“I’ve always written about my personal experiences and I guess I’ve always been a bit of an oversharer both in my personal life and career,” says Lucy Spraggan when talking about her songwriting with HollywoodLife. To be fair to the British vocalist, she’s got quite a story to tell. Since Lucy’s last album, 2019’s Today Was A Good Day, her life has undergone a series of transformations, from ditching alcohol to adopting a healthier lifestyle to finding peace after enduring a divorce. It’s a journey, one of decisions and declarations, that is detailed throughout Choices, her brand new album.
Over the course of thirteen tracks, Lucy runs the gambit of emotions. From the twangy seduction of the opener (For the first time in my life, I felt kind of sexy!”) to the raw intimacy of “Sober” (“I wanted to freeze time and be able to listen back and be reminded of my reasons for this”) to the “badass” vibe of “Animal,” Choices showcases Lucy’s versatility as an artist and the authenticity of her songwriting. The album can be taken as a narrative from start to finish or a collection of songs applicable to the many moments that come with being alive. How you interpret it is, well, your own choice.
However, Lucy shared some insights into each of the songs off of Choices EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife. During this track-by-track feature, she shared which song was “definitely one of my favorites,” which song is a love letter to America, and which Iron Maiden song she’d want to cover. Really.
HollywoodLife: Choices opens up with the first single, “Flowers.” Why was it picked to be the first cut from the album (and to be Choice’s opener?)
Lucy Spraggan: I knew I wanted the first single to be ‘different’ to anything I’d ever done before but wasn’t entirely sure how that would materialize. I’ve been through a lot of life changes, and the way I feel about my body has changed drastically over the last couple of years – as I started to write the album and really explore my emotions at the time, I realized that for the first time in my life I felt kind of sexy! That is definitely ‘different’ for me, not just personally, but certainly in my music. I wanted to brandish that in the first single. It felt really empowering.
The second track, “Roots,” is a celebration of the nomadic life (with “a few regrets that live inside [you]”). Does this song have a greater significance following a year of essentially staying-put?
That is a great question. The answer is yes. Physically, I am far more equipped to stay put now. If you’d have told me I’d have spent a year not touring or traveling (or really leaving my house) I’d have told you that was impossible. I’d have said I couldn’t survive that! But I have, and it has taught me that I need to make space for resting in my life. Not particularly staying in one place, but taking a break from the craziness of my job and my urge to chase an invisible achievement. I suppose I know now it doesn’t really matter how long I am in one place for, I know that I don’t need to plan for the long run. Just to be present and happy wherever I am.
Before releasing “Sober” as a single, you expressed that you were “slightly worried, well, not worried” about sharing such an “open” song. After choosing to write a, as you put it, a “very raw” track, has your songwriting changed? Does it feel like nothing is off-limits for your art after writing “Sober”?
I’ve always written about my personal experiences and I guess I’ve always been a bit of an oversharer both in my personal life and career. The two are quite blended. I think the scariest thing about a song like ‘Sober’ is the accountability that comes with it. Everyone that hears that song knows what my demons are, they know I am sober. And sometimes, letting people in can add pressure to that. But I wanted to capture why I am doing this, I wanted to freeze time and be able to listen back and be reminded of my reasons for this. This album is very honest. I would say I went past my limits of letting people in for this album. It’s a whole lot of personal content.
“Run To The Hills”
“Run The Hills” depicts a moment where one needs to flee their current situation and “work out who I am.” It’s quite a turn of a phrase to write a song around, so I was curious if there was a specific moment that inspired “Run To The Hills.”
There very much was. I had just come off a 13-month stint of touring, finishing up with a European support slot for Melissa Etheridge and a couple of my own headline shows in The Netherlands. It was very clear to me that the relationship I had at home (I was married and trying to live a ‘normal’ life like all my other friends) was not going to work. I realized that I’d been trying to fit into a box or a mould that I was just the wrong shape for. I needed to escape the entire structure. I didn’t deal with it well at the time, so I dropped a grenade into my life and did just that… I ran away. An incredibly selfish act. But desperately needed.
Bonus question: the song shares the name with a famous Iron Maiden track. If you could cover Iron Maiden during a show, which would you pick?
“Aces High!” Though someone else would have to play the lead guitar!
“Heartbreak Suites” is a bit of a standout track, IMO. It’s got a very catchy production — with the backing vocals, the guitar/piano – and the lyrics are really infectious. It’s very clever, with the almost dismay celebration of one’s faults. (“Oh, I looked like I messed up again / I’m hard to defend”). How did you come to create this song, this theme song to every hot mess out there?
I was listening to a 60s compilation album and was totally captured by the way music moved back then. I had the idea for the lyrics in my head and knew I’d love to make something that sounded similar. In terms of the lyrics, it’s very literal – there was no defending some of my actions when my relationship broke down. Indefensible. And so predictable of me. I used to be very bad at dealing with issues in my life, I’d just run away, but before I did, I’d make a real mess. ‘When I fall apart/I break my own heart/You can bet I’ll do it again’. I wanted it to be a kind of laugh at my innate ability to screw things up so well.
“If I Had A God”
The song “If I Had A God” is interesting when put into the context of the album’s previous songs. For “Sober,” those familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous use divinity as a guide towards sobriety, that “a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.” In the context of past faults addressed in “Roots” and “Heartbreak Suites,” having a divine figure allows one to repent.
As some points, my lower points, early into my sobriety, I was very confused and very desperate to know who I was. Without alcohol, I had no idea. I’d been a big drinker my whole life, so when I took that away, I felt like I’d lost so much, like I had to relearn things or start all over again. At one point, I questioned faith – whether there was something else out there that could take care of me, or at least help me. A few of my band members are Christian, and I felt so envious of their relationship with God. I just wished I could feel that too, like someone was always going to catch me.
“I Spent A Night In The Desert”
The song “I Spent A Night In The Desert” touches back on the twang of the opener. It’s also the first song on the album’s second half, which seemingly connects the two halves. Did you intentionally go, “we need a Link Wray style guitar here to tie the pieces together,” or was that a happy coincidence?
It’s funny – I wrote this song about a night I spent in a tiny house in the desert in Nevada. To me, it’s the definition of my love for America, the moon, the open space, the desert, the dirt roads… I wanted it to sound like how it felt at the time. I hired a Harley and rode through the same area for a few days on that same trip, I listened to classic American road trip songs and wanted their influence to shine through. The desert sound wasn’t an accident.
Bonus Question: As someone from Buxton, do you remember the first time you saw the desert?
I do. When I was 18, I played a show in Florida, met a woman, and drove to Arizona with her (amongst other places!). I remember seeing the red rocks for the first time, the cacti. My mouth was open the whole time. Amazing.
“You Let Yourself Down”
One thing that isn’t often expressed is that when you try to make amends, you’re not always going to get forgiven. “You Let Yourself Down” captures that moment. Did writing this song make you more forgiving? Like, if someone does you wrong in the future, are you going to be more open to fixing the relationship since you’ve put down this track?
If anything, I was more forgiving when I wrote this song the first time. The lyrics of this song changed just before recording. I think I’m more likely to not get myself into a vulnerable position in the future. This song is about my divorce. People will get revenge for your wrongdoings in many ways. In this case, it was financial.
“Animal” fits in the narrative of Choices, but it’s also a song about taking on cyberbullying. You’ve been in the public eye for over a decade now. Have you developed a spiritual callus to the online hate, or is this something that one doesn’t ever get used to?
I can laugh at it now, but that’s not to say some days it isn’t painful. There’s this narrative that people in the public eye should have thicker skin – well, I think that’s bullsh-t. I think people shouldn’t say things online that they wouldn’t say in real life. People should be kinder. And if they can’t be kind, just be respectful.
I’m a sensitive soul – I’m not about to change that so people can call me names online. I’m proud of being sensitive, I don’t want a thicker skin. It’s fun to poke fun at the nasty people now though, it’s a lot easier than crying about it.
Bonus Question: The video for “Animal” shows all your hard work at the gym and your incredible physical transformation. Who came up with the idea for the visual? And do you pop it on whenever you need a self-esteem boost?
I came up with the idea for the video for “Animal.” Whenever I hear a produced song, I can almost always imagine what the video will look like straight away. In this case, “Animal” just sounded like ring walk music to me. And boxing is badass. Especially women’s boxing.
I did want to make a video that showcased my hard work and change of lifestyle too, it’s been a talking point!
Did you feel like a badass after finishing this song?
I feel like the woman in the song is a badass. I’ve always wanted to write about a strong, empowered woman and this song is definitely that. In my mind, she’s some wild west woman who is out for cold, hard, revenge for all the things that all women go through. It’s probably the song with the production I least expected. It’s definitely one of my favorites.
“Run” touches upon the desire to be “free” and unrestrained by any border or town’s edge. While growing up, were you one who ran away a lot? Or were you more of someone who dreamed of traveling to all four corners of the globe?
I was always running away. I’ve always dreamt of being elsewhere – I guess that’s what a lot of this album is about. I’ve been pursuing something (I’m not entirely sure what) my whole life, so I feel at my most peaceful when I’m on my way somewhere. A bus, a plane, a train – as long as it’s on its way to a destination, I feel like I’m on the right path. It’s a strange feeling. I left the town I grew up in at 18 and have barely been back since. I don’t know where I’ll end up!
“Choices (Don’t Be Afraid)”
The album’s denouement arrives with the title track. It’s a celebration of everyone’s choices, both good and bad. Did you know after writing the song that the album was going to be called that?
I actually wrote this song after calling the album ‘Choices’! It’s normally the other way around. I felt like the record lacked a certain style of song, like a reflective song. Maybe a resolve? The message of this record is that being your true self is the best way to reach your destination, whether that be success, happiness, to find peace, or to be settled. It has been for me, at least. The message of this song, and the album, is as the lyric goes, ‘Don’t be afraid of being you.’
“Why Don’t We Start From Here”
The album actually ends with a beginning, specifically, the celebration that is “Why Don’t We Start From Here.” Choices is an album that goes through a story, one of heartbreak, hitting rock bottom, struggling to work things out, failing to repair what’s been broken, and acceptance. Instead of ending on that last part, did you say to yourself, “Let’s give this tale a happy ending?”
I think I wanted to end on a good note. On the fact that this isn’t the end of a part of my life but a new era. A new beginning! Sometimes we reach a fork in the road, and you have to make a choice (excuse the pun) – carry on as normal and stay, or change it all and look for something else?
In this case, ‘WDWSFH’ is saying, let’s do it. Let’s start from here.
Did you ever make a “bad” choice that turned out awesomely? (e.g., a late-night impulse buy of a baby goat, and suddenly, you find out that you’re incredible at raising goats.)
Plenty of bad choices! I think this was an awful choice (and please don’t judge me as it was a group decision), but whilst in Vegas, we chose to see Britney Spears over… Fleetwood Mac. I know… Britney WAS awesome, though. So I guess it turned out well.
What’s one place you’ve never been to that you’re definitely going to visit once it’s all safe?
Vietnam! I hear it’s an incredible place.
When 2021 is all said and done, what are you going to be the most proud about accomplishing?
Getting through the toughest experience of a lifetime. We have all been through so much. Coming out the other side is a huge accomplishment.
Choices is out now.