UK singer/songwriter Lucy Spraggan stuns on her soaring sixth LP Choices, a passionate upheaval of tender, compelling, and catchy folk and pop beauty that dives deep into themes of identity, belief, and belonging.
Stream: “Roots” – Lucy Spraggan
I think we are all really scared of the unknown, but sometimes there’s a whole lot of happiness just waiting around the corner. Taking the plunge into the things we fear can be the best thing we’ll ever do, even if it takes a lot of effort.
What to wear; what to eat; where to spend the hours – and who to spend them with; our days are full of choices, each of which has its own special impact on who we are, and how we live our lives. Big and small, the decisions we make determine the people we are today, and the people we will become tomorrow. UK singer/songwriter Lucy Spraggan dives deep into themes of identity, belief, and belonging in her soaring sixth LP Choices, a passionate upheaval of tender, compelling, and catchy folk and pop beauty.
Don’t you say that this ain’t real
I feel the pulling at my heels
Don’t you claim that I can’t feel
I’m not made of stainless steel
Roots – I don’t have them and that’s okay
Roots – –So maybe I will have them some day
I bought a big house in the country
I live there now, does nothing for me
Bought a fast car, white and sporty
When I look back, I was pretty poorly
I’ve had my best friend right beside me
Big decisions didn’t come lightly
A few regrets that live inside me
Wish I’d done things way more kindly
– “Roots,” Lucy Spraggan
Released February 26, 2021 via Cooking Vinyl, Choices resonates with a specially intimate and pronounced weight. Recently hitting #5 on the UK’s official chart, the arrives a decade after she first introduced herself through 2011’s debut Top Room at the Zoo, and nine years after her memorable participation in The X Factor’s ninth series. Coming out of what Spraggan has previously described as “the hardest part of my life,” Choices was written and recorded in the wake of the artist’s divorce, and explores everything from the aftermath of that relationship and its dissolution, to Spraggan’s intimate journey of self-discovery and renewal, independence, and inner strength.
“To be honest, I didn’t even realise I was writing an album. I’d just been writing songs kind of like a diary over the last couple of years and all of a sudden I realised it had become a record,” Spraggan tells Atwood Magazine. “It really is just that – a documentation of unexpected things that have happened. I’ve released 6 albums in the last 9 years, I really hope I can squeeze another in before the decade is done!”
While she may not have been conscious about writing a record at first, once she had focused in, Spraggan tackled her sixth album with a fresh vision. “I wanted it to sound different to my other work,” she explains. “I wanted a bit more maturity in both the sound and the lyrical content. I spent a lot of time in the States touring last year and was hugely influenced by the folk-rock and americana/country scene. The vision stayed pretty much the same even when production started – Pete Hammerton is a genius and really brought the ‘dirt-track in a mustang’ sound to life.”
The title Choices carries an important, special meaning. “There have been a million massive choices I have made over the last two years. I got sober, I got divorced, I changed pretty much everything about my life,” Spraggan reflects. “I thought about calling the album ‘Zero’, like a brand new start, but it didn’t fit. It wasn’t a brand new start, just a fork in the road where I decided to change everything. I made the choices.”
Choices arrives two year after Spraggan’s fifth LP Today Was a Good Day, but as she herself admits, the two records could not be more distinct from one another. “To me, this is a wholly different record. I feel like TWAGD wasn’t my best work; I think I knew that at the time. I really do feel like Choices is the most authentic record I have put out in the last seven years – it’s much like the stuff I wrote when I was younger. It’s all very honest and very ‘me’. The message throughout is the importance of perseverance and self-discovery, which is far more grown up than the content of the last record.”
The message throughout is the importance of perseverance and self-discovery, which is far more grown up than the content of the last record.
Spraggan roars with a gleaming confidence throughout Choices, opening with the buoyant verve of “Flowers” and seamlessy transitioning into the uplifting, life-affirming “Roots.” It’s an unapologetically positive start, but said optimism and positivity are balanced out on an album that owns its share of ups and downs.
“Bloody hell, there’s too many [emotions]!” Spraggan says. “I wrote so many songs at different stages of what, at the time, seemed like a total breakdown. When i stopped drinking I had to literally learn who I was all over again – I felt like a toddler learning to balance on their feet. There’s desperation in If I Had a God, happiness in ‘I spent a night in the desert’, hope in Choices. There’s a lot!”
Spraggan cites her delicate, folky title track “Choices (Don’t Be Afraid)” as containing some of her favorite lyrics on the entire record:
Don’t be afraid of hurting, all those scars belong to you.
One day you’ll think they’re perfect, see from a different point of you.
Make your way,
Mean what you say,
Take the path of which you choose,
Darling, you’ll make it – don’t be afraid of being you.
– “Choices,” Lucy Spraggan
“Choices” finds the artist at her most intimate: Each verse starts with the same “don’t be afraid” phrase, and continues through a string of encouragement and spirit-boosting lyrics that embody self-love and self-care. For Spraggan, “Choices” and “Animal” – a fervent, dynamic, and emboldened rock song that’s far more X Ambassadors and Bastille than it is Joni Mitchell or James Arthur – are her definitive favorites of the moment, but that’s always subject to change.
Ultimately, Choices is as much a time capsule of Lucy Spraggan’s inner reckoning, as it is a beacon of light for all those in the dark.
Its songs are inspiring and refreshing, catchy and cathartic. “I hope listeners hear how much change can be a positive thing,” Spraggan says of her new album. “I think we are all really scared of the unknown, but sometimes there’s a whole lot of happiness just waiting around the corner. Taking the plunge into the things we fear can be the best thing we’ll ever do, even if it takes a lot of effort. Writing it helped me work out who I was, truly. It helped me write down everything I felt and freeze it in time, so I can always look back on it.”
She’s sick and tired of being sick and tired
Driving down a dirt road With a nail in her tire
She’s got a piece of paper it has some names on
You don’t want to be one of them
Left hand on the wheel, the other concealed
Kinda likes the feel of the cold black steel
Know where she’s going, you’ll know when she gets there
Forgive her her trespasses, oh
– “Wild,” Lucy Spraggan
This is a special set of songs, and having already shot to #5 on the UK charts two weeks out from its release, it would seem that many others are picking up on that fact as well. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Lucy Spraggan’s Choices with Atwood Magazine as the singer/songwriter goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her sixth LP!
Stream: ‘Choices’ – Lucy Spraggan
:: Inside Choices ::
“I’m in the middle of a divorce at the moment so I’m newly single, and I’ve never been single my whole life; I’ve always been attached to another person since I was 15. I’ve always been quite overweight my whole life and I’ve just lost three stone and I’m really conscious about my body. It feels like a real success to look after your own self, and I’ve never really put myself entirely first.
“After doing that, I found my new bit of confidence and with that I thought ‘I might write a bit of a sexy song!’ and that’s where ‘Flowers’ came from, want ing to introduce another side of me that people haven’t seen before. People think I’m always being funny and I wanted this to be a bit more provocative.”
“People tell you, get married, buy a house, buy a bigger house, buy a nicer car – you have all these things – or have a nice person around you, so people think you’re good. I fell into that trap of buying more shit. I’d live in a fucking camper van, I go fishing, I love being outdoors; I don’t care about what kind of shoes I’ve got on, I don’t need any watches.
“This song is about how I’ve never really had any roots. I’ve moved around a lot and I always thought that what I needed was to plant myself down in one spot because that’s what everybody always tells you to do. So that’s what I did, I got married and we were planning a family and then I was like, ‘hold on, this is not me’. Realising who you are is one of the most powerful things you can do and that’s what it is with ‘Roots’, it’s just saying that I don’t really have roots; maybe I will at some point but not for now, and off I go.”
“I wrote [this song] a matter of days after deciding to be sober. I wrote it with my friend Joe and I said to him ‘I think this is something that I’m going to do for the foreseeable [future] and wanted to put the reasons down in a song. I’ve met a lot of people I’ve met through sobriety, where some people are alcoholic, some people are just in a sober mood, some people just don’t drink, but a lot of people have said ‘that’s exactly how I’ve felt, I needed to improve myself and remove alcohol from that situation’. So it was a pretty deep song to write, to assess my entire life. [Having others relate to the song] makes me feel less alone in the way that I felt about my relationship with alcohol and in turn, for people to hear a song that hits the nail on the head for them too. I hope that does the same thing for them.
“I think that a lot of people were aware that I had a problem, with the states that I would get myself into. If I had a friend that was like me, I’d be like ‘dude, what’s up?’. There are certain people that you have around you that just kind of let that stuff go on. You have to be [your own] person to tell you to stop. So, I always knew that I had a problem.”
Run to the Hills
“I wrote ‘Run to the Hills’ when my relationship was falling apart because I knew I didn’t want to be where I was at that point in my life anymore. I was like, all I wanna do is fucking run away. I don’t know who I am, and all I want to do is just run and get away.”
“When I first started breaking up with my ex I decided to leave the house and I was just staying in a lot of random, side-of-the-road hotels, sitting on my own and trying to fill up my time and avoid having to sit and think about what was happening. I stayed at the Holiday Inn – that was the start of that song. It was just a different kind of self-discovery; I was just dotting around trying to fill my time when I probably needed to stop.
“It was a new kind of solitude. I think everybody should learn to be on their own before thinking about being with anybody else, and I feel like I’m there, kind of. It’s like ‘find someone to make you better’ – it’s bullshit! Be better, and if someone comes along who compliments you, that should be how it works. It shouldn’t be merging into this one person, this one dynamic, this one unit that revolves around each other.
If I Had a God
“It’s funny because over the last four years I’ve had devout Christian band members, and my keys player Josh – who I tour with – introduced me to so much more about faith than I ever really understood. It got to the point where I started being quite envious of this constant faith, this reliability that everything was gonna be OK and that everything that happened was not the end because there’s something better waiting for you. ‘If I Had a God’ is me saying ‘if I had a god I’d pray everyday, I’d do all the things that my god would want me to do and I’d be this person,’ and I wish that I could have that, but I don’t. I admire Josh’s faith, I really do.
“I wasn’t raised around religion, and at the beginning of my sobriety I thought about ‘can I get into it’, but I don’t have that innate ability to trust what is happening for me. I have to control that myself. I would love to have that, but it’s just not something that I can see happening to me. I admire [Josh’s] radiant positivity in the really dark times and I wish that I was able to know, in my heart, what he knows. Instead I’ve found the power that’s within me, I’ve decided what I can do with my physical capabilities and my mental capability.”
I Spent a Night in the Desert
“I was in Vegas with two of my best friends – both who’ve had particularly rough years – and we went to stay in this tiny house in the middle of the desert with nobody else around and sat underneath the stars. I said then, ‘this is the kind of night you write songs about’.
“It’s kind of my ode to my best mate, saying when everything else is gone and when all the lights have gone out, or when I’m not married anymore or I don’t have this or I don’t have that, I still have him. He’s my constant. Sitting under the stars with him and my other best mate is just such an amazing thing to have witnessed with each other; it was just a real moment and I thought, ‘wow, I have to write about it.’”
You’ve Let Yourself Down
“You get letters from solicitors in the middle of divorce, and you can imagine the tone of those letters. For me, I [got to the point where] I’m like, ‘you know what, it’ll all work out!’ I’ve got a career, I do my own thing, it’ll all work out but just give me a bit of slack and respect. Try and be fair. I work really hard and I’ve worked really hard my whole life for everything that I have, and it would be fair to say that I did that alone.”
“I do a lot of skipping, ‘cause I do a lot of working out and do a lot of weight lifting, and my favourite thing to skip to is Bollywood music. It’s fucking sick! Bollywood music, bhangra music – we don’t have a Western rhythm like that. There’s so much energy and it makes me feel so passionate and alive. I was skipping and came in and just started writing that little guitar riff.
“If you want to be derogatory, people often call you animals and I’m like, ‘call me a dog, call me a shark, you’ve pushed me hard enough, I’m an animal’. I’ll be an animal if you want me to be an animal, I just won’t be a nice one.”
[The gang vocals are] just me, re-recorded over and over and over. You just get a bit sick and tired of people taking the piss out of you, and you sometimes feel like your tires have been let down or you’re dragging yourself along, then you come up against something and you’re like ‘do you know what, you better go and get your gun, ‘cause I’m done.’ If you poke bears, you’ll get your head ripped off. That song is just like, ‘I’m done with this, so if you want a fight, go and get your gun’ ‘cause that’s what you’re gonna get.
“I just think relationships ending can be very difficult and there’s a lot that’s unsaid and a lot of stuff that is said. You just get to the point where you’re done being nice. It’s a thing that annoys me about myself, that I am ultra secret around people and I’m conscious that I do it. And this sort of new version of me is like, really nice all the time, until I’m not.”
Physically, I wasn’t running then, but ‘Run’ is me being like, I wanna run to the end of the world, I just want to run. I don’t see the point in walking any more, both metaphorically and physically. I found what I was looking for and I’m gonna run towards it.
The common theme [of this album] is a new lease of life; I feel good, I feel happy and I feel like I’m on the right path, regardless of all the stuff that’s gone on. I actually decided the album was called Choices and then I wrote the song ‘Choices’. I was gonna call the album ‘Zero’ or something about starting completely fresh, but it needed to be about the fact that I’d made a lot of choices and this is what I’ve chosen and where I go from here. ‘Choices’ is kind of a nod to the old record and a kind of resolve for the whole album.”
Why Don’t We Start From Here
“That song is with Joseph Dunwell, from the band The Dunwells. I wrote that song with him and his brother [David]. I have a song called ‘The Tourist’ on my second album Join the Club that I released in 2013 and to me it’s kind of a sequel to that song, which is about a girl who thinks ‘I need to see the world, I just have to go’. You can have a new beginning whenever you want it really, all you gotta do is just start. A leap of faith.”
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? © Nik Bryant
:: Stream Lucy Spraggan ::