Interview: Lucy Rose
NANCY NAPPER CANTER takes tea with Lucy Rose and looks beyond the fringe.
Lucy Rose is not the first young, befringed, British female singer-songwriter to attract attention in the last few years.
The 23-year-old waif is best known for her collaboration with Bombay Bicycle Club: she contributed to Flaws and A Different Kind of Fix and toured with them this year. Her music is mellow, elegiac and confessional: Laura Marling-esque (though I’d say Lucy’s is the more haunting voice), but also heavily influenced by Neil Young. Now on her own tour, I meet her at its sixth stop: The Portland Arms, Cambridge.
Though quirkiness is by no means unusual among the fringe brigade, Lucy is unique in selling homemade jam and tea at her gigs. As she enthuses over her own one part Earl Grey, one part Builder’s blend, I ask whether there have been many tea breaks on her tour so far. She seems down.
‘I’ve actually gone a bit, like, mental with my singing,’ she says. ‘I’m not eating or drinking any dairy for my voice, which is really lame because I’m obsessed with milk in my tea. So I normally just have some very early in the morning.’ I ask her what she does instead in the breaks before or after gigs, this being a pre-gig break at seven in the evening. ‘In this time…’ she momentarily trails off, then adds, ‘I’m just wasting it.’
Anxious not to waste her time, I move on to the inevitable question about meeting and touring with Bombay boy Jack Steadman. The response feels jaded – my question is an over-familiar one. ‘I met Jack in a pub in Angel Islington and we got chatting,’ she murmurs. ‘He did a remix of one of my songs, and soon asked me to come and sing on some gigs with him so I did, and it was really great.’
Though a mesmerising performer, Lucy often turns to her fellow band members on stage for what seems like reassurance. A similar thing happens when I ask her whether she has any hidden talents. Momentarily flummoxed, she appeals to her tour manager, Al. ‘Have I got any talents?’ ‘Loads,’ he replies.
We discover them by what feels like a process of elimination. Punting? ‘I can’t punt.’ ‘You’re good at football.’ ‘Am I? No. We bought a football the other day, and we kicked it and it actually hit something that tripped all the lights in the venue, so I’m not very good at that.’ Drawing? ‘Drawing. I’m terrible at drawing. I hate… I’m not really a big fan of art. I prefer books, film and music.’
After a brief discussion of books, (she rummages to find ‘Life Of Pi’ in her rucksack) Al chirps up, ‘You’re writing a book.’ Lucy looks uncharacteristically ruffled. ‘Oh my god.’ Are you? ‘No. I’m trying. It’s terrible.’ What’s it about? ‘I can’t say.’ Beneath the fringe, Lucy has a fragility that makes me fearful of offending her, so I don’t persist. But she continues, unprompted, ‘I’m really bad at words. English was my worst subject at school – I was really good at maths.’
This seems a strange claim in light of her enthusiasm for song writing: ‘it’s the best thing, that’s what I love’. I point out that her lyrics clearly demonstrate that she’s not ‘bad at words’. ‘I really am,’ she replies, ‘I’m just winging it.’
Though less reserved than in the interview, Lucy remains modest on stage. She makes eye contact with the audience only occasionally, and repeatedly responds to our applause with, ‘I can’t thank you enough’. She’s clearly in her element when performing. But it’s the music, rather than the limelight, on which she thrives.
If not as cosy as her merchandise, Lucy Rose is just as memorable. Like the rhubarb and ginger in her jam, her beautiful voice and enigmatic magnetism are, I’d say, a recipe for success. But the proof of the pudding will come when her new album is released in September.