In 2012 U.K. artist Lucy Spraggan took the music world by storm when at 19 she auditioned for “The X Factor” with an original song “Last Night (Beer Fear).” An instant hit, the track got millions of views and streams and shot her to the top of the charts.
Fast forward to today and Spraggan is still going strong, having just released her fifth album “Today Was a Good Day” and is in the middle of the U.S. leg of her world tour, on her way to PJ’s Lager House on Friday, June 21.
In advance of the Detroit performance, BTL caught up with Spraggan to talk about what inspired her latest album, how being openly lesbian has impacted her music, thoughts on mental health and potential future genre crossovers.
“Today Was a Good Day” has a visibly more positive feel overall than some of your previous albums, was that intentional?
I really didn’t have an idea for like the shape this album was going to take and that theme of positivity and defiance wasn’t like a conscious decision, but I guess I just write songs and they just reflect how I feel at that time. So, I must have been feeling a little bit more positive than I realized.
How did you get your start as a musician? Was there a conscious moment that you realized you wanted to be an artist professionally?
Well, I’ve been a showoff pretty much since the moment I was born and I ended up learning to play the guitar. And I realized that these poems that I was writing, I could turn them into songs. And honestly, it’s always been a way of expressing myself, but it’s also a way to grab that attention and I think that’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. So, music’s always been there. My family are quite musical. My dad thinks he’s Elvis and my mum plays the cello badly and my brother and sister they can sing. So, we’ve always done things that are musical together.
You’re very open about being a lesbian, but you’ve said that you never really had a coming out experience, right?
Yeah (laughs). Me coming out was so insignificant that me and my mum had different coming out stories. My story is different than hers, and I wasn’t really coming out, I just was telling them that I had a girlfriend. It just wasn’t a big deal and I’m really lucky for that. I was always aware of how lucky I am to have a family like that.
I’ve spoken with artists who said that once they came out their approach to their music changed because they felt more open and in touch with themselves. Did you have an experience like that?
I was so young that I guess my music’s always been the music of an LGBT person. I started playing shows when I was 12 so it’s always been really honest and that’s the theme, just honest music. So, yeah, the more that I am honest with myself, that’s how this music comes out.
In other interviews you’ve talked about how you’re feeling more confident than ever. The reason I bring it up is that in your audition on “The X Factor” Mel B told you to be more confident. Does that feel like a full circle moment for you?
Yeah, definitely, one of the Spice Girls telling you that! I think she said, “You don’t know how good you are,” and I think that’s important: people don’t know their full capabilities. I don’t know, I think it’s just important to be humble and expect that you’re always improving; you’re never your fullest form. And I feel more confident than I did but I still know there’s a way to go until I, I don’t know … until I guess I’m fully fledged.
That attitude of constant progress seems to be reflected in your album. Even the title is “Today Was a Good Day.”
Yes. I’m so aware now. Like something I never used to do is look at how my day has gone. And just trying to kind of reflect on the day. And that’s why the album is called “Today Was a Good Day,” because it’s really easy to be aware that the day was awful but it’s less easy to just say, “Actually, today was quite good.” And that’s a win. If the day is good, you’re ticking off another good thing.
On that topic, you’ve been honest about your mental health and the fact that you suffer from anxiety. You once said that people sometimes ask you the question, “If you suffer from anxiety, why do you put yourself in situations that are anxiety-inducing like performing?” Could you talk about that further?
Well, I guess my answer to that question is that some people’s difficult situations are very different from other peoples’. For example, my sister would not get on stage if she was paid a million pounds. She couldn’t do that, but my sister has just gotten her master’s in nutrition. That’s my idea of a stressful situation. And for me being in front of people and doing what I do is not stressful, really. Like, I am constantly assessed by other people and it’s true the pros the outweigh the cons for sure.
Is there ever a time that you do feel that pressure when performing?
No. The only time I ever feel that pressure is if I don’t feel well. And so that’s the only anxiety I get if however many thousand [seats] it is and I won’t be able to make that show. That’s what would really get me down.
Your songwriting seems to be very observational on this album. How do you approach writing music?
Well, I guess some of the stories are exactly what happened, so I just do it in a poetic way I suppose. And then some of them I construct them from experiences or something someone said, just like a word just appears and I’m like, “That would be a nice thing to write about.” There’s not really any set way that I write.
This is your fifth album. Has your approach changed at all since you’ve started writing?Not in the way that I write songs but I guess in a way there’s a lot more like creative freedom from my producer. And he definitely pushes me to change because you don’t want to release the same album over and over again. And I’m quite lucky in the way that I’ve crossed a few genres and it’s easy for me to cross those genres. So I embrace change, I think.
Is there a specific genre that you’d love to venture into?
Oh, I would love to do that. I mean I’ve collaborated with a band called Scouting For Girls we did a duet together. But I would love to do something that’s more different and really cross over the border. I actually wrote a song with a DJ called “Give Me Sunshine” and that was like a house dance track and that was interesting.
So, can we expect a gangsta rap album soon?
Oh, I’d love to. In fact, I’ve always wanted to do a really slow acoustic song but do a really gangster video sitting on a Lamborghini with naked girls and big chain on.
(Laughs) I think you’ve got something there, that’s a creative avenue that’s certainly unexplored.
It would be cool, wouldn’t it? Like a really slow sad acoustic song but the video is me with like smoke flares going on in the background and rappers with chains (laughs).