Lucie Silvas’ latest disc, Letters to Ghosts, is a well-crafted roots album with country, pop, Americana and Motown soul sensibilities woven throughout each of the tracks. The common theme of the record is honesty, and I’m not talking the sugar coated, photo-shopped kind of honesty that we usually expect from musicians, where even their most ugly realities and experiences are prettified or framed as a “rebirth” or “evolution.” No, Lucie addresses all the good, the bad, and the ugly elements of her personality and does so in a completely transparent and human way; from the song “Roots” about refusing to let go of a relationship and move on, to the track “How To Lose It All” about being the self-destructive wrecking machine in relationships.
Lucie sat down with I AM THAT GIRL and talked candidly about music, love, and facing your demons head on.
1) What inspired your new album Letters to Ghosts? Was it one particular experience that sparked the writing or was it more a collection of experiences from both the past and present?
It was most definitely one experience, but the subject matter of the album takes on so many different facets of this one experience.
Some things that happen in your life can be so pivotal to everything that you are and do.
I was in the aftermath of a relationship and it was in the healing process of it that I realized the many things I had done wrong and the flaws I had… and until you are ready to let go and start over, you’re in a holding pattern that won’t let you move forward. This album is the very essence of that, of trying to move on, facing who you are, and changing into something completely different.
2) You address quite stark and not necessarily easy topics on the album, topics that a lot of female musicians tend to shy away or try to “prettify;” like not wanting to move on or let go of past experiences or relationships (“Roots” and “Letters to Ghosts”), and being the “bad guy” in a relationship (“How To Lose It All” and “Villain”). Could you talk a bit about why you chose to write in such an open and honest way and why you didn’t feel the need to try and excuse your own mistakes?
I appreciate that, thank you. I am actually inspired by the artists that HAVE done that before and have been so candid. From Adele to Alanis Morissette on Jagged little pill, to Sheryl Crow to Pink… these are women I look up to for being so unapologetically themselves. It’s important to tell the truth about who you are or at least the truth as you see it! It was cathartic for me to write these songs and actually say, “Oh shit… that is what really happened, and that is what I said, and what I did.” Not everyone is gonna like the true version of you, but they might not like the fake version of you either so I know which one I’d rather be.
3) You parted ways from your record label after the release of your album The Same Side. First off, how do you process something like that? And how do you begin to move forward and start over?
It’s tough… some people tend to sugar coat these things… like it’s something they wanted to happen or had in their plan. It definitely wasn’t in my plan, and I felt lost for a minute. But I came to realize afterwards that it all made sense.
I was searching for something else and wanted to feel a different way about my music, and me and the label were on totally different wavelengths. I wasn’t in the right place to be making another album at that point.
It was a good thing we parted, but it was hard to see that at the time. I felt like I’d failed, but it turned into freedom to do whatever I wanted.
I also had to remind myself to be proud of what I had achieved and not dwell on things that didn’t work out. You gotta keep looking ahead, no matter what.
4) You cover Roy Orbison’s “You Got it” on the album, and in my opinion make it your own. What made you want to cover this song and why did you decide to rewrite the music in the way that you did?
Thank you! It’s a childhood favourite of mine. My parents use to play Roy Orbison a lot when I was a kid amongst many others, and I have always thought it to be the most perfect song. The recording is one of my favourite sounding records ever made.
So I couldn’t just cover it in the same way or even attempt to live up to such a powerful original. I made it my own by bringing it to its simplest form: not much instrumentation, just piano and an electric guitar, and the vocals. The lyrics reflect the feeling of finding the kind of love that makes you feel so leveled and understood. I found that when I met John (Osborne), and this recording is for him.
5) Being in Nashville you are surrounded with such diverse music and exceptionally talented musicians. How do you keep yourself open to new ideas and influences whilst at the same time staying true to who you are as an artist?
That’s a great question, because Nashville has so many layers to it. It has changed me and my life in so many ways. Even in my close friendship group, I witness world-class talent that I’m constantly amazed by. It inspires me but also keeps me striving to do more and keep pushing myself.
Even last week I heard a new band that are local to Nashville, and I was blown away by them. There are so many different kinds of music coming out of every corner of this town. It’s astounding! Sometimes I do feel like my head is gonna explode from being so surrounded all the time, and I’ll often need to break away and do other things outside of music to get perspective.
It’s also important that whilst having that talent around you and influence, that you do keep your eyes on your own road and not compare yourself, which can be a challenge.
Every one of us is different and we each have a very different story to tell and live. If anything, it’s made my identity even stronger, because I’ve had to become that way in a town with so much talent and high musical standards.
6) “Villain,” one of the tracks off the album, has gotten a really good response from fans and is definitely one of my favourites; not only because you touch on subjects that some artists seem to shy away from, but also because the song is so ambiguous. At the start of the song you think you know who the villain is and by the end you’re not so sure anymore. The line “You wear the crown be the toast of the town/ And I’ll take the fall when the walls come down” sums up this ambiguity perfectly.
That makes me really happy, because this song pulls on my heartstrings on a very deep level. I wrote it with my good friends Maren Morris and Dave Barnes, both of whom are amazing artists, and this was a subject that Maren and I could both relate to and draw from.
Most people have either been the victim or the villain or both, and I feel I have been both along the way. When you know a relationship has to end, you sometimes have to be brutal and be the bad guy… in order to cut the chord. I have felt in the past that I had to put my hands up and say I was guilty of all the things that can go wrong in a relationship and take all the blame, just to end things so that there was nothing more to say.
I believe it’s usually a two way street when things go wrong, but no one wants to admit that, so this song is the one person saying they will be the villain and be seen in a bad light if that’s what has to happen. One person comes out smelling of roses… the other wears the shame of it.
Can you talk more about the song, the story behind it, and what made you decide to shoot the music video the way you did?
I met the director Patrick one afternoon after he had heard me on the radio in Nashville. We hit it off right away, and I told him I had had this dream about being in prison in full prison scrubs and that an ex had come to visit me to try and find some closure. HE loved the idea and we immediately put it in motion.
I loved the thought of the emotions running high with me being locked away after committing the worst kind of crimes in love and him coming to see me to try and get me to say sorry, to say I wasn’t guilty… or even just to get all the anger off his chest. During the video you see me drop the phone as he is yelling and banging on the glass partition.
It was me admitting defeat and telling him, “Yes, I am everything you say I am, call me what you want, and I can’t give you the redemption you are looking for.”
It was so fun to shoot. The prison let us have full access, even with the prisoners right next door looking in! At one point, I ordered pizza and came outside the building still handcuffed, and the pizza deliveryman was both confused and terrified! I ordered him to, “Gimme the pizza” and he promptly left ; )
7) You now have your own record label, Furthest Point Records. Can you talk about the decision to start your own label, and what it’s like having the ultimate say in your career?
It’s a great feeling to be doing things this way, and it’s 2015 where so much more is possible than it would have been for an independent artist in 2004 when I released “Breathe in.” It’s a challenge and hard work for me and my team that I work with…. nothing comes easily, and I often find myself tearing my hair out trying to work out how I am going to make everything work, do more videos, go on tour, and get back to Europe.
But… in the midst of all this, I have been able to be more creative than ever before, way more than I was with the first two albums. There are no rules for me anymore, or for anyone for that matter. Anything is possible, and now more than ever, the road you go on can be nothing like you expected. I have faith in whatever I am suppose to do as long as I can keep making the music I want to make and be myself without anyone telling me what I can and can’t do.
People that threw the rulebook or tested route out the window are the ones that take the most risks, and I’d rather do that and work with people that do that than anything else.
8) You have surrounded yourself with a group of incredibly talented and smart women (Kacey Musgraves, Kree Harrison, Erin McCarley) since moving to Nashville. How important is it for you to have a group of women around you who are all going through similar career highs and low, and you all being able to support one another?
It’s very important, and I am so lucky in that way. Not only are they friends that are truly there for me on a personal level, but they are strong independent people who have all had to find their own way.
I’m inspired by all of them, and I feel so supported by them in every facet of my life.
We don’t compete with each other. We don’t ever have to. We all do what we do and motivate one another.
They have taught me so much about music and about what I strive to be. Kree (Harrison) and I go back the furthest and have seen each other through some monumental things; she is family to me and always will be. I knew I had come across something so special when I met her. She is extraordinary and complex, and her voice is that of a legendary status in my opinion.
There are so many women I look up to here in Nashville. I could be here all day listing them but the level of talent and respect is unreal… I’m lucky to know them.
9) What do you hope listeners will take away from the album?
I can only hope they connect with it in the way that I do… it’s a part of me, and maybe people will find a part of themselves in it too.
I gave everything I could give of myself, and it was the most fun and emotionally driven time I’ve ever had. And that’s worth everything. I’m not looking for approval or even status.
Letters to Ghosts exists and I couldn’t be happier that it does. It’s a true reflection of the past few years of my life and where that’s brought me to. I am very proud of it and all the people who helped me to make it happen.