“If you don’t like acoustic music then you’re going to be totally uninterested in me straight away,” laughs British singer-songwriter Lucy Rose. “And I quite like that.”
Due to perform at Hanoi Rock City on Thursday, Sep. 21, Lucy’s brand of indie folk acoustic music attracts a certain type of listener, one, she says, tends to have a “big heart… and a lot of feelings going on.”
“From all the people I’ve met, I think they think on a slightly deeper level,” she says. “It feels like a lot of people have gone through a certain [experience], and maybe they have a certain song or record of mine that they listen to at that time.”
Brought to Vietnam by Kindassault, Lucy’s first album Like I Used To was released on Columbia Records in 2012. It led to a meteoric rise to stardom that garnered numerous TV appearances, a tour of the UK and North America, and performances at the top festivals in the UK.
This was followed by her second album in 2015, Work It Out, which peaked in the UK album charts at number 9. However, with commercial success came a pressure to ‘up the ante’, and conform to the commercial needs of the music industry.
“The industry is profit-based,” she explains. “If you’re not selling a huge amount of records and are not in the top 5 artists in the UK, then you’ve failed.”
To achieve such success required adjustments. The staff at her label began questioning her songwriting: the music itself or the meaning of a particular word or metaphor. In turn she was encouraged to analyse every aspect of her work.
“Until that point songwriting was a relatively natural thing,” she says. “I had bad days and good days. It was just subconscious and I never thought about it that much.
“Now I started questioning myself. ‘Is that lyric actually any good?’ and I didn’t actually know whether that lyric was any good. ‘Is it too simple?’ ‘Is it too obvious?’ I didn’t know.”
Suddenly, songwriting, which had always brought Lucy happiness, was making her unhappy. “The one thing that I treasured in life was being ruined.”
That was when she took a big step back and re-evaluated.
The Rise to Stardom
Brought up in Warwickshire, central England, Lucy’s musical journey began with playing the drums at school. When she was 15, she bought herself a guitar and started to learn — she is largely self-taught. At 18, with both her older sisters already out of the roost — one is an accountant and the other works in advertising — Lucy moved to London to pursue a music career.
What followed were open mic gigs, paid shows, a contract with Columbia Records, two albums, performances in venues she could only dream of playing as a kid, and commercial success. Come 2016, however, and Lucy was struggling.
“I’d lost my confidence,” she says, “and I was told that ‘this album hasn’t worked out how we want and we don’t think we can do another record with you unless we do this compromise or that compromise.’”
So before making any decisions on her future, and before making those ‘compromises’ she went travelling.
Photo by Laura Lewis Photography
On the Trail
Inspired by the number of tweets and Spotify streams coming from the region, for two months Lucy took her guitar and backpacked around Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico, playing free shows and staying with fans. The journey led to her re-evaluating both her life and career, and was also the catalyst for her third album, Something’s Changing, which was released in July.
“[The trip] gave me the confidence to go back and say, you know what, I’m going to do it a bit differently this time.”
Now she manages herself and has decided that she will never again sign to a major label. She has a self-funding, self-releasing licensing deal with Communion in the UK and Arts & Crafts in Canada, which means she has creative control over her work. Having already performed in the region last year, Lucy is back in Southeast Asia this September for three weeks’ worth of shows.
During her trip to South America, Lucy made a documentary of her experiences, a 20-minute short film that is being screened at the beginning of all her shows. It shows her as a real person with real people, brought together by the love of her music.
“It’s quite powerful to see it and then hear the new songs that came out because of it,” she says. “It goes into detail about where my headspace was before going on the trip and the profound effect it had on me. I think it can be quite a powerful thing seeing the documentary and hearing the new songs live at the same time.” — Nick Ross
Lucy Rose and her band will play at Hanoi Rock City (27/52 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Hanoi) on Thursday, Sep. 21. Entrance is VND250,000 (before Sep. 3), VND300,000 (in advance) and VND350,000 on the door. For info and ticketing click on https://www.facebook.com/events/269462093537576/. Tickets are on sale at Hanoi Rock City and Standing Bar. For more info on Lucy Rose, click on lucyrosemusic.com