Beyond ‘Tea & Toast’: Lucy Spraggan Interview

Hot on the heels of the news that new single #Unsinkable has reached the top 20 of the Independent Singles Charts, and the announcement that she will appear on Weekend Wogan on Sunday 26 April, we caught up with Lucy Spraggan to discuss songwriting, going it alone and taking CTRL.

Planet London (PL): Congratulations on hitting the top 20 in the Independent Charts
Lucy Spraggan (LS): Thank you. I didn’t expect the single to chart nationally in the Official Charts as that’s quite unobtainable, but this has happened, so I’m happy with that!

PL: We want to know about your process… how do you begin to write a song? Where does inspiration come from?
LS: It can start when I’m just walking down the street, and I think of something and then think “I could write a song about that” … with The Postman I was listening to another song and it mentioned a letter, and I thought “actually, letters are an important thing, I could turn that into something that feels familiar for everyone and write a song that people really understand”.

PL: And we know that’s what people appreciate about your songs – the fact that they are universal and can touch a wide range of people! You’ve also had an amazing set of collaborators on the album…
LS: Yes! I didn’t expect that at all. With Boy George, I was going into a writing session with Jon Themis who’s responsible for all the guitar riffs on pop songs from bands like S Club 7 or 5ive, and when I rocked up, George was just there and got involved. And there’s also Martin Brammer who’s well known in the industry and the up and coming John Maguire… they all helped me with the music arrangement side of things. I wanted this album to have more musical impact rather than just four chords on a guitar!

PL: So how do you know, once a song’s written, whether it’s a keeper?
LS: I show it to the people closest to me, my Mum, my fiancee, my best mates and just ask them if it’s shit or not! And they will tell me! They aren’t afraid to tell me the truth. But it doesn’t mean I’d discard the song, it’s all about modification. Broken Bones is an example, we changed the chorus and turned it into a different song.

PL: How do you choose the tracks that will end up on the album?
LS: That’s a joint call between me, my manager and my tour manager. We have a discussion and make a decision!

PL: Do you enjoy recording in the studio
LS: Yes! I’ve had a couple of different experiences with the two albums – for Join the Club I stayed in there for a long time but for WE ARE I moved through all different studios, and actually 23 and Papercuts they are just the original unproduced versions, without big studio effects. The quality of equipment available now makes this possible.

PL: Do you prefer studio sessions or live performing? What’s the best thing about performing and touring?
LS: Live performing without question. Live performance is always 100% what I want to do, it’s not like anything else – no drugs or alcohol could surpass the feeling. It’s fun in the studio, but it’s all about live performing. Touring allows me to connect with lots of people every day – people who invest their time and money to come and see me. I think that’s pretty incredible.

PL: What was behind your decision to set up your own label, CTRL records?
LS: When we spoke to Sony about the possibility of a second record with them, it was a bit of weird situation – Join the Club was a top 10 album but not a number 1 album and there were lots of questions around who I could work with on their side. And I felt like I wanted to invest in myself, and take the risk in myself, and just concentrate on believing fully in my work.

PL: What’s better and harder about going down the independent route?
LS: What’s better is the ability to sort things out myself – if there’s a problem, or something that isn’t happening I can just get stuck straight in and sort it out. It’s not my style to leave things up to other people. What’s hard, though, is getting some of the big national radio stations to pick up the songs for their playlists. There isn’t much parity for independent artists. However, Radio 2 have taken an interest and giving some support, which is massive.

PL: What’s the best advice you’ve had about making it in the music industry?
LS: I find that advice can be a tricky one… lots of people, including me, give advice and they don’t know what they are talking about! People give conflicting advice too: some might say stay true to your music, others might say sell out (your integrity). The only thing I would ever say to anyone else is “be smart, think about things before you do them”. It’s important to make honest music.

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