Making The Best Out of The Bitter Part of Growing Up with Lucy Dacus
We had the chance to chat with Lucy Dacus about her days in VBS, her songwriting style, and the silver lining within her newest album “Home Video”.
Words by Shadia Kansha
Photo: Ebru Yildiz
The singer-songwriter and music producer behind two critically-acclaimed albums “No Burden” and “Historian” just released her newest album “Home Video”. Through her newest release, we get to see another layer of Lucy Dacus as she invites us along through the many stories of her coming-of-age phase that teaches us how to own ourselves and understand our emotions.
Recently you had a realization that, turns out, your VBS camp counselor was the real motivation you started playing guitar. Is that true?
True, so true. You know what’s funny? I told that story about having a crush on the camp counselor, and then, well there were two camp counselors, and the other one texted me about it and she sent me a video of us singing “Hey Ya!” with the words changed to make it, like, religious. And I was like, oh, I forgot that when I tweet, anybody can read it. You know, I feel like I’m just putting words into nowhere. But no, people from my past can see all that.
Interesting, is this camp counselor the notorious “ex” behind your song “VBS”?
No, she’s a different thing. That was actually from a different VBS because I went to like dozens of them.
In a spectrum between “writing for yourself” and “writing for other people”, where would you put yourself in?
Writing for myself, with maybe a little tap towards other people. I think “Home Video” is the most ‘for myself’ so far. I think with my older songs, they were for myself, but I sort of changed them to be more general so that more people could relate to them. And I don’t know if they were like, I’ve never really thought about being marketable.
If you’re trying to just get notoriety or whatever, it’s never going to be enough.
I think I do tend to write pretty traditional songs. But yeah, I think if you’re not doing it for yourself, you’re never really going to be fully happy, you know, because if you’re trying to just get notoriety or whatever, it’s never going to be enough. So, I think that’s a bad way to start writing music.
Currently, writing on various personal issues is the way musicians would go. There’s this shift happening because that writing style becomes more marketable. How do you see this phenomenon?
I don’t know. Part of me wants to be like, “OK, like, everyone needs to make money, so if you found a way to do it, you know, making music is way less bad than having an oil company” or something like that. So I don’t want to hate on that too much. I know a lot of songwriters who never sing their music and they just write for other people and they write based on an assignment. It does feel a little icky to watch pop acts make music that they know is going to sell well. But I don’t know. I’m trying to be less judgmental. I think on a personal level, I don’t want to do it. But, I want to be more respectful of the people who choose to do it that way.
Congratulations on releasing your newest album. This album brings a lot of personal coming-of-age stories. In every phase of life, there’s a silver lining waiting for you at the end. So if this album is based on your personal coming-of-age story, what is the lesson you acquired during this phase that you want to express through this album?
I do have the final say over who I am and what my story is.That’s such a good question. I think that the lesson that I learned is that, I define myself so much by the people around me. And while that can be beautiful because it means that I’m very open to the people around me and I’m learning and I love them, my life is my own. I’m the only one who’s responsible for it and I’m the only one who can tell it.
I do have the final say over who I am and what my story is. So that has felt meaningful.
A lot of your lyrics in this album feel like storytelling. For example your song “thumbs”, where you were describing a particular moment filled with anger. There are characters and conversations in it too. What was the consideration that pushed you to do that writing style?
I think that, with that song, in particular, I didn’t really think about it that much. I was just writing the song and then once it was over, I got to see what it was and be like, “oh, my gosh, I can’t believe that I said any of this.” But I think that anger is really useful. You know, it doesn’t feel good to be angry, but it shows you what you say no to.
Anger is very important. There’s a lot that happens in the world that you should be angry about and for a long time, I didn’t think that I was allowed to be angry or it wasn’t useful. You know, just be happy and be peace-loving. But I feel like, loving peace, a part of that is being angry at everything that keeps you from that peace. Yeah, I don’t know, I just like I just wanted to defend her and that’s it’s pretty simple.
When the pandemic ends, what’s the first thing you want to do? What’s in store for us in the future?
The thing that I want to do the most, it’s not really music-related. I want to put on a cute wig and I want to go to the sweatiest gay club that I can find, and just dance for many hours until my whole body is sore and covered in other people’s sweat. Like, that sounds perfect to me. If I can do that without being afraid, that’s when the pandemic will be over. I don’t do that regularly. I want to do it because I will be capable of doing it.