Interview: Lucy Rose at the O2 Academy

When Lucy Rose arrives for our interview, she’s fresh off stage from a “stressful” sound check with her band. Having listened in, it seemed that Rose’s intricate, indie-folk sound was firmly intact and as potent as ever. Trialling some material yet to be debuted live, including ‘My Life’, Rose and her band possessed an element of nervousness as they rehearsed, approaching the tracks with a gentle touch, juxtaposed with the intense, beautiful set they would later deliver.

Over halfway through her current UK tour, Rose explains, “It’s been really good. Long…it’s very exciting to get on the road and play music again”. Maintaining a presence on the touring circuit is of upmost importance to Rose, whose modesty is endearing. “All these people in Oxford just found out about us and they’re coming to our shows!” It’s no surprise, however, that Rose’s popularity has reached such exciting levels given that her recent album, Work It Out, reached the Top 10 in the UK charts. “I’m really thrilled with it,” she says, “I don’t really know what it means. The charts are a weird thing. It seems to be fluctuating from week to week, but everyone is obsessed with it. I think I probably sold as many of my first record as the second one and that went Top 15 just because of the charts’ competition each week.”

We begin chatting about the changing nature of the music industry, spotting an edition of the new free NME on the desk. Rose views such developments as “really positive things. But on a side note, more important things are actually if your music’s had a proper connection with people. And if they do buy your record and they do support you by listening to it and coming to gigs, it just means that you get to make another one, hopefully.” I ask whether the new direction taken in her new album was done consciously. “Every interview asks me why this second album sounds so different and I come up with a different reason every time…to be honest I was probably just a bit bored with the acoustic guitar! I’ve been playing it for ten years and I literally just saved up some money and bought a piano and an electric guitar and I had to write on the road. That forced me to try beat makers, and applications that I just hadn’t used on the first record.”

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The impression I get is that Rose’s creative process is often a solitary experience. She explains, “I’ve written everything on my own. There are lots of solo artists – especially female solo artists – that get pushed into doing co-writes. I kind of wanted just to prove that females can write their own records, so I was very anti-co-writing for that reason.” She continues, when I mention recent accounts of sexism in the music industry, that, “I do feel like there’s a lot of image-based conversation that happens, which frustrates me greatly. The more appealing you look as a product, the more people are gonna buy into you. I want exposure, but at the same time, if the only exposure I can get is through posters – which are based on the way I look – it’s hard because a picture has to describe the whole of me as an artist and that’s very difficult.”

It becomes clear during the gig that catching her live is the most enticing way to get to know Rose as an artist. She is softly-spoken, yet delivers immense musical gravity as she runs through her set. Opening with quirky ‘Cover Up’ and fan favourite ‘Lines’, Rose and her band are precise from the off. The set is interweaved with her personal album favourites, incorporating the emotional ‘Nebraska’, and ‘She’ll Move’; those tracks “with slightly more depth than the singles we’ve put out”. Stepping out from the acoustic based sound of her first album, the tempo for the night is consistent and indulgent. With near-spotless vocals, Rose has the audience encapsulated by recently released ‘Like an Arrow’. The songs of Work It Out are tinged with the vulnerability that dominates early tracks like ‘Shiver’, garnering strident applause. The triumphs of Lucy Rose’s artistry include her astounding capacity to stun audiences into silence as she plays. A true master of her instruments, she commands attention from centre stage, switching between acoustic and electric guitars, barely leaving the audience a chance to catch its breath as punchier tracks like ‘Middle of the Bed’ and ‘Köln’ feature next. “I enjoy playing music,” Lucy tells me. It is a fact evident as a sincere smile graces her face during encore track ‘Red Face’. Her band tear into it, drums heavy, guitar parts intricate, vocals extraordinary. The night is overpowering in its authenticity, the sentiment of her music dominating the set. The dedication of Rose and her band to truly connecting with their audiences is left in no doubt. So, what does music mean to Lucy Rose? “It’s like a drug, it’s this gamble that you’re always taking and it’s just addictive. There’s something that’s soothing to the soul, playing music.”