The London-based singer/songwriter has already enjoyed considerable success as an occasional contributor to Bombay Bicycle Club, and creator of two top ten selling albums, 2012's Like I Used To, and 2015's Work It Out. But, despite that success, she became increasingly restless musically, desiring to go back to a simpler, more acoustic-based approach. Inspired by a number of Tweets and Spotify streams coming out of Latin America she, along with her husband, headed out there and spent two months performing for free to fans, and staying with fans. The resulting short documentary of that experience is both a revelatory and quite brilliant watch. Equally so, is her new album, Something's Changing, released on the Communion Label, and recorded in Brighton with Tim Bidwell and assorted musicians. Brightonsfinest met up with her prior to hitting the festival circuit and touring the new album.
It's a pretty early start…
It's 10am in the morning. Creative people shouldn't be up. It's not normal. I drove from London this morning, but I've been spending a lot of time in Brighton, making my record here.
Ever thought of moving to Brighton?
I was tempted to move here. I would worry that I would have too much fun here. I think my work would go out of the window.
You made it with Tim Bidwell. He's a man about town.
I love that you know Tim! Right at the beginning when we first did a song together, I said, 'This is amazing. I've got to make the record like this’. And he used to smoke in his studio. So, straight away I was like, 'I want to make a record with you, but you can't smoke inside anymore. He was like, 'This is my home!'. 'I don't care, Tim'. He just stuck his head outside the window, which was fine. His body was still in the room, but his head was outside the window.
How did you hook up with him?
Through a friend of a friend, someone who made a video for me, for a song called ‘Nebraska’, with Danny Dyer who dressed up as a drag king. That director suggested Tim. I was trying out lots of things with different producers. I was unsigned, and managing myself again. So, I got on a train to Brighton.
And it worked out with him!
I think Tim is amazing at capturing a moment, which is a really hard thing to do, and I don't think enough producers do it. So many can rely on the computer to make everything sound right. And actually putting the right musicians in the right space with the right arrangement, and capturing that one take. That's what he was so amazing at.
Mistakes and the like are all allowed to happen…
Mistakes are human. Part of me thinks that people have forgotten what drums sound like anymore. Records often have a snare with ten other snare samples on top of it. No drums sound like that, that's not what a drum kit sounds like. It's important for me that the actual instruments sound like instruments that aren't overly processed or layered up.
You're not with Columbia anymore even though the last album was a top ten…
Both my albums have been top ten. Columbia wanted to do another record, but the type of record I've made now is probably something I thought wouldn't fit onto a major, really. It's definitely more folk and country, and stripped back. It's not got that polished, pop thing that I guess some majors are looking for. So, I think when it came to before making the record I kind of sat down and said, 'I genuinely think I'm going to make the best record I have ever made', but that there might not be anything that radio will want to play. Or Radio 1, the thing that everyone is quite obsessed with at majors. It's just not who I am as an artist. It was quite a nice, mutual thing. 'Go and make the records that you want to make, but it's not what we want to do'.
You're full and proper name is Lucy Rose Parton. Very country!
I know, right? It's weird. If you knew my parents you would be even more confused. My family, the Parton Family. I'm now married so I should have changed my last name. It's this awkward thing I haven't done yet. There's a lot of admin.
Tell me how the South America experience informed the new record…
I had so many Tweets from so many people over the years, saying, 'I wish you would come here,' or 'I know I'll never get to see you play because I live in this tiny town, and I've never been on a plane or left.' I decided to go to those towns and meet those people. The thing that really brought me to it was I had written all these acoustic songs over my last two records, which were, I guess, quite sincere and heartfelt, downbeat, melancholy songs. And then I used to do these festivals and I felt that everyone was talking through them, and that they just wanted the upbeat ones. And then doing this trip and getting to know my fans who really care about my music, beyond just listening to it in a pub, or having it on when they're cooking, those were the songs that meant the most to them. So, learning that made me want to make a whole record of those songs, for those fans.
It was just you and your husband?
My husband came with me, and he filmed it all, so he's made this short film about the trip. It became more than just living in people's houses, and playing music for free. It was really about why music was important, and hearing these people's stories. So many had such difficult lives, and such hardships put upon them. And just this simple thing of me being in their living room playing some songs could actually have that much of a positive impact on their lives and change the way they felt about themselves. The fact that one of their favourite musicians said you are important, and I'm going to come and see you. And seeing the change in the people I stayed with.
I see you played with some musicians whilst out there…
There were a few great players. In the film there is a girl called Florencia in Montevideo, and she was such a great player but had no confidence. So we spent an evening learning one of her songs. I was learning it in Spanish, and we played it together, and now she is really pursuing her music. It's given her the confidence that she should go for it.
For the UK dates, will it just be you or a band?
It'll be with my band that is on the record, the band that Tim introduced me to. There will be Chris Boot on drums, Ben Daniels on bass, and Andrew Stuart-Buttle, who did all the string arrangements, and James the guitar player, who is the only one not from Brighton. I wanted things in one take. And that live feel, which wasn't too slick, like those old Neil Young records. They sound like they are people playing in a room. Most of the record was tracked live.
You’re travelling a lot this year, too…
Just got back form India last week, which was amazing. I went there last year. It's a complex place. Just playing live music in places where they don't often get it, is a very rewarding thing to do. And then I’m off to South East Asia, Europe and the UK. My carbon footprint is disgusting. I need to plant a lot of trees.