Lucy Dacus on politics, protests and pandemics: “Trump is an intentionally evil, bigoted man”

The singer-songwriter tells us how she's coping in lockdown, her reflections on the current situation in the US and how her next album is coming along

“I’ve been finding it hard to put words to how I feel in lockdown,” Lucy Dacus tells NME from her home in Richmond, Virgina. “I think a lot of people are existing in a fog and that’s where I am too. At my best, I’m focusing on work, writing and doing some other projects. The most important work going on now is educating myself further about systemic racism, how to be a better anti-racist, and how to show up for my community more tangibly.”

Dacus has been unable to attend any of the Black Lives Matter protests herself due an injury, but has heard some very grim horror stories of friends being tear-gassed and arrested by police as they march for justice and equality in the US. It’s given the singer-songwriter a lot to muse over during an already intense period of self-reflection. Ahead of her virtual lockdown gig with The Royal Albert Hall tonight (June 17), NME caught up with Dacus to discuss how she’s coping in lockdown, her thoughts on the current situation in the US and how her next album is coming along.

How would you describe the mood in the States right now?

“It’s heavy but ultimately hopeful, because concessions are being made that have not been accomplished through decades of voting. I have made it a part of my daily routine to give money to bail funds, mutual aid efforts and other causes I support. I was taught to tithe growing up in a Baptist church, so the principle is familiar and it feels good to apply it in this way. Direct action is getting work done, and people are more supportive of it than ever before in my lifetime. Even my parents are in support of the protests, the same people who didn’t watch the news when I was growing up.”

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Protests against the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis – Credit: Getty

What are your thoughts on Trump’s handling of the crisis?

“What can be said that hasn’t been said? Trump is an intentionally evil, bigoted man that represents capitalism and white supremacy. To criticise his leadership would only be a compliment to him, in that it would assign him as a leader, which he is not.”

What can the music industry do to play its part?

“I don’t claim to know the full answer, but it would help if black artists were paid fairly, given more space on festival line-ups and touring circuits, included without being tokenised both on stages and behind the scenes. The teaching of music history should acknowledge the debt owed to black people, since the innovation of most genres began with black people.”

What can we expect from your virtual Royal Albert Hall gig?

“I asked for requests on Twitter a while ago, so I’ll do the songs that most people requested. I’ve got a few covers I could do too. I’ve watched a few live-stream shows and they always feel like a welcome reprieve from isolation and monotony, so I’m thinking about my show as being an excuse for people to get out of their own heads. I’m trying to do what will make people happy.”

Lucy Dacus performing live – Credit: Getty

Are you planning on doing more lockdown shows as the year progresses?

“I’ve been holding off doing shows for sort of unidentified reasons (or amorphous fear rather than actual reasons) but I’d like to get into it. I’ve been seeing people do streams and raising money for organisations who are doing immense work right now, so I’d like to do that.”

Has lockdown given you some time to reflect on your career-rise over last few years?

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“It’s a privilege getting on a stage every night and I’m thankful people let me do it, but it’s also taxing, mentally and physically. I have some health issues that have gotten worse because of touring, and I’m thankful now for the time to recover. Although in every case I would rather be doing shows instead of quarantining from this catastrophic global health crisis. As for my work, I’m proud of it.”

Can you give us an update on your new album?

“I’m pretty deep into completing my third record: I’m terrified of it. It’s the most honest I’ve ever been, with myself, and ultimately with everyone else once I share it. It makes my stomach hurt. But I think it’s good.”

Your last album saw you writing about a very personal relationship issue. Do you think #MeToo has helped women be more open about such issues?

“I can’t tell if it’s a more equal place. I don’t know how excited I should be if I encounter less sexism when the ideal is that sexism would not be a force that has any power or any presence, let alone something women are taught to expect, in music or any industry. It has been annoying and demoralising to be told, in so many words, that my success can be attributed to a trend and good timing. I’m still asked what it’s like to be a woman in music.

“Yet even if the ‘movement’ was guided by questionable goals, like news outlets wanting to seem ‘progressive’ or brands hoping to avoid being ‘called-out’, I think of the younger girls who are going to grow up without thinking twice whether or not a woman belongs at the mic. And I think of the young boys and all kids who are learning not to reserve rock star status for white men. That matters to me.”

Are you still writing a lot in your journal?

“I do still journal, when I can find the words. I’m at my worst when I open my journal, write down the date, and don’t know what to say. That’s about when I know I should schedule therapy! But it is a great tool to learn how to talk to yourself and recognise your own thought processes. I’ve really enjoyed reading old journals during quarantine because my problems when I was 13 seem so infantile and harmless compared to the present moment.”

Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus aka Boygenius Credit: Press

What was your part in Phoebe Bridgers’ new album? Do you guys have plans to reunite boygenius?

“boygenius lives – in our hearts at least. We all still talk and share tunes, but there’s no concrete future. We all want to put out our own records before approaching that subject, and to support each other’s personal work. Phoebe’s record is an instant classic and I’m proud of her for all the new ways that she flexes her strengths. Singing on it with Julien was a joy…I’ve watched a few of Phoebe’s livestreams [recently] because I miss her and her new record truly rocks: I love hearing those songs.”

What’s next for Lucy Dacus? 

“I don’t want to aggravate fate by making plans. Speaking of the future feels arrogant at the moment. As Natasha Bedingfield said, “the rest is still unwritten.” Donate to your local mutual aid fund and defund the police!”

You can watch Lucy Dacus live at the Royal Albert Hall here on June 17 from 8.30pm onwards.

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