SAM: Hi Lucy! We’re so excited that you’re coming out to play these shows with us. It was such a pleasure to meet you at the Winnipeg Folk Fest last summer and discover your wonderful music.
LUCY: I’m really looking forward to it. Meeting you guys was one of the highlights of Winnipeg for me!
It made the long, bumpy bus rides to and from the festival site much more fun when we could talk the whole way!
SAM: Agreed. Are you excited about coming to the Southwest of Canada in the rainy depths of winter? Have you ever been out here before?
LUCY: I’ve only ever been there in the summertime – do I need to have special preparations?? Rain boots, perhaps? A slicker for my guitar
SAM: No, they’ll provide you with all that stuff at the airport when you get here.
SAM: You toured Ontario with Neko Case in the fall. I’m always interested to hear how American musicians experience Canada
LUCY: Yeah, I got to open two shows for Neko and her band in Ontario in December. One show was in Kingston and one in Ottawa. Both were really great. And I thought that the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa looked like Hogwarts from Harry Potter. I liked that. I’ve always found Canadian audiences to be incredibly good listeners and very kind and open.
SAM: Your mother and her sisters are the great musical trio The Roches, and your dad is Loudon Wainwright. Obviously you had a lot of music around you growing up. Were you singing and playing from a young age?
LUCY: I always loved to sing and loved to listen to music. I was particuThe Vlucy Wailarly into musicals as a kid – I was locked in my room a lot of the time listening to music. On cassette of course.
SAM: Did you have an urge to perform? Did you harbour dreams of acting and singing in musicals?
LUCY: I was very, very shy – I didn’t really think I’d ever want to perform. The first time that my parents had me onstage I was 4 – my mom was doing a Christmas show, and I got up there and started to cry. Not in a cute way, like in a GET ME OUTTA HERE way – my dad had to come get me off the stage. So after that I was totally happy to watch and not interested in being onstage. I stayed that was until I was about 25 and I wrote some songs and got offered some opening slots and I HAD to learn to be up there. I learned pretty fast that you might have watched thousands of your parents shows in your life…but when you are up there on your own, you have to find your own way.
SAM: Did you feel a certain amount of pressure that came along with having the name you have, and with your half-siblings Martha and Rufus (Wainwright) forging their careers?
LUCY: The family associations are a blessing and a curse. They have opened doors for me because people who are fans of my family tend to have an interest in what I’m up to and so perhaps more people have given me a listen because of that added interest. On the other hand, people are paying more attention in a negative way too – comparing me to my family, etc. Rufus and Martha seemed more comfortable with being onstage from an earlier age. But I shouldn’t speak for them because maybe they felt differently and I was watching it from the point of view of a little sister.
SAM: You became an elementary school teacher before you decided to do music full time. Was becoming a teacher something of an act of defiance? Were you thinking about music while you were marking math homework? At what point did you start feeling like you wanted to perform?
LUCY: I’d always been into kids and teaching – but yes, I think there was a part of me that was rebelling and trying to build something that was just mine and didn’t belong to my family. What happened was that once I got into teaching full time, I found that I missed being on the road – the road was a place I’d been my whole life because I travelled with my mom as a kid – and suddenly, it was gone. Then, in 2005, Rufus took me on tour with him to sing some backup and when I came back from that summer tour I had the itch to get back on the road. I taught full time for one more year and then left to start music. Strangely enough, when I made that move I hardly had any songs and I hadn’t done any of my own shows. Looking back it was kind of a crazy leap to take.
SAM: You’re an exquisite songwriter, and you really have a distinct sound that carries through all of your songs. Part of that is your voice, part of it is your melodies – I love that, when I feel like a songwriter has tapped in to a certain thing that’s all their own. Does songwriting come relatively easy to you, or do you sweat it out, worrying that each song might be the last?
LUCY: I totally sweat it out. It takes me a while. It doesn’t come easily except for every now and then when I am blessed with a song that just comes easily and quickly. I LOVE when that happens. It’s the best feeling ever. But most of the time I labor over the songs… and have a hard time getting them started and finished. I usually end up not being friends with them anymore at the end of the struggle and so it means a lot to me that someone like you, who I admire, would like them. By the time I release them me and my songs are not really on speaking terms anymore.
SAM: Have you ever gone to your parents or your siblings for help with a song?
LUCY: I never have. But maybe I should!
SAM: I’ve just heard the beautiful song “Wayward Saints” that you recorded with your mom to accompany her forthcoming novel of the same name. I’m struck by how similar your sensibilities are – not only your voices, but melodically and harmonically there’s a real kinship. Do you think your own music influences your mom’s?
LUCY: I’m not sure if I influence her songwriting – but sometimes I think I might influence her singing a bit from time to time. I KNOW that she has influenced me… the Roches music is probably deep in every cell since I’ve been listening to it for so long.
SAM: You were probably listening to it while you were in the womb!
LUCY: For sure! In fact, my mom went into labor while singing Christmas carols on the sidewalks of New York City.
SAM: Wow! You were literally sung into the world. That’s quite powerful.
SAM: Besides your own songs, you have excellent taste in covers. On your 2010 album “Lucy” you covered Elliott Smith’s “Say Yes” as a duet with This American Life’s Ira Glass – how did that come about?
LUCY: Well I’ve been a HUGE fan of This American Life for years and I met Ira through a common friend – a comedian and writer named Dave Hill. I became friendly with Ira and his wife and somewhere along the line Ira said he wanted to learn a song – he chose the song and we performed it live at a show in New York. We decided to record it, just for archives sake, and then when it was done, I liked it so much that I decided to add it onto the album and a kind of secret track. Ira isn’t known as a singer, but there is something about his way that I really love.
SAM: I agree. You sound great together. Who are you listening to these days?
LUCY: Hmm, let’s see. I love this guy called “Elf Princess Gets A Harley” out of Portland Maine. He doesn’t appear to sell his songs on iTunes, but he’s amazing. Also, I’ve toured a lot recently with Over The Rhine. They have a new record called “The Long Surrender” and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I also love the new Indigo Girls CD.
SAM: The Indigo Girls sing on your album too – how did that come about?
LUCY: I first met them when I was a little kid cause they had The Roches sing on a couple of their records. I became a fan back then and it stuck! And then when I started touring, they had me open for them and I wrote this song called “October” that they ended up singing on the album. And then, on their newest album, I sang some harmonies. It’s a very “full circle” kind of thing!
SAM: Any big goals or plans for 2012? Have you got a new album in the works?
LUCY: I want to record again in 2012. I’m playing with the idea of not making one traditional full-length CD – maybe a little collection of short ones with different approaches. I suddenly realized that since I’m a totally independent artist without a label, etc I could do it differently…maybe like a series of EPs that come out a few months apart? I’m not totally sure. I’m kinda brainstorming now about it and hoping I’ll figure it out!
SAM: I have just one more question for you. What’s your favorite kind of tea?
LUCY: Ooooh! Harney and Sons “Paris” flavor. Or any kind of spice tea sorta thing. And I like straight up English Breakfast.
Lucy Wainwright Roche opens for The Be Good Tanyas at the Alix Gooldin Hall in Victoria on February 12th. Tickets available at:
770 Yates St.
635 Johnson St.