Despite being a fan of hard, fast guitar-based rock, I’ve always had a soft-spot for female singer songwriters. Among those I admire is Lucy Spraggan, her lyrics often being very relatable and her down to earth style being very appealing. Offered the chance to speak to Lucy, I simply couldn’t say no.
She’s a wonderful interviewee, and exactly as you might imagine her: Warm, open, approachable and with a great sense of humour. She also dropped the f-bomb with glorious regularity!
I wasn’t sure what to expect at first as Lucy is presently getting divorced from her wife Georgina Gordon. Despite the challenges of the break-up, Lucy was on good form when I spoke to her and seemed very sanguine about the separation.
In a few months Lucy will release her sixth album, called Choices. COVID guidelines permitting, she hopes to go on the road to promote it. We spoke about the album, plus her recently discovered love of fitness, teetotal life and her experiences as a foster mother.
A quick look at Lucy’s Instagram account or twitter feed will show you how seriously she has taken fitness. This seemed like a good point to start the interview.
You’ve been doing a lot to get in shape during lockdown. What have you been concentrating on?
“It’s quite funny because I’m one of those people who worked out before lockdown. I was listening to a podcast the other day. They had some runners that were saying there’s an elite group of people who want t-shirts that say, ‘I ran before lockdown!’
“I haven’t been doing it that long, but I started working out in January, and I started off with running, which I was running 5 times a week, well, six times a week, and then I was like, ‘Oh, I need to chill out.’
“So I got some weights, that was in lockdown, and I started Olympic weight-lifting, which I did some training for a couple of years ago and I bought a squat rack.
“I do callisthenics and I basically just love fitness, and I don’t really know where that came from. Well, I do, actually, and that was sobriety. I stopped drinking in July (2019). I think the science behind it is that you miss dopamine from alcohol. So, your body requests that you deliver the goods and one of the f****** most amazing highs that I’ve ever experienced is the high I get from running. So, yes, it just came from there really.”
What sort of running are you doing?
“I do 22k, if I’m doing a long run, I’ll do a half-marathon, which is 21.5km, or this morning, I ran a 5km. I’ve had a calf strain for the last couple of weeks, so I haven’t been running, but I’d normally do a 3k to work on my speed work, two 5ks, maybe one 10k, and then a long one, if I’m doing a lot of running, and that’s just a week. So, that could be, if I run four times a week, I’d probably do two 5k, a 10k, and a half marathon.”
It’s largely running and weights?
“Yes, so I’m now trying to do three days of running a week and three days of strength and conditioning, because I gave myself calf strain from having issues with moderation, including in running.”
To begin with in lockdown, I was getting more into exercise but I can’t compete with you!
“I’m in a lucky position in that I don’t have any kids, I just have a dog. So, I totally get some people, me included, are swanning around with this lockdown, and other people are in completely different situations, where they’re locked in a house with their children.”
Yes, homeschooling and homeworking at the same time is interesting. Most people in lockdown have been drinking more, but you gave that up in July?
“Yes. So, 11 months ago.”
You don’t miss it at all?
“No. I was a pretty prolific drinker and I’ve also been plagued by this anxiety and just recurring depression my whole life, and since not having alcohol in my system, it’s like my mental health is just a completely different ballgame and it’s so controllable. It’s not actually just when I’m drunk or when I’ve had some drinks, it’s for days afterwards as well. So, I get enough anxiety listening to people like f****** Dominic Cummings talking on the television anyway. I can’t imagine introducing alcohol into that anxiety.”
Do you mind me asking, was your drinking problematic drinking or was it just a bit much?
“Well, it’s not like I couldn’t wait. It’s not like I woke up and drank every day or even that I drank every day. It just that when I do, apart from in the last year, I’ve always been a, ‘Go hard or go home,’ don’t eat a slice, eat the whole f****** cake, and it’s the same with alcohol.
“That’s why I’m not, ‘Alcohol’s the devil,’ because it’s not. I know people who can have one glass of wine and just be chill, but I will be like, ‘Why’s everyone going home?’ And that’s not right. So, I just cut it out. So, yes, it is problematic.”
I ask if this presents a bit of a problem as Beer Fear, the song Lucy sang during her first televised X-Factor audition is all about drinking and other songs of hers, such as Lighthouse, make reference to drinking. Her response takes me a little by surprise.
“No. I mean, it’s ironic. The problem with playing Beer Fear is that I personally think the song’s absolutely sh**e. I’ve played it about 7 million times, that’s the issue with that song.”
I think we can all relate to that song.
“Yes, absolutely. It’s ironic now, looking at it. It’s quite funny.”
Having heard about Lucy’s love of fitness and the benefits of not drinking, I was keen to move on. Lucy is presently in the midst of divorcing her wife Georgina Gordon. The couple married in 2016 and separated last year.
While Lucy said she was happy to answer questions about the divorce “depending on the question” I really didn’t feel the need to pry. The couple, however, were foster parents and I was keen to speak to explore this.
Are you still fostering?
“Not at the moment. I did it with my ex-wife when we lived in Stockport and we moved and, obviously, we broke up. The reason that I had to stop is because I tour so much.
“I ended up being on the road for 13 months. I would come back, and I’ve got a really, really weak immune system and so I’d come back and then I’d just immediately catch a cold off one of the kids.
“I think the balance between fostering and being a touring musician that makes records was pretty intense. It was a real struggle actually, for me.”
Do you think you’d do it again?
“Yes, I absolutely would. I think what I’d have to do is foster privately, because I was doing it with the council, and I was very underwhelmed by the way that our government looks after children and the way that the system works or doesn’t work.
“I think I can see why a lot of people are forced into doing it privately, because there’s just an actual system in place. So, I could say, ‘Look, I have this space in my year. Is there a child that needs looking after?’
“I don’t want to have kids, personally, but I think when I’m 40 or 50, I’d like to adopt a 12 or 15 year old out of foster care. That’s my plan. Well, for now.”
I explain that I used to know a foster family. I would chat to the mum from time to time and this left me with huge admiration for all foster parents. I explained on one occasion this foster mum was visiting a pregnant woman in hospital because her unborn baby was going straight into care. It turns out Spraggan and Gordon experienced similar.
“Yes, we had the same. The baby didn’t end up coming to us (It turns out another family member was able to raise the child). But those babies, they were twins, they were coming out and they were coming straight to our house. It’s nuts. I absolutely take my hat off to anybody that fosters.”
If someone was thinking of fostering, what three tips would you give them?
“I’d say practice your patience with the process itself because it’s quite long and drawn-out, unnecessarily so. Obviously, the protection of children is really important, but Government things take a really, awfully long time.
“Second would be expect the unexpected, because I think a lot of people have this idea of letting go of child and it being really sad. It’s not always like that.
“The other thing would be just to give anything a go. Give it a whirl. If you’re not sure, give it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose and it could absolutely make you.”
Can we move on to the new album?
The album is called Choices, yes? Out in October still? Has COVID affected that?
“Yes. we had a choice to push it back, but what’s the point?”
Is it recorded and mixed already?
“No. I’m doing the vocals next week actually. So, yes, I’ll be up in Scotland for the whole of next week doing the record.”
The cover of the 13-track album is a photograph of a US-style motel covered in neon signs. The signs hint at what may feature on the album. I decide to ask about this.
Looking at the cover of Choices, I noticed what look like coded messages, something about “100% refrigerated sober beer” and “heartbreak” (a possible reference to the ongoing divorce). Is this a hint as to what’s inspired the material?
“Yes. So, there is something on the cover from almost all of the songs. So, there’s a little wolf hidden, there’s a song called Owl, there’s some running shoes underneath the motel sign and there’s a song called Run.
“Heartbreak Suites is a song, Sober is a song. We had to be pretty creative with the cover because I was supposed to go to Vegas to do a shoot at a hotel and so, we were like, ‘Okay, we’ll have to make something.’ So, yes, but it’s all quite thought out.”
You have dates in the diary to tour, don’t you?
“I do, and everybody rolls their eyes. I think we figure that we have to go ahead as if we will be able to. We have implemented all the insurance possible, the safety of punters is absolutely paramount and if it can’t go ahead, we reschedule or refund, and it’s just as simple as that. I would rather be doing that, being productive, than just waiting.”
When is the first date planned?
“November. Mid-November, I think.”
How important do you think albums are in the days of streaming media? Do you find your album sales hold up or do people cherry-pick?
“I’m a pretty lucky artist. There are some commercial artists out there that don’t sell a single hard copy of anything, and some commercial artists who are played every single day on the radio, but can’t put bums on seats.
“I’m the flip-side of that, a traditional touring artist. We make vinyls, we’ve got limited edition vinyls, we’ve got first print albums, fold-out albums. I say ‘we’ because it’s really very much my whole team, we sell a lot of merchandise like that and that’s great.
“Also, I got my streaming figures the other day, and it’s however many 100 million. You look at it and think, ‘Oh, that’s crazy. Imagine if I actually got paid for that,’ but that’s the world that we live in. I prefer touring, but it would be absolutely great to make money through streaming and stuff like that. I’m lucky that I can do what I love and make money that way as well.”
You are a typical touring artist and that makes you very accessible.
“Yes, I just think it’s important. Be able to have people come and watch your shows because, for me, that’s really important. I’ve been to see people live that I absolutely adore and I’ve seen them on stage and I’ve been, ‘Oh my God. What?’ And there’s just been nothing. They don’t give anything.
“I don’t want to be that, but with regard to albums, I think, yes, it is important, because it’s a body of work, and there are a lot of musicians, a lot of music now, pop music, which is the category that I’m in, there’s a lot of pop music that’s just fed out there and it’s not a body of work. They haven’t thought about the cover or the inlay or what a disc will look like. Do you know what I mean?”
“I’m very much about that, because I remember buying CDs and folding them out and being like, ‘S***, oh, this is so cool.’
I explain that I struggle with the music my kids like, which tends to be hyper-produced plastic pop or disposable dance music. Lucy reassures me I may be able to persuade them to something else.
“You’ve still got time,” she says.
We finish with me telling Lucy how much I liked the lyrics to her song Freddos Aren’t 10p. I explained that I could relate to it as a father, comparing my upbringing with my kids’. In the song, a reflection on childhood, Lucy explains how problems at school were forgotten when she got home but for today’s youngsters, who all have mobile phones, problems at school continue into the evening. It’s an issue we’ve faced as a family more than once.
The lyrics are sublime, superb, and they tell the story of my life as a father.
When I was young, my problems at school were all forgotten when I got home, but the trouble my kids go through with mobile phones and the arguments, I just thought I’d mention that to you.
“Oh, thank you, I appreciate that. I really love that.”
On that note, I have to get back to my daughter who I need to help with her schoolwork. It’s been a joy speaking to Spraggan. She was exactly as I expected, a talented musician and songwriter who is really approachable and relatable and great fun to speak with.
Choices by Lucy Spraggan is out in October 2020. You can pre-order it from her website by following this link.