Madison Drew | 02/09/2023
A decade later, Lucy Spraggan is still in this musical whirlwind. This time, it’s filled with wisdom, strength, and love. Spraggan has released two life-changing projects this year: a memoir "Process" and her seventh studio album, "Balance". The singer-songwriter tells HATC why she now feels more freedom in music ten years after her debut on The X Factor, all while caring for herself and her mental health.
“What's interesting is that at my shows, we have this super eclectic bunch of people in the room. A lot of them are either neurodiverse, or they are open about their struggles with their mental health, [the shows] so the shows are a safe space. Lucy recalls her most recent tour, where the caring environment she has created through her music is hugely evident. One that she is so grateful for and makes her shows so unique.
One show she played this year still gives her goosebumps due to the caring nature of the crowd. A medical incident occurred in the crowd in the middle of her Glasgow gig. A person near the front of the group had a seizure. A situation that had occurred at other shows which lucy believes may be due to those attending being neurodiverse like Lucy herself, thankfull a community she’s been able to create. During this scary moment, Lucy asked the crowd to make a space, wait for paramedics, and keep quiet to get help to the person affected. “This whole room is full of 1000s of people, but it's silent.” Spraggan remembers, “They move, and they make this channel to help the paramedics.”
“ You feel safe. Everybody says it at the shows. People will move away from you. If you say, “Do you mind giving me a little bit more space?” they will.”
“When the show's happening subjectively, I’m the most important person in the room. The second somebody is ill, the light comes straight off me. That person is the most important in that room, regardless of everything else that's going on, regardless of if the show has to stop all night, we look after each other, to me that's just being a human, but often part of the industry is like, “The show must go on! Drag that person out!” all that.
My team will never do that.” Lucy insists.
Someone in the crowd once threw a drink at her Sheffield gig, causing the singer to stop the show. Lucy firmly told the drink-thrower, “I don't know what kind of show you think you’re at. You’ve never been here before, and that's okay. But we don't do that here. And don't do that again. And it didn't happen again,” she says. It's a relief to hear after the current trend of hurtling objects at artists while they're performing.
It's over ten years since the singer’s start on the 2012 edition of The X Factor. The first time the world saw her in her X Factor audition she was the first contestant to play an original song, which currently stands at 51 million views on YouTube. The singer has learned so much about the music industry since. She started her record label, Ctrl Records, where she now releases and owns her music. Lucy speaks vividly about the business decisions behind her album release that she’s directly involved in with her team. On the other side of this gain, it can still be challenging. One situation during the release of Balance where someone changed the number of vinyls ordered to be made could’ve had significant consequences for her album.
"It's my instinct. I've done this seven times, and I said, order this many because our research tells us this."
Her new album Balance marks her seventh release, and the creative process felt much more accessible. “The older I get, the more I do it, the less nervous I am. The view on this album was like, I'm going to make a great album, and I’m going to make it to where I want to. I'm going to make it sound the way I want to. And then it can do whatever it wants.
Because I've arrived at this, let's make good art. Let's make interesting music. Let's be honest and real. And I have full faith that things go well when you do that.”
Her songs have always been honest about her life. The thirty-two-year-old’s lyrics express her feelings on topics underrepresented in society. In addition to writing about intimate moments in her life. Writing incredibly personal songs has always come naturally to Lucy, and once they are released, she feels they belong to the audience.
“I don't ever really feel like they're mine anyway. I feel like I write songs because I feel passionate about something, I write that song. And it kind of cements the way I feel about whatever subject I'm singing about.” She explains, “Then it goes out there. But the amazing thing about music and any art is that it is subjective. People come up to me and say, I love this song. And it's about this. It's amazing how they hear it and how it can be from what I wrote the song about. The song will take its shape in other people's ears. And that's what I love about music.”
She wrote a song about Prozac" an antidepressant she used to be on, detailing her struggles of being on the drug, alongside one called "Uninspired" about how she couldn’t write songs while taking Prozac. “I wasn’t able to write songs, like at all. And that in itself made me so miserable,” she recalls. “Now I look at it from this perspective, that made a huge difference. Not being able to make something and get my thoughts onto paper, it was damaging on record.”.
The shame that people throw on discussions about medications upsets Lucy.
“I think there's a huge shame in talking about medications, people have a negative experience on antidepressants, and then they tell everybody else they will have a negative experience. And to me, that's wrong. Everybody needs to learn for themselves. People don’t always learn by being told things. We so often learn by experiencing things.” She says.
Spraggan reveals that she has just been diagnosed with ADHD. “I have a whole life of being neurodiverse, since forever. and almost my whole family have too,”. She expresses that the diagnosis has been a huge positive and changed her point of view: “It's amazing how, once you find that kind of thing that you need, the difference it makes when you start to treat it, or you start to look at things in a different light. It's bonkers how people get through their life, when you've lived your whole life without that diagnosis. I know some people see it as a big label and a problem,” She continues, “but I've always found that for me, once I've been diagnosed, although labels have been put on me, I don't feel in a box because I feel I can treat the problem that I've been unable to for so long.”
Her past still has a significant impact on her today. Seen in a song off her new album called "Caroline" dedicated to her late friend, Caroline Flack. The two met while they were both working on The X Factor, Spraggan as a contestant and Flack as the host of the companion show, ‘The Xtra Factor.’ In 2020, Caroline Flack tragically took her own life. The singer was troubled by the loss of Caroline, “When I heard that she had died, it moved me, in a way that sort of, no one else’s death has ever had. And it's because there were such failings” she pauses “There [were] so many failings for her death to have happened. And I, was so moved by it that I wanted to write about it.”
Lucy’s devastatingly beautiful lyrics “They undermined your kindness and truth” and “Free your mind and dry your eyes” illustrate the scrutiny of those in the spotlight.
“I might sometimes worry about what people will say or think. But ultimately, I wrote how I felt,” she says. On keeping her honesty in her songs, she says that she’s written about loss, about love about, pretty much everything.”
“There’s a song for everything. And if I ever stopped being honest, the music's authenticity would stop. Talking about everything that makes you sad is emotionally exhausting, but I want to offer my perspective.
I also want to honour Caroline's name, like she was a fabulous person, by all means. I just felt passionate about it.”.
The media has always dissected Lucy, Caroline, and others from The X Factor. At a young age, this intensity from the media left Lucy feeling “damaged.” A review from ten years ago is still in her mind. Lucy repeats the description of “the bad-eyebrowed busker” word-by-word that a journalist called her in his review of Lucy’s "Last Night (Beer Fear)". “Why the fuck do you need to comment on someone's eyebrows? Are we talking about their music and giving them a four out of five-star review on their eyevrows? Mindblowing,” she reveals. The review is still online today.
“[It’s] our culture of being fucking negative and having many issues with people doing well, which we do. I’ve experienced it myself. We’ve had issues with other artists' genesis for a long time. Our nation has that. And it's not shared anywhere else." she continues, “I've read through it myself. That's stuff that’s not true and stuff I've never said. So, I don't read things anymore.”
Her relationship with the media now is complicated. In terms of social media, she left Twitter (now known as X) a long time ago due to the negativity, stating that [she’d] “rather live in a world where people say nice stuff.” Yet, she sees the importance of it to connect with her fans. “At the same time. Hearing as many nice and positive comments as you do on social media isn't very healthy. The idea of somebody observing you and commenting on you, culturally, is awful. It’s a double-edged sword.”.
This year, she also accomplished something new in her career. She wrote her memoir Process, which shared the unfiltered story of her life. Spraggan was unsurprisingly anxious about the memoir's release, revealing the problematic parts of her journey to the world.
“I worked directly with the PR team, my manager, and the publisher. Everybody was incredible. And we worked out how we would deliver it, how they would deliver certain pieces of news to me because I'm kind of...I just knew. I moved into Airbnb in the countryside and just shut my eyes for a few weeks.” Her book then went on to become a Sunday Times Bestseller. She was moved by the fans' support and the readers' shocking reaction.
“I’ve been sent a lot of comments on Goodreads or Audible from people who hadn't didn't have a clue who I was there, never even heard of me, and then read the book and they said that ‘the story’s amazing and it’s well written.’ That's the, like, wow!”.
“It's not common to hear somebody out of your circle compliment your work. So yeah, the support has been wild. And you know, the media have been great. And I'm not sure how they could not be supportive. It’s been positive.”
Beyond writing songs, writing a book is a whole different universe that was initially daunting for Spraggan, so she went to a ghost-writer to write her memoir. “I said, ‘Can you please write this for me?’ And they were like, ‘No, your work is amazing. You’ll, have to write this book yourself.’ And I was like, 'shit’. So, I ended up writing it myself.”.
Writing a book herself was a fantastic experience for Lucy, giving her the same courage seen so much in her songwriting that she is now writing her second book. It is a fiction novel that she excitedly spills the premise of it being about a new pandemic where the illness rapidly spreading across the world, controlling your brain into making you either truthful or malicious. The story deals with the outcome in society of those who become good and those who become deceptive due to catching the illness.
Among her next book venture, big things are happening next. Spraggan is off to LA to record a new secret album and she has a UK tour next Spring. After her massive whirlwind of a year, she’s hoping for some relaxation time. “Fingers crossed, like maybe Christmas time, I can just go on a meditation retreat and shut up for a bit.”
Lucy’s new album, Balance, is available now.
Tickets for her 2024 tour are on sale now.
Her memoir Process is available from all good retailers.
Words Hannah George