Indie-rock sensation Lucy Dacus heading to Club Cafe
If you want to know Lucy Dacus, just listen to her songs and watch her band on stage.
That, the 22-year-old indie-rock sensation says, is who she is.
“The band is called Lucy Dacus, my name is so totally associated with the content,” she said in a recent phone interview. “We’re not up there playing characters. Unlike some artists, I’m not bothered by people feeling like they’re seeing me at the shows. I think it’s fair to assume that.”
And, Dacus readily admits, her songs come from her life.
“I’ve talked with friends about this; when you write about yourself, that’s what people connect to,” Dacus said. “When you write a sermon or a lesson, that may not reach people. I’ve learned a lot from people who have been writing about themselves.”
Cycle of loss
Her latest batch of songs can be found on “Historian,” her second Matador Records album that she says is a song cycle of loss, perseverance and, ultimately, optimism. There is a song about a recent break-up with a boyfriend and one about the death of her grandmother.
But all of the songs on the album, which was released in early March, weren’t written together. They were pulled together as Dacus began to choose material and record a year ago.
“I wrote some of the songs years after the events that inspired them,” Dacus said. “It took that long to put words to things that can be hard to deal with and think about. I draw on old material. There’s a couple songs that were even older than ‘No Burdens’ (her 2016 debut). ... I don’t feel like there is a sophomore jinx. I feel like this record has come together in a more powerful way.”
That power can be heard not only in Dacus’ lyrics, but also in the music that is richer and more involving than that on “No Burdens” -- without departing from the guitar-based format.
“It’s kind of an extension in every way (of ‘No Burdens’),” Dacus said. “The music is a step up. The content is more difficult. My singing, I get louder. The guitars get louder. It makes sense to me as a follow-up album.”
Dacus’s songwriting is an outgrowth of the writing she’s been doing since elementary school, when she started journaling in second grade.
Fascination with communication
“I was always writing,” she said. “I’ve always been attracted to words and stories, communication. It doesn’t feel like something special, though. Humans are fascinated with communication. I was always drawn to words and stories, staying in touch with your feelings and being open to what’s around you.
“There was never an ‘aha’ moment when a spider bit me and I knew I could write song,” Dacus said. “For that reason, I don’t know if I’m always going to be able to. I want to write songs forever, but it’s an elusive thing.”
Dacus, who’s based in Richmond, Va., comes by music almost as naturally as she does writing. Her mother was an elementary school music teacher and pianist.
“We’d clean the house and sing together,′ Dacus said. “She taught me how to harmonize when I was really young. That’s probably the most musical training I’ve had -- her giving me an ear for harmony. The rest of it is all self taught.”
Dacus says she looks at Shakey Graves and Broken Social Scene as having inspired her writing.
Now she gets to take her songs out on the road and present them at shows where everyone in the venue is there to see her. That could be a lot of pressure for a young artist, but not for Dacus.
“If there’s any pressure, it’s from myself,” she says. “I don’t want to have a bad show. I just want to have a good time. I think if I do, other people do.”
In fact, Dacus is thrilled to have “Historian” out in the world -- and garnering rave reviews from critics and often new-found fans.
“It’s kind of strange. I’ve had them in my iTunes for so long, different mixes and I’ve only shared them with a few people, family and friends,” she says. “Now people are hearing it, writing about it, talking to me about it. It’s been an adjustment that way.”
The coolest part
As she continues to tour, Dacus has become one of the hottest new names in indie rock, with dozens of articles and reviews written about her and lots of shows, including an opening slot on the NPR showcase at South by Southwest.
Reaching people with her music, both recorded and live, has been instantly fulfilling.
“That’s probably the coolest part of all of this -- that really immediate affirmation,” Dacus said. “How many jobs are there in this world that people come up to you and say ‘you’re making my life better?’ A doctor maybe.
“That feeling is never going to get old. Talking about it, I feel like tearing up. I’m such a softie. I really value the people that value me.”