You probably remember her from the X Factor, but Lucy Spraggan has achieved so much since her appearance on the show back in 2012. Not only was she the first female headliner to play at Kendal Calling Festival, but she’s played Glastonbury Festival twice, had five top 30 albums and is about to release her sixth album, Choices on 26 February.
We caught up with the singer songwriter to find out more about her latest single Animal, her upcoming album and how she deals with a whole load of shit…
As someone who tours so often, how have you been coping in the pandemic and lockdown?
It’s been shite from a touring artist perspective. At the beginning I was like, you know, it will sort itself out. I spend most of Spring, Autumn and Winter touring, and then summer smashing festivals, so as soon as Glastonbury announced it, (and I was supposed to play there and that would have been my third year), everybody else cancelled, and you know overnight people lost 200 grand worth of income, and then the tours as well, it’s not just me who misses out on income, it’s like tour bus drivers, I have a crew of like 14 people as agents, then there’s venues…it just sucks on a really grand scale. And for me, I had to do a lot of learning of like how to be at home. That was weird. I didn’t even know how my fucking TV remote worked.
I do a lot of fitness and kind of threw myself completely into that, like at the moment I train twice a day. Throughout the first lockdown I was running really long distance and just setting myself a lot of challenges like that. I think to a degree, it’s really good to learn to be on your own.
I am a person that’s built for socialising, there’s absolutely no two ways about that, but it’s also good to know that if push comes to shove I can be my own, I mean I’ve got my dog, I wouldn’t like to be petless!
What were your highlights of 2020?
Having to look at myself. I’ve been sober now for 18 months, so I had quite a bit of a run up before lockdown being sober, but being able to, (I really hate this expression), but I’ve been working a lot on like healing and just sorting out all of the shit, like recycled behaviour that I’ve been doing my whole life, and just really working on myself. This takes a lot of effort and energy, but what else are you supposed to do at a time like this, because really to me the choice was just like going the other way. So, for me, it’s been a really, really productive year in terms of my personal growth and music.
The first single from your new album Sober, is such an honest and inspiring reflection on your decision to become sober. What sparked the desire to become sober and write this song?
Well, I wrote it the first week that I got sober and I wrote it with my guitarist Joe, and I said to Joe, “Joe I’m sober. I’m gonna be sober and I want to write a song about it, because I want to remember why I’m doing it.” I think, EVERYONE looked at me like, no you’re not, you fucking dickhead [laughs] and then really it was like putting it down, meant, to a degree, it’s like accountability as well because I’ve written that and now that’s there for me to remember why.
How do you feel looking back to that moment and how have you kept motivated?
Just how vastly being sober improved my life is what keeps me sober. Like, I now live by this rule, it’s a question. The question is, does it bring me joy? There’s two answers to that question, there’s yes and there’s no. If it brings me joy, then it stays in my life, and if it doesn’t, then it goes. And if I ask myself, does sobriety bring me joy? The answer is yes, on so many levels, so the sobriety stays.
“If it brings me joy then it stays in my life, and if it doesn’t, then it goes. And if I ask myself, does sobriety bring me joy, the answer is yes, on so many levels, so the sobriety stays.”
What kind of advice would you give to anyone going through something similar, or who might not realise how much it is affecting them, or just wants to be healthier?
I think a good sign of knowing if you have a bit of an issue with alcohol, is that you can’t imagine taking a break for it. So, if you can’t imagine spending a month, or two weeks, or whatever time without alcohol, then you really have to query how much you rely on it. I can say that because I relied on it for like two thirds of my life, to be “confident” to be, you know, more chatty, more brave…for anyone that is thinking about it, you’ve got nothing to lose. The good thing is, with your own relationship with things, is that you can try. You can try mindful drinking, or you could try abstaining from alcohol. There’s no failing at all.
You’ve very open with your fans, for example when discussing anxiety and bullying, which is very inspiring. Who are your inspirations and heroes?
There’s a lot of women that I follow on Instagram who I just, like, I really love. When it comes to feminism, the kind of category of women, (I know that we’re not supposed to categorise), but that I relate to the most are lots of like weightlifting women, or women who have a slightly more muscular physique. There’s this one Instagram account called you.look.like.a.man, which is a comment that I get all the time. She just shares comments from men saying, all kinds of shit to women. Like, commenting how much weight they’re lifting, or their squat form, or just like they look like a man, and I love those women. I love women like really strong, really powerful women who are quite vocal about, like, you know, telling someone to fuck off if they like catcall in the street. I like those women.
How do you deal with horrible comments on social media, have you had to learn to not let it get to you?
I have been most at the absolute mercy of other people’s opinions for my entire life, and I am an incredibly sensitive human being and maybe that’s why I can be so reactive and explosive, but I don’t regard myself as relevant, because I don’t gauge how good my friends are and how relevant they are to strangers. The things people say on the internet don’t offend me, I don’t find people’s opinions on me very important, I just don’t care about them and like that took me a long time to learn.
But normally I don’t really give a shit. I can look at before when I wasn’t very happy or an inherently happy human being and now I am, so when I see somebody dishing out shit on the internet, I’m like, “Oh, do you know how I know you’re unhappy? Because I used to be you, I used to think like you. So, yeah, just get well soon.” Above anything I just hope that people end up feeling better, honestly, even if they’re shitty to me.
You’ve even had people saying that because you’re in this industry and you’re a celebrity, that you should expect to have hate thrown at you…
Yeah, it’s like, if you’re on a pedestal then you’re fair game and it’s just a load of shit really. What’s funny is I am actually really anticipating the day when somebody thinks they can say that kind of thing to my face, because I’ve had three times in my life that that has happened, and all three times have ended with a physical altercation, I’m not afraid to say that either. And a physical occasion that has ended in my favour, I must add. People saying things like “you should expect” it is exactly the same as saying “well what was she wearing?”
On the other side of the industry it appears that it’s becoming more diverse and accepting, have you noticed the change throughout your career?
There was a report published recently about how many women are played on the radio, and the results were fucking shocking. I used to think it was just lesbians, I was like, why are there no lesbians. I can tell you off the top of my head, how ever many gay male artists that I hear on the radio, but like for example, can you name me one lesbian in the UK that’s played on the radio? if I asked you to like think of a gay male eyes you could probably tell me a lot more. And trans, there’s no trans artists. I think it’s changing, but people have to still really cut their own grooves, I have to use the springboard of celebrity, (which I also hate that word) for my music, I’m like, I have to do things to get people to talk about me to promote my music, because I am still not played on the radio or anything. It’s never gone above like grassroots, I’ve only ever been playlisted once on national radio, Lucky stars in 2019 was the first EVER playlisted single I’ve ever had on any UK radio station. So, everything I’ve done in my career has been done from the help of, people like you guys and just pure people power, which I think is cooler.
The people at the top of the labels and the people at the top of the streaming platforms, unfortunately are majority still straight white men. So, yeah, that needs to change. Like, there’s been all different types of artists throughout history, and some of them break through and some of them don’t, but it’s about connection. It’s a much bigger problem than the artists that are out there because there’s a fucking plethora of talent and undiscovered talent from all fucking walks of life, but you don’t get the same opportunities. There’s class problems, there’s race problems as well as sexual identity problems, gender problems, but they stem from further up, it’s not actually anything to do with the art.
“I’m going to be my absolute authentic self and take no prisoners”“
What can you tell us about your new single Animal and the meaning behind it?
It’s quite similar to what we’ve been talking about. It’s like when somebody just prods you and prods you and waits for a reaction. Animal is kind of just a bit like, “Alright then, whatever you call me I’ll fucking be, so be careful.” You know, call me an animal, I’ll be one, and that’s not who you want to be giving shit too. And that’s kind of what the vibe of the song is just like, I’m going to be my absolute authentic self and take no prisoners, so it’s a bit of, like a fight, not fighting physical fights, but it’s like a fight back song.
You’re new album Choices, is due out on 26 February, what does this album represent to you and how do you feel your music has evolved over the years?
It’s definitely the most polished sounding record that I’ve put out there and it’s probably the first commercial album that I’ve written, that I didn’t write it with any A&R in mind. So, I wasn’t like, oh, this is a great pop song, or I need to write a song for the radio, I just wrote it because it’s how I felt. That was an amazing thing to have done.
If you had to be a favourite song from the album and a stand out lyric, what would you choose?
I think maybe my favourite song would be Choices (Don’t be afraid), which is like the slower song, and it’s because it’s encouraging you to just be yourself, and so probably a lyric from that maybe. “Don’t be afraid of hurting, all those scars belong to you. One day you’ll think they’re perfect, see from a different point of view.” But yeah, it’s probably choices just being like, “don’t be afraid of being you.”
How do you feel about releasing music during the current situation that the world is in?
Obviously I can’t tour to support it, which sucks, but everybody is on social media a lot more, so that has given me an opportunity to like connect more in that respect, I guess, and I’ve always been quite connected to them, but I think this has made it more so. I think it’s actually really nice that loads of people have got in touch to say “how can I support you?”, because they would normally be coming to like three or four shows. I actually think that’s the nice thing about being a more independent artist, is that people feel affiliated to your success. People really get very personal, which is really nice.
What song would you recommend people listen to, to help them in lockdown?,
Animal, or Run, you know, encouraging you to get outside, get a bit of fresh air and just be uplifted.
“fuck what anyone else thinks”
What advice would you give to aspiring singer songwriters about the industry?
I’d say just be persistent and make sure that you follow your absolute good instincts, because I don’t think there’s been a time where I have had a gut instinct that has been wrong in this industry, and so just follow it and really like fuck what anyone else thinks.
Any final words for coping during lockdown?
I think it’s just to be kind to yourself and like, I see people setting themselves all these challenges and shit and actually just think challenges are good and goals are good, but they’re also something that are really hard to adhere to, especially in stressful times, so when it comes down to setting yourself goals and challenges just take it easy on yourself. And that’s across the board, whether it’s financial, whether it’s physical, whether it’s like a fitness goal, just fucking take it easy. This is a stressful time.
Lucy’s new single Animal is out now via Cooking Vinyl, taken from her forthcoming album Choices out on 26 February. The album will be available on vinyl and cassette and in Lucy’s own words “there’s shitloads of merch and signed CDs on my website.” You can view what’s on sale and pre-order the album at https://lucyspraggan.lnk.to/choicesPR