an interview with Lucy Dacus ++ watch her NPR Tiny Desk Concert
Richmond-based singer/songwriter Lucy Dacus released her great debut album No Burden earlier this year, and has kept extremely busy since. Today she shared her NPR Tiny Desk Concert video, where she performed her lead single “I Don’t Want to Be Funny Anymore”, “Green Eyes, Red Face,”and “Direct Address” off her debut album. Watch it below. She’ll also make her television debut Saturday (7/30) on CBS This Morning 7 AM EST.
Lucy has garnered attention after the release of No Burden with her deeply personal, introspective lyrics and a killer voice to match. This got her a position as Matador’s newest signee, joining labelmates Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile, and Car Seat Headrest, who she’s touring with (including two shows at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom). Matador is re-pressing her debut LP on September 9 and she already has a new album in the making.
I spoke to Lucy while she’s on tour to discuss No Burden, her new label, her plans for the next album, and her musical roots. Read on for the interview…
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BV: You’ve recently experienced the switch from being a local Richmond artist to touring and constantly doing press. What has that change been like for you so far?
Lucy Dacus: It’s been … There’s no really preparing for it. It’s not like jobs that you hear about in school. Like, this is what it’s like to own a business and this is what you do to become a teacher. There’s not really a “how to” on what being a musician is like. So it’s kind of just been fading out as we’re going along. It’s been the best job ever. So even though there’s like weird stuff, weird adjustments in just your daily lifestyle, it’s really fun to do. So it ends up being good in the end.
Another big thing that happened to you is signing with Matador. What made you choose to sign with them?
It was one of those things where … Meeting everybody that worked at Matador, they seem to have gnarly, dedicated staff. Gerard [Cosloy] was one of the first people we talked to. He’s one of the founders of the label and his idea about how music should be treated and why music should be shared is really similar to my own. And if you just look at the other artists on their roster, some of those bands have been doing music for like decades. So if they can sustain careers like that, that is a super good sign.
You’ve mentioned that you already wrote most of the songs for your next album which is crazy because No Burden just came out. Can you tell me a bit about those songs that you have already written?
Yeah! I guess I don’t want to speak too soon but I am pretty hopped on it. A lot of the songs are in response to more train of thought, like it’s a much more unified idea. The terms that we’ve been saying is poppy nihilism, is kind of the theme, I would say of the next album. I’m with the band and everyone’s really excited that I just told that to the interview (laughs).
You’ve said writing No Burden was a form of exploring yourself and finding that side of yourself. Was that therapeutic for you in a way to express all that in your writing?
Yeah, a lot of the time my writing ends up the most skewed when I need the most focused thought that I could get off something, like when I just don’t understand somebody or something going on in my life. The easiest way for me to get through it is to try and express something that’s going on simply or eloquently to myself. So yeah, there’s a lot of therapy in that, like being able to write it, and then sharing it. Not just like having it exist but like giving it to other people. Talking about it in a public scene, that makes it therapeutic every night. It becomes real again with every conversation that I have with people also have compressed thoughts about the same subject.
“Dream State…” and “…Familiar Place” were particularly impactful for me. You’ve mentioned before that they were some of the toughest songs for you to write was the meaning of the lyrics. Can you tell a bit about the story behind them?
Yeah. So it was originally one song. When we play it live, we play it back to back. “Dream State…” is about an actual event in my life that feels real and “…Familiar Place” is about a dream that I had that did feel like my actual reality. Both of them are talking about the kind of the moment before you decided to make a change in your life, but you haven’t executed it yet. At least to me, this is what it was, realizing all of the consequences of taking charge of your life and hoping that it’s for the best, but knowing that you’re going to lose people that are close to you.
You might lose dynamics of your life that you love, the things that you used to. Like, changing your habits is hard. And hurting people is too. Sometimes it feels wrong to do good for yourself if it feels like it’s going to be bad for someone else. But, yeah, so it was hard to write and I still don’t really know what’s being done about the current situation. It will always, always be hard.
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Do you think you’re going to try to address that theme of experiencing change and self-discovery in the next album?
Yeah. The next album has a lot to do with loss. But, like I said, in a positive way. Trying to look at all the worst, most horrible things in the best way just because everyone has got to do it. So, yeah, look forward to have that happy content.
You have musicians as parents. How did that play a role in you becoming one yourself?
For a lot of my life I wasn’t choosing it. I didn’t feel inspired. It was just like so natural in my house to play music as a thing that it wasn’t much different than any other aspect of my life. I wanted to be a professional diver or whatever, you know. Or like, a construction worker was my first dream.
But at this point, I’ve got this background of experience being shown by my parents what it’s like to play music. That’s just like a hobby of my mom’s. I guess treating music as if it is just a totally natural part of your experience, not something extra special, actually, helps a lot.
I don’t feel pressured to be something because it was never like a pressure, like, “Okay go cross this bridge,” or like, “Go get better at this,” you know?
What has changed since releasing your LP? More pressure?
I would say, the biggest pressure is kind of everything else around it, like one would be, you know, interviews. I’m asked to view critically of my own life almost everyday, which is a blessing, like, that’s really cool about someone asking you hard questions. It is stress on the mind a little bit, not in a bad way, like I said. Kind of a cool function of this job.
I never really cared about what I looked like. Now a bunch of people are looking at me every night and so I try to feel more conscious of what I’m wearing or I put on lipstick before all my shows. Not kind of the pressure to look nice but again it’s not like it’s so much of a problem. It’s part of what’s usually a good job that we have.
Lucy just played Lollapalooza yesterday (7/28). Some pictures of her set are in the gallery above.
Lucy Dacus – 2016 Tour Dates
8/4-8/6 – Olga, WA – Doe Bay Resort and Retreat
8/7 – Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern
8/8 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios – w/ Julien Baker
8/10 – San Francisco, CA – Rickshaw Stop
8/11 – Los Angeles, CA – The Echo
8/12 – San Diego, CA – The Casbah
8/14 – Phoenix, AZ – Valley Bar
8/16 – Austin, TX – Stubb’s Bar-B-Q
8/17 – Dallas, TX – Three Links
8/19 – Nashville, TN – The Basement
8/20 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade – Purgatory
9/3 – Salisbury, UK – End of the Road Festival
9/6 – London, UK – The Old Blue Last
9/13 – Baltimore, MD – Ram’s Head Live – w/ Frightened Rabbit
9/15 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom – w/ Car Seat Headrest – SOLD OUT
9/16 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom – w/ Car Seat Headrest
9/17 – Boston, MA – The Sinclair – w/ Car Seat Headrest – SOLD OUT
9/18 – Montreal, QC – Bar le Ritz PDB – w/ Car Seat Headrest
9/19 – Toronto, ON – Virgin Mobile Mod Club – w/ Car Seat Headrest
9/21 – Detroit, MI – El Club – w/ Car Seat Headrest
9/22 – Urbana, IL – The Pygmalion Festival
9/24 – Cincinnati, OH – MidPoint Music Festival
9/25 – Cleveland, OH – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum – w/ Car Seat Headrest
9/27 – Madison, WI – Majestic Theatre – w/ Car Seat Headrest
9/28 – Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Center – w/ Car Seat Headrest
10/1 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Festival
10/7 – Richmond, VA – The National