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Back when The Guide spoke to Lucy Rose in April 2011 she was preparing to record her debut EP, and confessed she wasn’t looking forward to the experience.
“The recording part is the least enjoyable part of my music,” she said. “I love performing and writing, but I find recording quite frustrating. It’s so expensive and time-consuming.”
This year saw Rose finally record her debut album, Like I Used To, and get signed to major label Columbia after almost five years plugging away on her own.
“I hadn’t found the right way of recording,” she admits while exploring Glasgow’s chemists shops looking for some Echinacea to prevent a tour cold from taking hold.
“When you’ve been touring for so long and scraping together the pennies, going into a studio which costs hundreds of pounds a day is ridiculous.”
Rose, producer Charlie Hugall and her band instead decamped to her parents’ house in Warwickshire in January to record her first album.
“I was nervous about whether it would work,” she admits. “Moving into the same house with the band meant there was no alone time; if the sessions were rough we would still have to sit around and eat dinner and watch television together. It was nerve-wracking, but it was one of the best experiences of my life.
“It was great waking up and having breakfast with everyone, going for a dog walk and then getting cracking on the songs.”
She made the decision not to include or even record some of her older songs, instead focusing on making the album new and fresh.
“The early songs did their work at the beginning,” she says. “I had no connection with them any more after singing them every night. They were not as musically advanced as I would want to show now. I wanted fresh stuff – I wanted a huge amount of surprise. People can still listen to the old songs on YouTube.”
She had started out playing London’s open mic scene, before getting spotted by Bombay Bicycle Club and recruited to sing on their acoustic album Flaws.
Although her self-produced music videos made her something of an internet sensation on YouTube, she was touring solo with a band who stayed with her largely because of the love of the music rather than monetary reward.
The album was recorded before Rose was signed, so kept that DIY aesthetic – even down to when a song needed a brass section.
“We put it out on Facebook,” she says. “We said straight out we had no money, we were self-funding the album, but we would pay for train tickets and provide dinner, so come and hang out.
“We got some random people who had never met before but wanted to be part of it.”
Perhaps the most obvious indication of the new signed and more flush Rose is the video to her recent single Bikes.
“I had done these videos before I was signed which cost nothing,” she says. “I think I was the cheapest artist they had ever signed. So I wanted to do something ridiculous.”
Bikes sees Rose at the head of a motorcycle gang, starting bar brawls, sawing logs, arm-wrestling, and peeking over the top of a giant motortrike at the head of a formation of hairy bikers pelting along a desert highway.
“I’d never ridden a motorbike before,” she admits. “I had lied to the production crew in the US otherwise they’d have never done it. We were staying at this motel in the desert and in the morning there was this giant Harley Davidson dropped off. I had to go to one of the bikers saying ‘You have to help me!’ He took me around the car park for 15 minutes.
“Then he said I was ready, and suddenly I was going 60mph down Route 66 with bikers all around me, thinking f***ing hell this is ridiculous!”
Now she is heading out on an almost sold-out tour, although she wants to keep everything as DIY as it always has been – with early shows seeing her sell her own jam and handicrafts to fans in lieu of recorded material.
“That’s the way I like it,” she says. “I’m a bit of a control freak, I want to keep control of my own work.”
And she is already thinking about her next album, which could see her move away from her traditional manner of songwriting – in her bedroom with an acoustic guitar.
“Now I can get the band together and say ‘I’ve got this bassline, and this drum beat I want you to play’ and we can work something out musically with a guitar line,” she says.
“With [current album track] Lines I wanted this sound which was a bit hip-hoppy for the chorus – that wasn’t the kind of song I could have written on my acoustic guitar. It sounds really different.
“I would like to do something a little more left-field musically and mess about with arrangements.”
Support from Pete Rowe.
- Lucy Rose plays Coalition, King's Road Arches, Brighton on Monday, November 12. Starts 7pm, tickets £8. Call 01273 606312
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