“One good thing about the past is that you can't change it. So there's no reason to go back. It's there. It is what it is. The only thing you can change is right now and what's happening next.” – Neil Young
Lucy Rose is the embodiment of the old adage that posits that change is good for the soul, and in her case, good for the songs as well. After releasing two modestly received but underappreciated albums—2012’s Like I Used To and 2015’s Work It Out—the British singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist suffered a professional identity crisis of sorts, not knowing whether she would continue to record or not.
She was not idle during this angst-ridden period, however. She spent quality time engaging with her devoted fan base and performing across Latin America last year. She left Columbia Records for the more creatively conducive environs of Communion Records. And ultimately, she re-engaged her muse to craft the finest songs of her career to date.
These songs are collected on her sterling third studio LP Something’s Changing, which, for my money, is the best album I’ve heard so far this year, amidst plenty of formidable competition. The filler-free, 11-track suite is enthralling fare from beginning to end, showcasing an artist stoking her creative flames like never before and staking a convincing claim as one of her generation’s most gifted songsmiths.
As I get older, it seems there are fewer things in life that catch me off-guard anymore. Indeed, as I approach the conclusion of my fourth decade, life—with the rare exception here and there—has gradually become more predictable. Not a bad thing, mind you, but rather the reality of a late thirtysomething whose family and career now command center stage the vast majority of the time.
Music, on the other hand, never fails to surprise me. There’s seemingly always something new and thrilling to discover, just when I least expect it. Such is the case with Something’s Changing, which has been this year’s most unforeseen musical revelation for me, and I suspect for many others as well. Hence why I was so grateful for the chance to catch up with the lovely Ms. Rose recently to delve deeper into the sources of inspiration behind the album, her approach to songwriting, and, of course, the importance of embracing change.
Justin Chadwick: Congratulations on the release of Something’s Changing, which is simply a stunning album from beginning to end. How was the songwriting and recording process for this album different than what you had experienced for its precursors, Like I Used To (2012) and Work It Out (2015)?
Lucy Rose: Each album has been so different to make, during the writing and recording process. This was the first record I've made where I can play every song on my own, either me and my guitar or piano and feel confident that the song still stands up. I had also played a lot of the songs on this record live, so I felt really comfortable playing them before we went to record them. That meant that the recording process was so much quicker because we did mostly live tracking without a click, sometimes playing and singing at the same time, and I really had a clear vision about what I wanted to make.
There were a few songs that were left off the record not because they weren't good enough, but because they weren’t exactly right for this record. I was very aware that I wanted the record to represent me entirely and I wanted to love every song that was on it. To be honest, I can't really remember how I suddenly had all the songs for the record, it kind of just happened. I wrote a couple before the trip (to South America), some during my travels and I remember writing a lot after the trip had finished. I spent a week on a beach in Mexico and a lot was written then. Looking back at it now, the writing process was the most natural out of the three records I've made. It's never easy to write, but this time I felt like I had so much I wanted to say, I was just lucky that I found the words to say it.
JC: Something’s Changing is your first album released by Communion Records, after your stint with Columbia Records. Can you share what this transition between labels has meant for you and your music?
LR: Honestly when I think about it, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. Columbia wasn't a great fit for me, there were so many pressures to be something that I wasn't, which is why I found myself in the position of wondering whether I wanted to carry on releasing music. It was a really strange feeling because I had everything that I had dreamed of—my dream job—and I was unhappy.
Being able to work with Communion Records has been a huge beacon of hope for me. It was the first time ever bringing the finished record to them and having someone tell me that it was perfect the way it was, that I didn't need to change, and for the first time it felt good to be me. For every artist like me out there, I don’t think there is a record label better and more in tune with the art of making music than Communion Records.
JC: The album’s title, Something’s Changing, evokes the theme of transition or transformation. How did you select the title and what does it mean to you?
LR: Choosing the title was tricky because I had so much to say in this record and I needed something to sum it all up. I wanted the word “change” to be in there somewhere, so much of this journey to make this record has been about change. The trip changed me entirely and going forth in music, I can see a way of doing it and being happy. I feel like I have a route to do it while remaining myself and I'm doing things differently, managing myself, living with fans on tours to make it financially viable. I wanted the title to be broad so it wasn't just about my change, but it could even mean something as big as the world is changing.
JC: “Floral Dresses,” your collaboration with The Staves, feels like one of the more acutely autobiographical moments on the album. What was the inspiration behind the song?
LR: An inspiration for a song can come from anywhere, this one came from a feeling like so many do, a feeling of being misunderstood. I sometimes feel like if you fight to be you and you don’t conform, you are seen to be awkward and difficult, or maybe that's my interpretation of it. Growing up, I never felt like I truly fit in, especially being at an all-girls school and not being particularly “girlie,” and I often worried about why I wasn't the same. After moving to London, touring, growing up, I became friends with so many women just like me and I began to feel comfortable in my own skin and who I was for the first time. This song was the first time I've expressed that and shown how the world and people can make you feel at the same time.
JC: One of the album’s many standouts, “Moirai,” is a reference to the notion of fate. Where do you personally stand on the spectrum of human destiny? Do you think that our lives unravel according to some preordained design or do you think serendipity plays a part?
LR: Big question. You know what, I don't think I believe in fate or destiny. I just think that now when I see all of the terrible things that happen to people, I can't believe that that is their fate. But at the same time, sometimes it feels like the stars align and it can't just be a coincidence. But who knows. I guess the point of the song is that if fate does exist, then Moirai, the Greek god in charge of our fates, has let some people down.
JC: As I believe you’re aware, my recent review of Something’s Changing included assigning it the maximum five out of five stars, which is a rarity and places the album squarely in the running for Albumism’s album-of-the-year honors. But, in the interest of transparency—and you can be totally honest here—are journalists’ perspectives about your music important to you? At the end of the day, do the accolades even matter? Or do you find that most of your validation as a singer-songwriter and musician comes from elsewhere?
LR: You know what, as much as I want to say that I don't care about reviews and what journalists write, sometimes I do let it seep in. I never read reviews, so unfortunately I haven't read your review. But thank you very much for the 5 stars. To be honest, I don't think it's about the review, but I'm just so happy that the album has connected with you, regardless of you being a journalist.
I've made this record for a certain type of person, that I truly believe will get something from it. That person may or may not be a journalist, but I am really thankful that you are, so that you can describe and write about your connection to the record. But I'm not sure if it means anymore to me than if you were a fan coming up to me after a gig expressing the same feelings to me. I get just as much happiness from those experiences as I do knowing that you liked the record. Gosh, I hope what I’m trying to say makes sense.
JC: It totally does! So my wife and I will be spending the evening of my birthday (October 5th) at your upcoming show here in New York City, and ordering the tickets recently was the perfect early birthday present to myself. Though I’m curious about how you perceive touring here in the U.S.? Relative to your loyal following in Europe and South America, do you feel like America is the nut that you haven’t been able to crack yet?
LR: That is so exciting that you're coming to the gig in New York! It's been so long since I was last touring in the US that I'm excited and nervous at the same time. I don't know if I feel like it's the nut I haven't been able to crack, as I'm not sure I've cracked Europe either really. But I'm excited to see those fans that have been messaging me and are excited about my upcoming tour, as nowadays I'm always thinking about the few not the many. I'd always prefer to have a smaller audience that really gets the record and me, rather than a bigger audience where no-one gets it. And to be honest I can't believe the venues that I'm getting to play, like the Troubadour in L.A., and I'm shocked that I'm selling tickets in advance. So really I'm just excited to be heading back, saying hello to fans I met last time and meeting new ones.
JC: Your songwriting has always struck me as deriving from a very pure and sincere place, free from embellishment and superficiality. Does composing songs just come naturally for you or do you feel like it’s something you need to invest a lot of time and energy into, as far as refining your craft goes?
LR: Both, really. Best of times, it feels completely natural and some days the words just make sense and the chords feel right. But I don't forget all those days when I'm working on songs, like you say “refining my craft,” and the words just don't flow the same. There's a real mystery to songwriting that I don't necessarily want to work out, but I enjoy the moments when it does feel right and make the most of them.
I think it's not just about songwriting but about playing too, every free moment I have there is nothing I would rather do than pick up my guitar or sit at the piano and play. Not for writing purposes, but because it feels so good to be playing, trying new finger pickings, working out new chords and normally that will naturally lead into a song. When it comes to lyrics, they always have to mean something to me because I know I'll be singing them for a long time, and I always want to have that feeling when I play them that there is a clear message and sentiment to the song.
JC: A bit of a clichéd question here, but who do you credit as your greatest musical influences? And your greatest personal influences?
LR: I think my standout musical influences would be both Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Feels like they have both been so true to themselves as musicians, which is never easy and inspires me to always remain true to myself. Even if that path looks like a longer, harder path to take, I know it's the right one. I know from watching documentaries that Joni has given absolutely everything to her art. And I'm forever grateful for that, because she gave me something that I will never be able to thank her enough for, which is music that healed and comforted me. It helped me grow and understand myself through her seeking to understand herself.
The fact that she openly found (performing at) festivals hard gives me great courage that I'm not alone in that feeling, and it's ok to feel this way. I always worry that if I don't enjoy certain parts of playing music that I'm not a true musician. But the fact that she felt the same things really helps. I love Neil Young's voice so much, again it gives me hope that you don't need that perfectly in-tune, flawless vocal for it to still connect. And the simplicity in his arrangements on records such as Harvest have been a great influence on this new record. Personal influences? Nearly every person I meet, whether they are teaching me what I don't want to be or what I do want to be.
JC: You’ve developed a very devout following of fans in Latin America and you toured eight countries there for the first time last year, connecting directly with these fans along the way. What was the experience like and do you have plans to return at some point?
LR: It really was the best experience of my life. The documentary shows and explains better than I ever could what the trip meant to me. I met some of the best people I've ever met, and I was so lucky to be able to return again this past May, see them all again and show them the documentary. It really was so emotional for me to watch how much it meant to them as well, as it feels like we will always share this experience, which will always tie us together. Hoping to go back next year and see them all again.
JC: Okay, last question. What, if push comes to shove, are your five favorite albums of all time?
LR: Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, Carole King’s Tapestry, Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Tom Waits’ Closing Time, and Neil Young’s Harvest.
SEE Lucy Rose on tour | Dates