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Lucie Silvas interview

We talk to the singer-songwriter ahead of her UK tour.

Lucie Silvas
Credit: Decca

Since Lucie Silvas returned with her first album in over a decade, Letters To Ghosts, in 2015, she’s been building a name for herself as one of the best singer-songwriters in Nashville.

The success of the album has led to Lucie appearing at C2C: Country to Country and Nashville Meets London this year, and now she’s returning to the UK for a new headlining tour supported by Charlie Worsham.

I caught up with Lucie ahead of her tour to find out what she’s been up to since we last spoke, her upcoming album and what she’s learnt from touring with the likes of Chris Stapleton and Brothers Osborne. Read on to find out more…

Last time you spoke to Entertainment Focus was back in March ahead of playing C2C – what have you been up to since then?

Oh my goodness! Now I need to remember what I did yesterday… [laughs] It’s a nice question to answer actually, because it feels like so much has happened and yet the time has flown. So when I got back to Nashville then I went on the Chris Stapleton dates – that was amazing. We went all around America, and it’s amazing for me because even though I’ve been going there a long time there had been places that I’d never seen. Even going to places like Washington state and places in the middle of America that I’d never been, it’s eye-opening and when you open your eyes and see the moment you’re in. When you’re a kid you have thoughts of ‘oh I wanna tour America’ but you don’t actually realise you’re in that moment until you’re standing there at these amazing venues and these amazing amphitheatres, especially with someone like Chris Stapleton so it was really amazing.

So I did that and then even at that point when it turned sort of April and May I had planned to start recording a new album. And I started to panic a little because I was like ‘oh I should be doing it right now but I don’t really have any songs yet’. And I was on the road so much – I was also doing loads of both country and pop festivals so I didn’t really get much time to write. But in between that I was writing as much as I could. And then I did a date with Little Big Town, I did a bunch of things in Nashville like the Opry and things like that, and then finally I started to arrange to get in and record the new record. And one of my best friends in the world, John Green – we’ve known each other since we were like 14 years old, something like that – he came over to Nashville and we started recording. We did the album in two sort of sections, eight songs and then four songs, and then we’ve just finished it. There might be stuff I left out but I can’t remember it! [laughs] I might think of it in a second…

Did you have any favourite places you’ve played this year?

Yeah, this is probably more of an obvious thing to say but we played the Forum in LA. It’s such a legendary venue and I think Prince had fought to keep it open back in the day when it was about to shut down, but that was amazing. And then I was on the tour with Brothers Osborne so it was an amazing thing to be on the road with your family [Lucie is married to band member John Osborne] and such a great group of people like the Stapletons, so it was a pretty magical moment. But also the other one that was probably a bucket list moment was Red Rocks in Colorado. That’s one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever seen – I don’t know if you’ve ever been there but it’s really in the middle of Red Rocks and it’s the most incredible views. Colorado is such a beautiful state. We did two nights there and it really was something special when you get to perform at a place like that, and it’s such a cool place.

Do you prefer those bigger venues or the smaller, more intimate ones?

I’m happy to play wherever but you love them for different reasons. The Forum was special because it was indoors and as soon as you go on stage it’s dark, and there’s something quite magical about that. But when you’re performing at amphitheatres… I was the first of three so it’s still daylight when you go on stage and you sort of have to get your head around that. I’ve always thought I perform better when I can’t see anything or anyone because you get a little nervous and you can just see crowd but you can’t really see anything that well. But actually it taught me something new. Some festivals you’ll do during the day and it was nice to actually take in that moment and see everything and have the sun shining down on this amazing place. But there’ll always be a special thing for small intimate venues where you feel like you’re really in it together with the audience. Even the biggest artists in the world should always come back and do those small venues because it’s so special – you really pay attention to the lyrics of a song and you feel like it’s a more unique moment in some ways.

So you’re just about to start your new tour…

Yep, we start in Amsterdam which will be pretty amazing because I literally haven’t stepped foot in Amsterdam for about ten years. It is a little nerve-racking but really more than that I’m excited because so much has happened. I think one of the most… not challenging things, but how do you get ten years into a show of under two hours, and how do you get not just songs but that life experience you’ve and the life experience your audience have had since they’ve seen you and you’re coming together. I feel like it’s gonna be a really fun, amazing night for all of us and it’s gonna be just a lovely reunion in a lot of ways. it’s kind of full circle for me because it was such a huge part of my career at that time, and it’s really nice to kick it off there after so long.

Will you get much downtime in the tour or opportunities to explore?

I don’t think so. Unfortunately I’ve got one day off and actually that’s the day that Cadillac Three and the Bros play, so I’ll probably go and be there for that. But during the day on that day I think we’ll probably just take time to go out in London a little bit. That’s the hard part as well because even though my immediate family are in New Zealand I’ve got lots of family and friends here. That’s really the tough part because I’d love to be able to spend more time and see them, but then as soon as I finish the tour I’m going back to Nashville for the things there, so this is definitely a quick one.

This is your third visit to the UK this year…

I think so, because there was C2C and then July when I did Canary Wharf, and then now.

So apart from family and friends as you’ve mentioned, what is it that keeps you coming back?

There was a period of time when I didn’t come back at all, for lots of reasons. At that time I was writing for other projects and I wasn’t necessarily focused on myself. And I wanted to completely immerse myself in Nashville and I felt as if before that I was so confused. I had one foot in and one foot out and found it really hard to settle, and that’s a time in my life I really felt the need to settle down somewhere because I’d been moving around so much. So I really made a conscious decision to just stay in one place and not tour and not come back to England for a while so I could settle. And then when I did I realised obviously how much I’d missed it. I think regardless of what records I’ve got out or not coming back here is very important for me to see people. It’s so much fun. I always see those dedicated people that have been coming to my shows from the beginning and I never wanna let them down, so as much as I can come back here I will.

Do you have a favourite song to play live?

Oh man, that’s a hard one. Sometimes when I play the older ones – admittedly I don’t play many old ones in the set because so much time has passed, but certainly when I play an old song like Breathe In the crowd gets really excited. But obviously I prefer to play new songs because it’s much more where I’m at. I love playing Letters To Ghosts but actually there’s a song on the new record that’s coming out. It’s the title track of the album – it’s called E.G.O. and that’s actually one of my favourite songs to play. It’s so much fun, it’s musically just moving a lot more forward than where I was so it’s really exciting to play that one.

You’ve mentioned the new album a couple of times, can you tell us any more about that?

Well it’s coming out in the new year – we haven’t set a date for it yet. But I’m just really excited about it for lots of reasons. One, because it took me a lot less time this time between Letters To Ghosts and this one, but also I’ve been working on it with my best friend John and it was such an amazing experience. We did it in a really small studio in Nashville. It’s such a different sentiment than Letters To Ghosts. And genre-wise it really does stand out its own. It’s hard to say because I have an influence of Nashville more than I have of country, but musically I think it’s where I’ve always wanted to be. I think it’s easy to say that when you get to a place in your life that’s just a good reflection of where I am now, but musically it’s very bold, and lyrically it’s got a lot of character to it – there’s things I’m talking about that I just feel like are fun to talk about. So few times in your life I think you make albums that fulfil you in every way and I think this one does for me.

Do you have a particular process when you write?

I do. It’s funny because even when I was about to go in and record the album I was like, ‘do I have any songs for this?’ when I was sitting listening through with John Green. There was one day when I went in the studio with two of my good friends – one’s called Natalie Hemby who’s an amazing writer in Nashville and another guy called Gabe Simon. We were sitting there and sometimes I’ll pick up on the things that people say to me in the room or just talking. She was talking about a girl she knew who’d broken up with her boyfriend and she was like ‘someone’s gotta hold those strings down’, like this girl’s gone a little crazy. And I was like ‘oh my god, that would be a really good idea for a song called Kites’ and we talk about how this kite’s gonna fly away if you don’t hold the strings. Some things come about in a fun way like that. And one of the most special songs on this album is a song I put on a vinyl this year called Just For The Record…

I love that song…

Oh thank you! I wrote it with a few of my closest friends – Ruston Kelly who’s an amazing artist and Jared Kristianen. That was another one of those things also – we were talking about our past experiences and often… That’s the great thing about this album too, is that it’s all with very close friends. All the musicians and the songwriters are people I spend a lot of time with, not just on a work front but in everyday life. And I remember saying ‘you know when you look back and you say, look what we put each other through but just for the record this is what I really felt at that time’. And I think we suddenly thought that was something special because it’s something that you think in everyday life and you wanna set that record straight with somebody, it doesn’t matter what happened. And sometimes ideas come around like that, and musical ideas are the first thing that comes around – I’ll sit at the piano or someone will play something. With Letters to Ghosts it was completely John Green playing that really cool riff that I just started singing over and that was it. So it’s a really fun process. And then sometimes you sit there and you’re all staring at the floor and no-one’s saying anything. It really does depend on the chemistry in the room because creativity is something you just can’t control; sometimes magic happens and sometimes it doesn’t.

Do you write much when you’re on tour?

I find it hard to write on tour. I tried but I just feel like I was in a different mode. You definitely feel creative because I’m playing but I’m watching other people play; I was watching Chris play and the Brothers and whoever else I was on the road with and I was like ‘oh God I can’t wait to get in the studio’. But actually it’s difficult to train your brain to go somewhere else and write a song. And even John and TJ when they’d come off tour they’d go straight into these writing sessions. They’d literally get off the bus at 10 in the morning and be at a co-write at 11. I don’t know how they did it because they’d be so tired but I think it’s just a mode you go into, but we were both only really able to go into it when we got home.

What’s the main thing that you’ve learnt from the touring experience?

So much. I feel like one thing is getting used to the routine of it, because it’s quite different. You see the way as artists as they get bigger things get a bit more sort of plush, but there’s a reason for that. It’s not about ‘look at us riding around in our awesome wagon’, it’s more about taking your whole life on the road. You have to actually get some sleep. With Chris and Morgane especially they’ve got their kids on the road, they’ve got their whole lives on the road so things have to be – you know, their school and… So that’s what was eye-opening for me. I’m at the point in my life now where I’m like ‘well moving forward how do I do this and have a normal life as well and take it all on the road?’ Watching them is incredibly inspiring because they’ve got family around them and then they’re getting up there every night and fulfilling everything they wanna fulfil musically. So it’s quite an amazing eye-opening thing. I always thought in life I couldn’t have both at the same time, so it’s quite a lovely thing to watch. And also going on stage just makes me so happy. It makes me realise that I could just never imagine doing anything else – it’s just such a happy wonderful thing. You do learn a lot about yourself and it’s just a process. You learn all the time about what you wanna be, you wanna get better. I’m always quite critical but only because – not that I don’t have a good time but I’m always looking at ways to relax more and have more fun. Sometimes when you’ve had a hard gig or you’ve been too nervous or something went wrong on stage, which it usually does, and you learn from that.

But I think one of the biggest things I realised this year is that you see big artists you’re out on tour with, how perfect things are sometimes. And I feel like I never wanna lose that ruggedness of your first show. I feel like it’s the same with writing a first album – it’s very hard to get that back once you’ve had somewhat of a career and moved on with wanting that first album. Same with a show. There was this really cool quote that I saw from Jack White where he said ‘I like my roadies to mess with my gear a bit on stage because it makes me feel like I’m actually doing a gig’. I think that’s a really amazing statement because you don’t want everything to be too streamlined and too easy. You wanna actually fight for what you’re doing; it means more. And things that go wrong on stage actually make you just step up to the plate. They make you more aware and more awake for it and it’s just more exciting that way. I don’t ever think things should just be like ‘oh yeah let’s go on stage and see ya, good night’. It should be like adrenaline.

Are there any artists you really like at the moment that you think more people should know about?

Oh my God – there are so many people! I mean even within where I live in Nashville I feel like I’ve got neighbours that have voices that I cannot believe they have. It’s such a crazy place. Natalie Hemby’s definitely one – she’s actually had a very big career as a songwriter but she’s also an artist. She’s somebody that I really really admire; she’s sort of like a Bonnie Rait to me in my eyes. She released her album Puxico which was more of a soundtrack of a documentary she did, but she’s been out on tour with Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and she’s done a bunch of other things this year. we’ve done a lot on this new album together but she’s a voice I can never get enough of. She co-wrote the song Jealous for Labrinth which is one of my favourite songs that he’s done. I think people will enjoy her music a lot.

What’s the one song you wish you’d written?

Oh there’s so many! I’m a big Roy Orbison fan – You Got It is one of my favourite songs. Obviously I’ve covered that and I wish I’d written it; it’s so beautiful. it’s really hard to pick one. I think also the song Smile – I think songs like that… oh no now I’m thinking of like five others!

There can be more than one if you want…

OK, so actually probably the ultimate is God Only Knows by the Beach Boys. I’m such a huge fan of the Beach Boys but I just think that is one of the most clever, most beautiful lyrical sentiments but also musically one of the most genius songs out there.

You’ve mentioned you had a couple of bucket list moments this year – is there anything else that would be on your career bucket list?

Oh my God, so much. There’s places I would love to play, both here and in America – I’d love to play the Albert Hall and I’d love to play the Greek Theatre in LA. I’d love to travel too; I’ve never toured Australia, I’ve been to the Far East and played but I’ve never been to Japan. And there’s things even in Europe that I haven’t done yet, venues I would love to play. But also outside of music there are so many things in life that I wanna do and I wanna make sure I make time for. Even the other day a friend of mine was talking about the fact that he was going sailing for six months. I grew up in New Zealand partly by the water and that was something like, ‘God can you imagine?’ I find in music as well that there’s so much to experience about life and you wouldn’t be the person you’d be if you didn’t wanna do all of those things. Just things like that, I think – it’s a mixture of things for me?

What’s next after this tour?

The new album will come out early in the new year so getting that ready is the focus. But when I go back home I’ve got my whole family coming over from New Zealand so I’ll be in vacation mode for a little bit over Christmas time. And then we’ve got tour dates with Miranda Lambert in the new year, and then also I think we’re starting to venture out and tour with some other people outside of country music which is gonna be really exciting. And I think I’ll just be focusing on getting the new album out and starting to tour that and hopefully come back here.

Catch Lucie on tour in the UK (supported by Charlie Worsham) on the following dates:

Monday 13th November – Islington Assembly Hall, London
Wednesday 15th November – O2 Institute 3, Birmingham
Thursday 16th November – Ruby Lounge, Manchester
Friday 17th November – King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
Sunday 19th November – The Limelight 2, Belfast
Monday 20th November – The Academy, Dublin

Lucie’s album Letters to Ghost is available now. Watch the music video for the title track below:

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