In her most intimate DIVA interview yet, the singer songwriter opens up about getting sober and feeling sexy
BY CARRIE LYELL
“This girl just came in, sat directly behind me, opened up her iPad and had some kind of group Zoom meeting with no headphones!” Lucy Spraggan is incredulous, calling me from a Starbucks near her home in “the middle of nowhere”. “I was literally about to turn around and be like, ‘Would you like to borrow my fucking headphones?”
You’d think poor public etiquette would be the least of the 29-year-old’s worries in the year of our lord 2020 – with touring on hold due to Covid-19, there won’t be gigs as we know it for the foreseeable – and the singer songwriter admits that, from a business perspective, the pandemic has been “an absolute nightmare”. But that aside, she admits to having had a “fine time” in lockdown. “I feel kind of guilty,” she whispers. “I know it’s to do with my privilege. But I’ve had quite a liberating time, to be honest with you. It’s been quite good for me to go inwards. I’ve never done that before.”
Having known Lucy for a few years, first meeting on our cover shoot for the 250th issue in 2017, it doesn’t surprise me to hear that she’s “never stayed at home for longer than a week”.
Full of beans, she seems to me to be someone whose brain is constantly whirring, forever on the go and plotting the next plan or project. “I would definitely agree with that. I mean, ADHD is a blessing a massive curse!” A blessing in these times, of course, is that it’s helped her to build resilience and work towards a pandemic-proof future.
One of her current projects is Fully Rewired, a fitness programme drawing on Lucy’s own experience with exercise, which encourages those who sign up to “run their own race”. “I’m the kind of person that if a big meteorite falls in the middle of the road I’m walking down then I’m going to have to find another road to go where I’m going. This shit is not going to go away, especially from the way the country’s behaving. If I’m not going to be able to tour, I’m thinking about other things I can do, other businesses.”
And so while some of us have used lockdown as an excuse to slow down, Lucy’s done the opposite: recording a new album, learning piano, taking a level three personal training course and “a lot of learning about nutrition and fitness and boring shit like that”. I’m tired just thinking about it.
Let’s talk about getting ripped, please. Lucy laughs. “It’s funny. It just kind of happened, really…” I stop her there. We’ve all seen the abs. They didn’t just happen. That’s a lot of hard work, and a lot of hours in the gym.
“Y’know, it doesn’t feel like that, but that might be the imposter syndrome in me,” she concedes. “It just felt like I stopped drinking and started losing weight rapidly – my metabolism was probably really strained by the amount that I drank. Then there was this hole of time where I felt like I should be doing something, where I used to be drinking. Fitness kind of filled that hole.”
She’s been in the public eye for eight years now – living most of her 20s under intense scrutiny – and in that time we’ve seen different versions of Lucy. The one at the other end of the phone today is the “best version of myself I’ve ever been”, she says.
And it stands to reason that she’s making better music because of it. From that brilliant reimagining of Tatu’s All The Things She Said which lit up my lockdown, to the sexy single Flowers from her forthcoming album Choices, Lucy 2.0 sounds confident and in control.
“It’s funny, people say, ‘Your physical transformation’s been insane’, and I’m like, ‘You should fucking see what’s going on in my head. That is the true transformation.” It’s a metamorphosis she credits, for the most part, to that decision to quit drinking almost 18 months ago, and it’s been amazing to bear witness to Lucy’s journey to sobriety, albeit through a nicely filtered social media lens. After all, the last time I saw her in person was in the bar, post DIVA Awards in 2018, both of us having had a few too many. There were some sore heads and regretties the next morning, that’s for sure.
While not sober myself, episodes like that one helped me examine my relationship with alcohol and sent me on a journey towards more mindful drinking.
We talk about our shared experiences, and how hard it is for people – women especially – to accept the fact we might have an issue with alcohol, when the stereotypical image of an alcoholic looks nothing like we do.
“You don’t have to wake up and want to drink whisky every morning to have a problem with alcohol. I’ve definitely hit rock bottom multiple times in my life, and drugs and alcohol have been a massive part of that,” Lucy confides. “I’ll do something shitty, or be a bit of a prick, and then feel really anxious about it, and so take the edge off by drinking more. It was a vicious cycle I was living in, ignoring the fact that I was a prick. I definitely had a problem with alcohol, and I see that now I see my life without it. Red top media are like, ‘Would you class yourself as an alcoholic?’ Call me whatever the fuck you want. I just don’t drink anymore.”
The drinking culture in countries like the UK and the US doesn’t help, says Lucy. “We’re really good at being like, ‘I feel really happy. Let’s have a beer! Someone’s had a baby. Let’s have a beer! Somebody died. Let’s have a beer!’ We rarely stop to assess the situation and feel what we’re actually feeling. [Alcohol] is a constant diversion. So, when I stopped drinking, I was hit with these emotions that were so fucking intense I didn’t actually know what they were.” She pauses for a minute, searching for the right words. “It’s hard to explain. I was like, ‘What is this feeling? What actually is this?’ And I realised, ‘Wow. This is sadness’. This is sitting and being sad. The days I was happy, fucking hell, it was like being on drugs.”
Without alcohol, Lucy says that for the first time in her life, “I truly know myself”. “I’ve always been a people pleaser. Doing whatever anybody asks, regardless of the impact it would have on my life. I was saying yes to the people closest to me to the extreme detriment of myself. Now, I’m totally unafraid of saying no, or saying ‘That’s not what I want to do’. I can’t explain to you how much sobriety has fucking knocked me for six, in the best possible way.”
Lucy has a go at explaining just how much a difference stopping drinking has made to her life in her single Sober, taken from her sixth studio album, which is due for release in February 2021.
Recorded during the UK’s first lockdown with Pete Hammerton (Little Mix, Paloma Faith, One Direction) and Danton Supple (Kylie, Morrissey, Coldplay), it’s a record heavily influenced by her time travelling across America, all about growth and making choices that are right for you.
“A week after I got sober, I was in the height of that emotional phase. The first month is fucking insane. I really wanted to document why I was doing it, and what it felt like then. And so I wrote this song. I was like, ‘Oh my god’. I hadn’t really thought about it properly until I had to write down the feelings. It’s pretty fucking raw.”
Much of Lucy’s music is personal – what is it that makes this track different? “It’s the brutal honesty of it. It’s pretty revealing. You know, the kind of things you probably wouldn’t even say to a friend. That’s why music is so great, isn’t it? You can say things you wouldn’t actually say.” Was penning Sober cathartic, then? “Yeah, I think so. That’s always been one of the reasons I do music. I always say to people, ‘What on earth do you do with your feelings if you don’t write songs?” Drink? “Yeah, they have a beer probably,” she agrees, laughing.
Next year will be a big one for Lucy, with the new album and, pandemic-permitting, a tour scheduled for April. Not to mention her 30th birthday in July. We’ve had a little taste of Choices – songs about sobriety and songs about orgasms – but what else can we expect?
“Well, lots of people ask lots of questions about my life at the moment…” Yeah, sorry about me! “And some things that I’m not too comfortable answering. The album answers so many of those questions. It’s very personal, that’s what I’d say.”
More songs about orgasms or nah? She laughs. “I think there’s only one on there!” Disappointing! Still, it’s nice to see her embracing her sexuality, I say. “Sometimes when I’m filming [a video], I’m like, ‘I’m not fucking good at this,” she says, laughing. “But other times it feels alright. I’m in another relationship now. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt truly sexy.”
She’s looking pretty sexy on that there social media, it has to be said. A veritable thirst trap in fact. But look a little closer and you’ll see that underneath the carefully curated posts are heartfelt captions, often revealing the cracks in the glittering life of a celesbian.
“It’s important to be real,” Lucy acknowledges. “I remember growing up without this thing where you can look at everybody else’s shit all the time. If you lived on a council estate like I did, everybody you knew also lived on a council estate. We were all the same. Now, you have this constant feed of what looks like a life that’s better than yours. But Instagram, it’s like Fyre Festival,” she laughs. “It looks great, but behind the scenes…”
She’s not a fan of influencers – “I hate that term” – but acknowledges she has a responsibility to her followers, and that’s one of the reasons she doesn’t shy away from posting the negative stuff, as well as the positive, so as not to add to a harmful and toxic narrative. “You need to share the reality because a lot of people are affected by what you post.”
Living your life online and in the public eye comes with its challenges, of course, not least trolls. While the conventional wisdom might be to ignore and block, Lucy meets the maliciousness head on, calling out homophobia, misogyny and general fuckwittery whenever it comes her way.
“The reason I share so much of the abuse I get is because I want other people to see it,” she tells me. “Most of the time, the only way to stop them is to engage, to put them on a platform. People stop immediately when you call them out.”
Experience means her skin is thicker than it used to be, but Lucy admits to still feeling “vulnerable” at times. “People think they know you, and think they can pass judgement on you because you’re in the media. Yeah, I mean, that’s my job. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a cunt.”
Mindless insults are one thing – concern trolling quite another. Since embarking on her fitness journey, she’s been accused of becoming “addicted”, “obsessed” and “full of herself”, with some well-intentioned but misguided fans commenting that they preferred how she looked before.
“People are like, ‘Oh, you’ve changed’, and I’m like, ‘Nah’. I haven’t. I look different and I’m healthier but the same person is here. They think you’ve lost part of yourself, but no.”
The same goes for the music industry. From the way you’re treated to the opportunities available, like so many other female musicians, it’s still all about image.
“I’ve experienced being a kind of heavy girl who wears t-shirts, jeans and trainers, and I’ve experienced being a girl with a six pack who wears crop tops and earrings, and there’s a fucking vast difference in the way you’re treated in this industry,” she reveals.
“If you had asked me before if [how I looked] had had an impact on my career, I would have said no. But now I’ve seen it from both sides, the answer is fucking yes. The opportunities have been insane. That’s a shame, but it’s true.”
She’s more than a little offended at having her value boiled down to how she looks and not what she does, but the joke is on them.
“I am that same girl wearing t-shirts, jeans and trainers,” she laughs. “And I know more for it.”
Lucy’s new album Choices is out now
This article originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of DIVA -– grab your copy here
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