Lucy Spraggan chats to us about her next album, ‘Choices’, her physical transformation and the pressure of social media.
Between getting divorced, getting sober and getting fit, it’s safe to say that Lucy has had quite a year. We spoke to her recently about her new outlook on life and how it has influenced her album, Choices, which is to be released next year.
Since we last spoke to you here at Vinyl Chapters I understand that a lot of things have been going on in your personal life that has influenced your upcoming album, Choices. Can you tell us a bit about that?
LS: Yeah, there’s been a lot. All of my music is influenced by whatever happens in my life because that’s just the way that I write things, but I’m coming up to a year and a half sober, I think, I’m divorced, I basically live a completely different life to the one that I lived when I recorded the last album. So, yeah, a lot has changed.
Was there any one particular event that was the biggest source of inspiration?
LS: Well, independently, the songs were written about different experiences but as a whole it’s more like a diary of the last couple of years. It’s like a piece of work that is a full body of experiences.
Has the pandemic – and lockdown in particular – played any part in influencing the songs that you’ve written or did the material just happen to arise out of 2020?
LS: I think it just kind of came. I haven’t really written anything specifically about the pandemic or the effects of the pandemic, but lots of the songs I’ve written while I was working out. I was doing that avidly throughout lockdown. I was running a half-marathon every week, and little runs as well, so I wrote a song called Run. And then there’s a song called Animal that I wrote – it’s inspired by Bollywood music because I listen to Bollywood music when I work out.
Why Bollywood music?
LS: It just has an energy that Western music doesn’t really have!
You said in your previous interview with us that your last album, Today Was A Good Day, was more of a happy album. How does Choices compare?
LS: I’d say it’s a happier album. I think Today Was A Good Day was a happy album in the sense of being content. It’s happy in the moment, whereas this album has got a bit more attitude. It’s not about love, it’s not about materials, it’s about digging really deep into your own self and realising that, actually, I’m not happy all the time, so why would that album reflect that? What I am all the time is a fucking badass. So this album is badass, it’s not like, ‘oh, I’ll settle down’ and all that stuff. It’s actually more like, ‘no, I’m not going to settle down because that’s not actually me.’
LS: So would you say there’s more of an attitude change that we can see in this album?
Sonically and lyrically, yeah. This album is no holds barred, really. It’s a leveller, it’s a game-changer because I could go on making the same album for the next twenty years and, to a degree, that’s kind of what I’ve done. I think my first and second albums were my best and then it kind of just became a bit complacent. And this is the sixth album, so traditionally you can do whatever the fuck you want with your sixth album.
Many people will remember your song Last Night (Beer Fear) from your X Factor audition all those years ago now. Now that you’ve written Sober, do you look back at that song any differently, particularly as it gained you quite a lot of initial popularity?
LS: Not really. There’s a stark contrast between the two but that’s just the progression of human life. I wrote that song when I was probably seventeen, eighteen and I’m twenty-nine now, so it’s over a decade old. But I don’t feel like people who have those defining songs in their career – for me, Tea and Toast and Beer Fear and, to a degree, Lighthouse – they’re all really different songs. Last Night (Beer Fear) isn’t the best song I’ve ever written, it was funny. I mean, if you played it in a minor key it’s a slightly darker song: ‘Wish I could stop and I’m not joking / Drinking too much and socially smoking’ – if you played that a little bit slower, a little E minor chord progression, you’re onto a different kind of song there. But I don’t think about it any differently, though.
Let’s talk about Sober for a minute. I have here that you wrote the song in a matter of days, so what can you tell me about the writing process? Is that the normal amount of time you would take to write a song?
LS: I wrote the song in about a couple of hours! There are songs that have taken me bloody fifteen years to write but most songs take me under two or three hours.
LS: Yeah, I’m a very quick writer, probably because I have the patience of a fish. I wrote the song in the first week of being sober and the reason I did that was because I really wanted to document how I was feeling at that point, to really write down the raw emotion, because that’s what I like to do. I don’t like to change songs at all once they’ve been written because they were written in that moment.
What was the catalyst that made you decide to become sober?
LS: The catalyst was the fact that I didn’t know whether my life was imploding or exploding. I’d been on the road for thirteen months and I was living two parallel lives. I had a house at home where I was married and thinking about having a family and then I had what was actually my reality: me in the back of a tour bus, going from country to country, getting on a flight, getting on another flight. And the two – they didn’t touch, they were like railway tracks. My marriage started to collapse and I was just drinking all the time and I went on this one night out and I woke up and was like, ‘I’m not fucking doing this again.’ And I didn’t.
Let’s take a look at the wider album now. The two singles that have been released so far, Flowers and Sober, are quite different to each other not only in terms of subject matter but also in terms of musical style. So, what can we expect, musically, from your next album?
LS: That’s the funny thing about this album. It has a thread which, I suppose, is me – it has me as the internal vein and I know my voice is quite distinctive so that doesn’t change throughout the record. But there’s this vein of mid-Western, Tarantino-esque style throughout, like Flowers and, to a degree, some of the guitar on Sober is quite country. It’s a real genre collision, but it works!
Do you have any favourite tracks?
LS: It changes, really. It depends how I feel on the day. Obviously, it’s been a bit of a mental year, but when you write songs they start off as kind of an open wound that you can’t really touch because it’s so sensitive. Then after a little while it’s a scab and you can mess about with it and then eventually it’s a scar and it doesn’t really mean anything, or there’s just a little bit of history attached to it and that’s fine. Some of the songs are still, for me, quite raw to listen to, so it’s hard to say because they make you feel so different.
I understand that you’ll be touring the UK next year, coronavirus permitting. Do you think that this year’s events, both personal and global, will influence the way you perform live?
LS: No. I mean, I’m always just going to deliver the best kind of show that I can. The strongest part of my career is my performance and it’s a skill set that I’ve been growing since I was about twelve. I want people to come to a show and for it to be about escapism as much as it is for me. I’m not in my normal realm when I’m at a show and I don’t feel like people who watch shows are, either.
Do you have any pre-stage rituals?
LS: I do a vocal warm-up but I don’t really… the only thing that I have, notably, is that I can’t have anything in my pockets.
Why is that?
LS: I have no idea! It’s just a superstition that’s developed and if I feel like there’s something in my pocket – even like a 5p coin – during a set, I’m like, ‘oh, God.’ I don’t know where that came from.
That is indeed interesting! Moving on now to something a little more personal to you: as well as being an advocate for positive mental health, you’ve also been promoting good physical health and fitness with your workout scheme Fully Rewired which, I understand, has over 7,000 sign-ups! What was the motivation behind this?
LS: Well, the fitness came really naturally. But the most important change that I’ve seen hasn’t been the physical change – despite that being the most talked about thing in my career thus far, which is interesting, being a musician, but not interesting, being a woman. It was the mental change, for me. It was the impact that all of this had on my mental health, and so, really, I kind of wish I’d discovered it earlier and I wish that somebody had laid it out quite simply in that way.
So I had the opportunity to team up with a company that does that – they do plans for all kinds of different people but I said I wanted a super cheap thing that people can just get and work on. It’s £23 for six weeks, you get to keep the plan, and it’s videos of me doing workouts and explaining things. There’s a run program, so I’m in your ears, in your headphones running with you, effectively. It’s just really to teach people what to do and what not to do. At the beginning of my dieting – I don’t ‘diet’ anymore, I have a healthy diet, I don’t do ‘diets’ – at the beginning I was nearly killing myself trying to lose weight, so you shouldn’t do that.
Would you say that your decision to get fitter physically arose at the same time as your decision to become sober?
LS: People ask that but I don’t know, it’s like the chicken or the egg because I guess sobriety left a gap in my life to fill. Well, not to fill, but I guess I used to get a lot of dopamine from drinking and other things so I think my body was like, ‘how can we get those hormones, how can we get the dopamine and the oxytocin and the chemical reactions?’ and I guess exercise was there.
Has physical transformation affected your social media presence? Particularly, for example, on Instagram, as it’s a very visual platform.
LS: It’s funny, if I post something exclusively about music I get maybe 1500 likes and if I post, say, a transformation picture I’ll get 10,000-15,000 likes. So, yeah, it’s really interesting, and I’m not going to lie and say that I won’t utilise the fact that people are super intrigued by a massive body transformation – I’m intrigued by it, too. It’s a phenomenon, really. Some days I lose 500 followers and gain 500 followers in the same day. The culture of people has definitely changed and I will have lost people along the way. It does change the way I post but Instagram for me has always been more of a personal platform than it has been a professional one.
What would you say we can do as a society to look after ourselves more, particularly when we’re in lockdown and mental health has been at an all-time-low for many people?
LS: It’s easier said than done, really, because I had so many people say, ‘you should just get outside and do some exercise’ and I was like, ‘yeah, I can’t even get out of fucking bed at the moment.’ I think it’s just to give yourself time and start bit by bit. There are people like me who are on Instagram saying, ‘I just ran twenty-two kilometres in two hours’ and that makes you think that you running one kilometre in ten minutes is shit, but it’s not. We’re all at different paces and just try to stop comparing yourself to other people. That’s probably my biggest piece of advice.
What would you say was the first step that you took in all of this?
LS: I’d wanted to do it for years. I’d been going through periods of sobriety and failing – well, you can’t fail at it if you try. You just have to arrive. There will be many platforms that you arrive at before where you maybe think you’re there, so try but don’t set yourself a goal that is really, really far away. We’ve turned into a culture of goal-setting, which is fine, but in a world where uncertainly is absolutely rife, goals might not be the best way to do things. Instead, I feel like the best of your capability is what you should be striving for rather than, ‘in six weeks I’m going to run ten kilometres.’ ‘In six weeks I’m going to go on a tour’ – no, I’m not! You know? I just think setting realistic goals, which would be something like, ‘I’m going to do my best.’ That is what people should be doing.
You mentioned earlier that you tend to get more likes on social media if you post a photo of your body or a transformation than you do about your music. As a musician, how does that make you feel?
LS: It just makes me raise my eyebrow because it’s not about music, it’s about… I don’t want to say ‘patriarchal society’ because it’s not, it’s a mixed-gender thing. Everybody’s interested in people’s bodies. It just makes me raise my eyebrow – that’s expected in this day and age. Music just isn’t, in this country, as culturally exciting as people’s bodies. And you know what, it is a crazy transformation – I have a six-pack. People are like, ‘whoa!’ and it takes a lot of hard work but so does making a record and so does being talented at anything. So it is what it is, isn’t it?
Would you say that there is a pressure, particularly in the music industry, to look good?
LS: I would never have said that before because I never really felt a pressure and now I do feel a pressure. I feel a pressure of maintenance. It’s kind of addictive, like, ‘oh, they’re going to talk about me if I do this, so I’ll do more of that and then I’ll sell more records.’ So yeah, I guess there is a pressure.
And how do you deal with that pressure?
LS: Run it off, I don’t know. I’m quite good at pressure, I’m quite chilled. You’ve got to stay creative. There are lots of social media ideas that I’m going to be doing on this record that nobody else has really done before. It’s exciting, you take the pressure and bend it into something else.
I’m glad to hear that you seem to be dealing with it well! Lastly, because this is Vinyl Chapters, after all, it wouldn’t feel right not to ask you a vinyl-related question! So, if you could own any record on vinyl, what would it be and why?
LS: Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, probably. Because their sound just belongs on vinyl, really. The whole collection is just a classic sound and I just think everything sounds better on vinyl so it’s the kind of thing where you could have a cup of coffee and sit and listen on a cosy winter’s day.
Lucy Spraggan’s album Choices comes out on 26 February 2021.
Photo Credits: Adam Tichener and Lucy Spraggan