Revelations from a chat with singer-songwriter Lucy Rose in Singapore: What makes her cry, how to deal with flight anxiety and learning how to trust yourself
Lucy Rose extended her freckled arm to me as we sat opposite each other. "Feel my arm," she exclaimed. "I'm quite cold now, seriously". I reached out to feel her cool skin — affirmative. The 28-year-old Londoner was in fact, not as sweaty as this interviewer was as we sat at a leafy patio in the Jalan Besar neighbourhood. The "Brooklyn of Singapore" (branded affectionately by optimists, no less) set the scene for a chat with the indie folk singer-songwriter, who was in town for two sold-out shows and film screenings.
In the distance, the faint sound of bells at a nearby temple calmed this eager beaver who later confessed to be a fan. Heck, Rose had even made me cry a few times, thanks to her 2012 breakout hit, 'Shiver' — a tune I discovered from an emotional scene in a season four episode of Girls. Her extended arm was a response to my final question: What makes you shiver? A bit on the nose, yes, but appropriately so — this doe-eyed, petite singer isn't afraid to be vulnerable in her songwriting, or so it seems.
"I think I'm always, always cold," she continued. "But shiver... it's a bit intense that question. I feel like I'd be too embarrassed by my answer to say. Maybe I couldn't say it." Fair enough. "What makes you shiver?" she prodded, turning the question on to me. Slick move, Rose.
"Flying," I responded. "I f*cking hate it". Little did I know I'd be getting advice on how to manage flight anxiety. It made sense — on the last day of her regional tour, she was due to take three planes in one day. Rose shared three advice nuggets: 1. Most of the people she met during her tour of Latin America had never been on a plane, so we should enjoy the experience. 2. It's totally irrational, because it's so safe. 3. You can make money off a turbulence video on YouTube. "People make sh*tloads of money from turbulence vidoes," she gushed. "So I always think if it gets turbulent, I'm going to make a fortune!"
A wise career move, if Rose ever quits music. Lets hope she doesn't, because the singer-songwriter has a lot going on for her. Previously a backing singer for Razorlight and Bombay Bicycle Club, Rose now has three albums under her belt. In 2016, she departed from her then-label, Columbia Records, after they refused to give her complete creative control over her next release. After finding out through Spotify that she had listeners in Latin America, she toured through Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico, performing free shows and even staying with fans while on the road. Her husband, tour manager William Morris, also came along, filming what would be a documentary that would screen on shows. In July, Rose released Something's Changing, an album that only took three weeks to make.
You considered leaving music at some point after your second album, Work It Out. What led to that? I felt like I was either going to take a big break or stop altogether. I think it was a lack of confidence. I guess the industry is sort of built to make a very small number of musicians feel successful and the rest to feel relatively unsuccessful. I'm definitely in that category — of not being very well-known and not perceived to be highly successful — so I think sometimes those doubts can eventually get to you. Maybe I'm just not good enough, you know? And I didn't want to be trying and trying at something and not taking the hint that I should just leave it. Those thoughts made me feel like maybe it was time to stop.
What made you carry on? As cheesy as it sounds, I feel like within my being, I would always have to do music in some sort of way and it's part of who I am.
Your latest album, Something's Changing, is self-funded and was a departure from being managed by a label initially. What were the most important things you learned about yourself from making that sort of record? I began to believe in my own ideas again and I retained and regained control for everything again. Also, the trip around South America was just an idea and I was advised not to do it. It turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done in my life. I started believing in my decisions and ideas again. That whole belief is in the record.
Would you say that Something's Changing is finally a true portrayal of yourself as an artist? I think it's a strong portrayal. It's the closest to where I want to be long-term, as a musician. It's difficult, because with this particular record I wanted to lay it all out bare from how I was feeling before making that record. I wanted it to be quite a deep record so it would connect to certain type of fans. I realised that sometimes you can worry about making music and who's going to like it. I realised the fans that had really taken something from my music, or that my music had a really strong impact on their lives were into the deepest songs and the ones that helped them through something. I wanted to make a record full of that for those sort of people.
You've mentioned that 'I Can't Change It All' is one of your favourites. What does this song mean to you, and is there a reason why it's placed as the last track in your album? It's a lyrical meaning of the song which means so much to me. It summed up pretty perfectly a feeling that I had, which I probably can't describe to you very well now. People generally feel quite open talking to me about deep things after gigs or when I was living with fans, because my music had been a part of that moment. Hearing so much of people's struggles, I kept thinking about what I could do more and I just wanted to help in a way, and I couldn't. It's probably the most intense song on the record. So it didn't really have a place in between songs. It felt like it needed its own space and you needed to think about it afterwards, so I put it at the end.
What was the hardest or easiest part about making Something's Changing? The songs for this one came really naturally in a weird way — not like it's easy, because I never find songwriting easy. It felt natural to me while I was doing it. I just kind of let what was happening happen, and not overthink it. The hardest bit of it all is naturally when you're letting more out that's personal, the hardest thing is feeling pretty vulnerable at the end of it all, you know?
How do you do it? I don't know. I do find it really difficult. With strangers and weirdly, with fans, it's different because they know me through that. But with people who've been in my life for a long time, talking about deep stuff can be a lot to take in and it's not something we all do. We probably have a conversation about more regular things. You feel a bit embarrassed sometimes.
When I recommend you to people, I'll say, "Listen to this, it might make you cry". Does it ever get emotionally overwhelming when you perform? When was the last time you cried on stage? The last time I cried — which I found very hard — was in Buenos Aires. I was playing 'Shiver', and it was to a much bigger crowd that I could have ever imagined. They were singing so beautifully. From feeling what I was feeling — that no one knows my music and I'm not particularly successful — and being in that situation... it was a lot to take in.
The odd time I can see someone feeling it in the crowd... I feel like for them to feel it, it makes me sad because it makes me think that they've gone through something in a way, you know?
How do you think you've matured in songwriting, and what do you think has changed in your life that made you better at it? I really don't know. People are going to like the first record — there's a naivety and innocence to your writing then. When you're young, your mindset is so different to when you're older and mature as a person. In many ways, you think that's better when you're learning and maturing, but then you lose some part of yourself which would have been more open. So I don't know about "better". I guess it's about capturing that part of your life, and different people are going to relate to different times of your life depending on where they are.
Do the people you write about know that you write about them? Yes, unfortunately. Sometimes they must be able to feel it, maybe.
Your husband also tours with you and even filmed the documentary. Has marriage changed you at all as an artist? Surely. Music doesn't mean any less to me, but all the goal posts have changed slightly in my life. Music was my whole being until I found somebody I wanted to spend my life with and it's given me a different purpose so I guess in some ways, it's taken some pressure off myself and my own ambitions, and that's changed to joint ambitions.