio One playlist deciding which song to cover and spotted the Taylor Swift song. We thought it would be a challenge to learn the Kendrick Lamar rap. It did take me a couple of weeks to have it totally memorized.

Before turning to music, you almost studied geography at school?

I never really intended to go to university, unless my music felt like it wasn’t going somewhere. It was Plan B, a backup plan that I'm very happy I didn't need to use. Even though I would have loved university, I never had a passion for anything like I did for music. I found music theory very hard, so I wouldn't be able to study it.  

Tell us about the writing process for your new album. 

I wrote a lot of the album when I was on the road touring for the first record, but I came home to finish the record. I wanted it to have the light and shade from the excitement of touring and then how it feels to be at home. The writing process was like you'd expect—at points I've never felt so creative and others I had weeks of writing where nothing useful came out, so I had to just wait. It definitely wasn't easy, but I was happy to be writing it on my own.

You recorded your first album in the basement of your family home. Was this one recorded in a similar fashion?

I was lucky enough to be able to record my second record in a studio. It felt very alien for the first few days, but I slowly understood how it worked there. I loved the routine of going to do something every day from 10am until 10pm. 

This new release has more music software, and a bit of a different sound than the first release. Tell us about that transition. 

I guess that's come from having a lot more equipment this time and generally being able to experiment with my sound a lot more. Also some of my demos were written on my iPad on an app called BeatMaker 2, so some of the electronic sounds filtered in from there. 

Do the songs and stories always come from personal experiences?

I'm afraid so, which makes writing all the more difficult. If I have nothing to say, I can't write. But each song on this record means a lot to me and describes something I've been through.