BY KEELY MCAVENEY Lucy Dacus, only twenty two years old and already one of Matador Record’s crown jewels, has been three feet high and rising ever since the release of her2 016 debut, No Burden. There aren’t enough hyphens to list all that the Richmond based singer-songwriter-alt-rocker is. Her first single, “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” resonated with other females tired of being exiled to the “funny friend” zone. It’s been a month since the release of her harrowing sophomore album, Historian, which upgraded her status from up-and-coming to here-to-stay. Historian maintains the buzzing guitars and blunt lyrical center that made No Burden such a treat to savor, zig-zagging between hushed, strummed intimacy and more sawtoothed, claws-out rock riffs. She croons about breakups and death alike with equal measures of bemused glibness and quiet desolation as she navigates the magic and loss of early adulthood in 21st century America. She plays a completely sold out show at Johnny Brenda’s on Friday April 13th.
PHAWKER: I saw your last show at Johnny Brenda’s back like two years ago, which was a fantastic, really intimate performance. How do you plan on maintaining that intimacy as you start playing bigger shows with larger crowds?
LUCY DACUS: I think there’s something innate to the content that makes it impossible to avoid intimacy. Even as shows have been selling out and we’ve been moving to bigger rooms, I feel wide open on stage. I make a lot of eye contact while I’m singing and I feel connected to our crowds more than ever. Sometimes it’s too intense to bear.
LUCY DACUS: Ha, where do I begin? The change in my career is that I have one. I’m a full time musician, a reality I never imagined. When I say full time, I mean that this job has taken over every facet of my life. There’s no such thing as time off because my job is to be myself.
PHAWKER: “Historians” feels like more of a cohesive narrative — a sort of natural progression of dealing with loss. Were there particular events that inspired this?
LUCY DACUS: There wasn’t one event that catalyzed the whole album, but each of the songs are about specific moments. “Pillar Of Truth” is about observing my grandma on her deathbed, “Night Shift” is the one and only breakup song I’ve ever written, and “Yours & Mine” is largely about losing faith in our country. I could go through each song, but I also don’t mind when people don’t know exactly where my inspiration came from. Sometimes finding out the original meaning can ruin the meaning you imagine as a listener.
PHAWKER: Does incorporating so much of yourself and your personal life into your work feel exhausting or like too much? How do you strike a balance between honesty and intimacy in your songwriting and maintaining a zone of privacy?
LUCY DACUS: I haven’t found that balance yet. As of now, I don’t have much privacy. The songs are very personal and I can’t imagine them being any other way. I’ve been enforcing more boundaries these days. I don’t go out after shows very often anymore. Partially because it isn’t good for my voice to talk a lot after a show, but also because I can’t handle the disparity between who I know I am and who other people think I am. Those expectations are unable to be met.
PHAWKER: What are your thoughts on the #MeToo movement? I mean, the music business is notoriously exploitative/discriminatory against women. Surely you’ve bumped up against your share of of casual sexism on tour. Any horror stories to share?
LUCY DACUS: Last week in Vancouver, some guy shouted, “I want to have sex with you!” from the crowd between songs. I asked him to repeat himself and he did. I pointed to the door and told him to get out. I said that I clearly did not want to sleep with him and that he had to leave. I said I hoped he was embarrassed enough to never pull that shit on anyone else. Do people think that when they buy a ticket, they’re entitled to take over the space and assert power over me? No, I am the one with the microphone. I said, “get the fuck out of this place immediately.” I played the rest of the set with shaking hands.
PHAWKER: What was the last album you’ve listened to that’s blown your mind and why?
LUCY DACUS: Can’t remember the chronology of my listening, but it’s either the new Phoebe Bridgers, Twain, or Lomelda records. I suppose they all have great songwriting in common, as well as dope melodies and very fitting instrumentation. I also appreciate the gentleness of each.