UK pop turned Country Singer/Songwriter – Lucie Silvas returned to the UK last month with her new album Letters To Ghosts and a UK tour. Currently living in Nashville, it had been ten years since Lucie was last here. We caught up with Lucie for a chat just before her show in Bristol on September 12th.
Lucie’s fantastic album Letter’s To Ghosts is available now.
Letters to Ghosts by Lucie Silvas
Hope you enjoy the interview!
Hi Lucie, how are you? Thanks for doing this today.
No, thank you for being here.
I have never been to this venue before, seems very nice.
I have played every type of venue. We played the Brooklyn Bowl in London and that was like 900 people. It was a big stage with production and then we come here and it’s like everyone is close together and you actually feel like you are all in it together. This is really fun because it is so small.
Welcome back to the UK, what’s it like being back?
It’s crazy. It’s actually taken me a minute to get my head around it because I have been here once in the past five years. I moved to Nashville the beginning of 2012 and I came back in January this year to do a one off gig. I did it just because I was over here, singing at a birthday, and I thought, maybe I’ll put a gig in – and then 800 people turned up to the show in London and that’s kind of what sparked all of this. It wasn’t a plan and it’s not like I didn’t want to come back to the UK, but I didn’t have a label. I have been doing this independently for years , so when fans ask you why you can’t come over here it’s difficult, because it costs a lot of money. I was like, ‘I’d like to, but I don’t know when’ and because we did that show just off the cuff, it sparked this whole thing of interest. Considering what’s going on here and what I’ve been doing in Nashville, I then went and signed a deal with Decca and they brought me over here, so it’s an amazing chain of events that have happened.
That is pretty amazing. I am so happy that it all worked out. Touching on what you just said with the expense of coming over here, often the US artists express how expensive it can be.
It is, and that’s the one thing that is hard to explain to people. As artists, of course, we want to go everywhere – there isn’t a venue we don’t want to play, there isn’t an audience we don’t want to find – but even the smallest of operations in a van with your band doing it all yourselves, it costs a lot of money. But because I have been an independent artist for the past few years, I’ve had to become very resourceful in everything that I have done. Even the album cost very little to do – I did it all without any financial backing, and it seemed to work. So, if there’s a will, there’s a way and that’s what’s brought me to be able to do so many things without any machine behind me doing it.
Admittedly, when I was younger, I could not understand how artists could not come over. I just never thought about things like insurance, travel, hiring of venues and flights; I just thought, well, come over with your guitar.
When you do it acoustically, that’s great and I have done a lot like that, but in the end you want to bring your band and your sound. I have done plenty of festivals around America, which have been acoustic trios, because if you are flying from Nashville to Seattle, you can’t take a full band everywhere. The other thing I have managed to do, is get different bands in different parts so I have the English band and the American band but I wish I could just have the same band everywhere – it would be a thrill to do that, but it’s just not realistic at this point.
The shows have been going really well with most dates sold out. How was Brooklyn Bowl last night? It was 900 people?
900 people, it was insanity! I could not believe it, you know, considering I have just come back after ten years. I have not got a song on the radio yet; I’ve not had a real, huge push yet, so it’s like, Ok, seeing that sea of people coming out, it just blew my mind. We had so much fun. I had friends there, I had family there and that’s what blew me away, because I am a bit blind, I can’t really see anybody. I kind of prefer that, because it makes me nervous to see faces but I saw faces in the crowd that I haven’t seen in years and they took the time to come all the way to the 02 and see me. The whole night was very emotional. My manager was crying, I was crying, my Auntie was crying; it was very emotional for all of us.
So this (Bristol) is your last night and then you’re back to Nashville tomorrow?
Tomorrow morning, yep!
Then you are going on tour with your husband who is John Osborne from the duo Brothers Osborne.
I am. Well it doesn’t start for a month or so, because I am doing some festivals and the first part of their tour is with a band called LANco. Then I go in the second leg, which is all around the West Coast. I purposefully took that one because we ended in Las Vegas and I was hoping that we could go to New Zealand afterwards, but my sister then told me she is getting married in March, so we are now waiting till March to go. It’s great because not only do John and I get to spend time together, it’s just a thrill, honestly, that I get to open for a band like that, the energy that they have and the talent, it just blows me away. So I’m really excited to be on the road with that kind of music.
They are amazing, I have Pawn Shop (Brothers Osborne album) on Vinyl
Oh, that’s so cool!
I haven’t seen them live yet, but hoping to soon.
I’m telling you, live, it’s another level. It really is.
They are very loved over here. There are more opportunities to play here now with the C2C Festival becoming so huge. Obviously you haven’t been before, even as a visitor, because you’ve been in America – but it is amazing. We hope to have you both there, it’s like Nashville but in a shelter ha! Under a roof, that is the 02 arena.
Yeah, yeah totally, that’s such a good way to describe it. I think everyone is just so surprised by it, because they come over here and I don’t think they expect that kind of reception because Country is a genre that was little known about here until now. I understand why, because it is a reflection of a different lifestyle. Even though there is the English countryside, there’s Irish, Scottish, Welsh, there are types of people that can easily relate to the lifestyle that people here sing about, because it is much more laid back. But Nashville is not just about country music – it’s about Americana, Gospel, Motown and everything. I think Country music appealed to me just because of the truth, the honesty and the way that everyone just took a different approach to the way they create music.
I think it was Brad Paisley who said it is one of the only genres where everyone is like family, and that is what makes award ceremonies so hard – you don’t want to be up against your friends.
No, and that’s the thing, that’s what I have learnt from Nashville. I have always personally felt like this myself, but I didn’t feel it from other people – that you don’t want to beat anybody. You don’t want to be left behind either, but you root for each other and we like to see our friends doing so well. It’s funny, Maren Morris – she is a really close friend of mine and John’s – when we got married, she was one of the only people there, so she was John’s ‘Best woman’ type of thing. When she was doing Crossroads with Alicia Keyes, John and TJ, their response to her telling us that was “We are doing a fair in Kentucky, if you wanna swap?” (Laugh) It was like there was no ego involved, it was just excitement for what everyone else was doing. That’s what I love, I feel so supported with my family of friends and artists, I really do, there’s nothing like it.
It’s also the only genre where fans pretty much support every act. I mean you’re going to have one or two you don’t like, but it’s a different world, because you see the same faces at every gig and it’s nice.
It is nice and it’s really Important, I think, to stay grounded. In an environment like that, you stay grounded and you keep being inspired because everyone is in close proximity of each other and you can’t not be Inspired to keep creating music. This business is so hard, it’s a fortunate thing that you see people who have plenty of great music around. You don’t know where they are if you are in a bigger city and sometimes you feel lost and out of the equation, but in Nashville, you’d never feel like that.
That is lovely to hear because that’s how I see it from an outsider’s perspective.
So you just released your new album Letters To Ghosts, which I love by the way! Been listening to it all the way here.
You mentioned it was originally an independent release, so this is a re-release via Decca?
It is, yes. It was independent first. It was just a small thing I was doing on my own, but what was amazing about it was, it taught me to be the driver of it all and to not rely on anybody. It was back to my roots of touring and doing it all myself. Sometimes it’s great to have a team – and I am really excited to have a team around me now – but you’ve got to be careful that you don’t start diluting what you are because, I want to be the driver; I want everyone to feed off me; I want to inspire them to work with me and I didn’t ever want to be that kind of person that feels entitled, just because I’ve got a team around me. I want to do the hard work and make it about the music, and the only way I can do that is keep my eye on what I am doing and why I am doing it. That’s what has been great about the route I’ve gone. It’s been very hard, almost impossible at times to the point where I have said to John ‘How am I going to keep doing this?’. But then you get this bulk of Inspiration and you’re like ‘Of course I am going to keep doing this, there is no way I can give up doing this’. I think because of that, the album has gained some really amazing fans and support because it wasn’t pushed on anybody, it was just discovered.
It’s been around ten years since your last record. What made you go down the Country route for this new album? Was it the Nashville influence from living there?
It is. I think you’re naturally influenced by your environment. It’s not like I suddenly went ‘Okay, I’m gonna do an album that’s got a bit of country style in there.’ People in the Country market wouldn’t call it strictly Country, they would say it has that inspiration to it but also Americana and Pop. But I think you spend enough time in a place and things just naturally happen. I picked up the Mandolin, which has that sound, and started writing songs on it and I fell in love with the genre. It’s not something I thought about and I was just really excited about the fusion of that and what I was doing.
Do you think you have changed much musically or do you find it quite important to retain some of your original style?
I think, like all artists, my voice has changed because I have gotten older and it has gotten slightly deeper than it was. Lyrically it is going to be different because I have different experiences. I don’t look at things in the same way – but I still have that running theme. I think there is a very stylistic thing that is the same about me, but the sound on the album has evolved and got a bit grittier and a bit less polished over time. It’s still quite slick in places, but I think it’s a reflection of who I am now, with a much more laid back and emotional approach to what I am doing, than before.
How are you finding it out in Nashville? Have you adapted to their ways and what is your all time favourite thing about being in Nashville?
I think I have adapted. I mean sometimes I will say something or do something and people will be like ‘God, you are so British!’ – and I am proud to be, but sometimes you feel like you don’t quite fit. I feel very immersed in the American life, and of course in Nashville in particular, and I do the things that everyone I hang out with in the dive bars in my area do. We go to gigs most nights. When I first saw the American dollar it looked like Monopoly money. Everything just seemed a pretence, because you grow up watching American movies and you feel like nothing’s real – like as soon as you leave, they are going to dismantle it, like it’s a movie set – but now it’s completely real to me.
I used to think the same, especially when I went to New York for the first time, it all seemed so surreal! A lot of your hardcore fans have been very active over social media – expressing their love for the new album and the tour and many of your fans have expressed how your music has helped them. How does it feel to hear stories of how you have helped individuals through your music and still, ten years later, it means so much to them.
It blows my mind actually. It makes me emotional, makes me think about those times I couldn’t figure out how to keep doing it. Thank god I never stopped, because that happens for me – I hear a song and it affects me in some way and I am like, ‘Well, not only am I not alone in what I am thinking, but something about it has made me feel alive and made me feel hopeful’. If anything about my music can help people and help them be their true selves, that is a huge triumph.
A lot of your fans have been with you since the first album and have almost grown with you.
They are. I feel like I know some of them and I know about their lives and I’ve seen some of them who come to every gig and I have literally known them since they were fourteen years old. It’s bonkers!
You recently got to share the stage with Miranda Lambert and Gwen Sebastian on Miranda’s tour to sing a Dixie Chicks Cover – Cowboy Take Me Away. What was that like and how did that come to be?
It was incredible. When I released my album independently, Miranda tweeted about it and said, ‘Congratulations to Lucie’. I’m a big fan and she hash tagged Villain (song) and I literally fell off my chair, I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited because I had never met her at that point and then we got talking via text, we got in touch and I said, ‘Would you want to write a song with me?’ and she was like ‘Hell, yeah!’ So we got in a room and we wrote a song called Smoking Jacket with another girl, Natalie Hemby. I’m so excited about this song which I am hoping will be on this new album of Miranda’s. Then John and TJ (Brothers Osborne) went on tour with her and she found out I was there one night. I texted her, saying ‘Can’t wait to see the show tonight’. I was just there to support, and she said ‘Hey! Will you come and sing Dixie Chicks with us?’ I was like OH MY GOD! YES! I was so nervous – and that’s the thing, it’s just amazing to see her support other artists, she is such a cool girl and so down to earth. She is an amazing singer and an amazing performer and she has been very supportive of me and Maren Morris, who she has had up with her as well. It’s just incredible how females support each other.
Well, thank god you knew the words to Cowboy Take Me Away huh?
Yes! I know, ha! I am a big fan of Dixie Chicks and I was like,’Thank god she picked a song I knew’…(laughs.) I was so nervous.
You also had your Opry debut! It is a great honour to stand in the circle where so many legends have stood. How did that feel? How did you prepare for that moment?
I was very emotional that night, my parents came over from New Zealand. They hadn’t seen me since 2008, it was really emotional for them. I have been going to Nashville since 2007 and the only way I know how to describe the night in a nutshell was to say, I felt like, in that moment, standing in the circle at The Opry, I have made it in Nashville. I felt like this is my home now, this is my family. I feel a part of Nashville now and I never thought I would get that opportunity. I just thought it was something that other people would do and it is like that for a lot of things – other people get to do those sorts of things. I was in awe of it, I will never forget that time, makes me get shivers when I think about it.
What did you sing?
I sang Letters To Ghost and You Got It, the Roy Orbison cover. The crazy thing was, as I did Roy Orbison acoustically, I said to the drummer, ‘I think we are just going to do this piano and steel guitar.’ Then I found out the drummer was Roy Orbison’s drummer! I was like, ‘Thank God I found out about that after the gig!’
Well the Opry seems to be quite supportive of UK Country artists recently, as The Shires also played there in 2014. Being a Nashville resident and in the industry, do you think that UK Country is starting to become something over there? Or do you think we have a while before we crack the scene over there?
It’s hard to say because you’ve got to understand that Country, that lifestyle is not something that people decide, it’s something that they live, everyday. I think if they see the authenticity in particular artists, if they see that they truly love Country music and they truly are immersed in it, I think that that is definitely something they would embrace. However, it’s not just a British thing. Suddenly Steven Tyler from Aerosmith has come into Country now and Keith Urban’s Australian, so there have been plenty of examples of people who didn’t necessarily grow up in the heart of Country. I think for sure they will embrace it – I think it’s like anything, people love good music. James Bay is about to play two nights at The Ryman – although it’s not Country, they just embrace good music, they love good artists.
You have written songs for other artists, such as Will Young, Katherine McPhee and on TV shows such as SMASH. Have you ever given a song away that you wish you had kept, or do you feel they were the right fit for those people?
No, they were right for those people. Even with the Nashville show, I wrote a lot for that and it was always the right thing, but for Will Young when I wrote Who Am I, I was writing from a man’s perspective and I was thrilled to bits when he sang it. There is a song on my album called Shame and a couple of people wanted to record it and although no one ended up recording it, if they had done, I would have been perfectly fine with it. I think you always have to have faith that you’re right for a song. Songs that are personal to me – like Roots – I think I would find it hard to give up, because it’s so personal and I can’t imagine anyone else singing those lyrics.
You are also known for doing great covers like Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters, recently, One Direction’s Perfect and of course Roy Orbison’s You Got It. How do you choose your covers? Are they just songs you like at the time or ones that have personal meaning to you?
Yeah, if I get the inspiration, Perfect, I could not stop singing the song! I don’t even really know all of One Direction’s songs, I just knew that one. With Roy Orbison, I thought the original is just too good, it’s perfect the way it was, so if I am going to do it, I have to do my own version.
I love your version, I love the original and I love Bonnie Raitt’s version too.
Oh, Bonnie Raitt can’t do any wrong in my eyes.
Have you ever seen the film Boys On The Side? Whoopi Goldberg sings it too.
Yeah, yeah I have – and that must have gone in subliminally, because I forgot that I had heard that and I watched it not that long ago.
Are you going to release another single soon?
Yes, so, Letters To Ghosts has only started out on radio now, so that’s going to be the one we are going to push. Then, it’s part of a trilogy we are going to do with Villain and Smoke. But I would really love How To Lose It All come out as well, it’s one of my favourite songs and I am really going to push for that one.
I have had that in my head all day actually; it’s definitely a good catchy song.
Well, thank you so much for chatting with me today – it has been such a pleasure!
No, thank you, it’s been great.
I look forward to the show tonight.