Interview: Lucy Rose

Blossoming artist Lucy Rose talks to about her own brands of folk, tea and jam

Over the years, some bands have been more adventurous with their merchandise than others. Not content with merely the regulation T-shirt, us punters have been offered a myriad of mementos, tokens and tat. Who could forget the U2 Lego set, Bieber shower curtain, or customised Tenacious D condom? Not to mention my personal favourite – the Kiss Kasket – a must buy for those planning to pop their clogs in the near future, and who can think of a better way of being immortalised than in a coffin with Gene Simmons’ face emblazoned on the side. A steal at $4500 (or $5000 if you want it signed). If God really did give rock’n’roll to you, maybe this is the way he’d want you returned. And did I mention it’s waterproof?

I’m glad to say that the tea Lucy Rose concocts for sale at her gigs, aptly named Lucy’s Special Brand of Builder’s Grey, is a much more appealing prospect. “I’ve always made a pot of tea with one Earl Grey, and one ordinary bag.” She promises me that it’s “delicious! Honestly, try it!” Along with her other homebrew, a ginger and rhubarb jam inspired by a London charity run by a friend who turns waste fruit and food from farmers into jams and chutneys to help vulnerable women, it seems like as good a reason as any to get to a stop of her nationwide tour. Next Wednesday, she will be bringing her brand of endearing alternative folk (see singles ‘Red Face’, ‘Scar’ and ‘Middle of the Bed’) to the Duchess.

Although now gaining a spotlight as a solo artist in her own right, Rose’s most prominent musical exploits to date have been collaborative. Featuring frequently as the soft-voiced female vocal counterpart on the last two Bombay Bicycle Club albums, and as a part of the live band for the last two and a half years, Rose recognises the opportunity as “such an amazing thing to be a part of. I feel privileged to be on so many tracks.

“None of the Bombay boys had egos at all, literally the calmest, most chilled out band,” she says. When asked whether they’d been an inspiration on her music, she replies, “Definitely. I’m inspired all the time, [and] they’re incredible”. She may have had to pull out of the next leg of their tour, but remains keen “to do shows with them in the future, and I would love to work with them on their fourth album, and be a part of it. Fingers crossed that’s an option really”.

Despite this day job, the Bombay days are only a segment of Rose’s musical development. Playing a variety of instruments from her school days, she wrote songs from an early age before the introduction of a band to realise the feel of the songs now. “I wasn’t really in a band back then. I was in orchestra? Does that count? I played the drum kit. I used to love it, a bit of jazz. And the clarinet! That was a classic. I don’t know how to play that any more, in case you were worried.”

Rose has been with her current manager since she was 16, when his parents lived next door to her in a small Warwickshire town. “He was in London managing other bands, and if it wasn’t for him thinking I was good I don’t think I’d ever really have gone for it. You never know if you’re good enough really. I probably would have been an accountant otherwise,” following her dad and sister. Sticking around to get her grades, she moved to London as soon as possible to get her music heard.

Rose describes herself as “very lucky” when talking about her backing band, formed of “friends of mine who I’ve met over the years” through her time promoting. With previous credits ranging from guitarist Bjorn Agren’s stint in Razorlight, to Joe Steer’s fronting of Broadcast 2000, and to multi-instrumentalist Alex Eichenberger’s PhD in cello from Goldsmiths, it’s no surprise to hear Rose speak about her pleasure at hearing the songs together, embellished from their acoustic origins. “I write all the parts, but I like to work on them with people. They’ll always add their own little touches. When you get in a room, and you can actually hear all the parts, it really inspires you to write more.”

I ask her if it feels any different to be centre of attention. “I’m definitely not made to be a backing singer. It’s not what I’ve ever wanted, I’ve always wanted to do my own thing. Not because it’s about me, but because the thing I enjoy most is creating my own songs… I definitely want to be showing what I can do now.”

“I’m definitely not made to be a backing singer.”

This takes the form of her upcoming debut album. Produced by Charlie Hugall, and recorded in Rose’s parents house, she is currently whittling down 16 tracks into the shape of her first record. “I hate recording in studios,” she says, “I find a lot of it frustrating. My parents have got this big living room and big nuclear bomb shelter, which is seriously weird.” Filling the house with equipment, the band lived and recorded together, between dog walks at lunchtime and the frequent cup of Builder’s Grey. “It was just really calm and peaceful, there was a lot of nature around us – fresh air and lots of birds. It was a really inspiring place to do it.” Apparently her mum even missed them when they left, having got over cleaning up after them. “One of those mum things,” Rose says.

Rose is averse to comparing the sound of the album, to be released on major label Columbia, to anyone. “That’s the one thing I hate… I don’t want it to sound like anything else – I want it to sound like me.” Trying not to pay attention to the media hype around her, she does admit “a certain degree of pressure. I just hope it does for some people what music’s done for me. When I listen to my favourite songs, how they make me feel. How music comforts me whatever mood you’re in. I’d rather a small amount of people treasured it than a lot of people buying it and discarding it after a year”.

Happy as long as she can continue music, we joke about her dream collaboration and the duet she wish she’d recorded. “I’d love to do a three way collaboration with me, Phil Collins and Justin Timberlake. And I like Charles and Eddie’s ‘Would I Lie To You’. That’s a big tune”. Rose’s excitement is infectious, and her potential is clear. She is genuine, amusing and engaging. And this tea isn’t half bad either.

Lucy Rose will be playing at York Duchess on May 23rd.

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