Lucy Blue: “I guess I got kinda thrown into it at the deep end.”
That’s how Lucy Blue describes her move into music at a time when the world was wading through choppy waters.
The 19-year-old singer-songwriter had barely played any gigs before lockdown hit in 2020. “So I just threw myself into recording music, learning how to produce,” she explains.
This focus meant Lucy was ready when things began to open up again. Last year, the Dubliner supported acts such as Snow Patrol and Kodaline, before taking on her first hometown headline gig in The Academy towards the end of 2021.
First Man On The Moon
Finally getting to play a big show in Dublin was “really intense and overwhelming”, she says. “But I loved every minute of it and it was probably my favourite show ever.”
While the stage may be a setting she is still getting used to, Lucy McDonnell is certainly no stranger to playing music. (The moniker Lucy Blue is derived from different nicknames and a desire to take on “almost a disguise” as an artist.)
“I feel like everyone says they’ve always known, but I’ve never really been able to do anything else except music,” she muses.
“I just have always loved writing in general. I love writing songs and then singing came later for me. I grew up around musical people and I guess it was kind of inevitable that it ended up being what I wanted to do.”
Lucy has now gone from bedroom demos to record deals and her first EP, ‘Fishbowl’, was released in 2021. This five-track coming-of-age collection deals with growing up, grieving and getting out into the world.
Musically, it blends classic pop and folk elements with an alt-pop edge. But Lucy finds it difficult to pinpoint a genre her work would fit into, and thinks it’s changing all the time as she continues to learn and experiment.
“I’m just super inspired by all types of music and visual art. I grew up listening to such a range of songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, to the other side of the spectrum with Prince, Blondie and just cool frontwomen like that.”
She never quite expected to be a front-and-centre figure like Debbie Harry, and songwriting and lyrics have always been more of a key focus. There is a strong narrative element to many of her tracks, weaving colourful vignettes from life and from the imagination.
"I kinda seem to gravitate to being at a piano and writing on my own. That feels like when I’m most content."
“I write what seems most natural to me,” she says. “My ear was always drawn to songs that tell a story and paint a picture. I’m not saying I can do that all the time, but I love lyrics and they’re really important to me.
“I used to write lyrics in a book all the time and when I had a chance to put them to music I would. And then I went into producing and that made it more fun to experiment with sounds.”
The way Lucy puts a track together has changed since her first EP, and a move from Dublin to London just over a year ago certainly opened new doors.
“I collaborated with people for the first time, so that was a whole new world of letting people into my process and stuff, which has been interesting. It’s been really amazing to meet other people in this world and find a group you click with.
“But I try my best to stay focused because you can definitely get a bit overwhelmed by it all. So nowadays I kinda seem to gravitate to being at a piano and writing on my own. That feels like when I’m most content.”
While she may favour a solo writing session, loneliness and isolation appear to be big themes throughout Lucy’s work – from the quiet heartbreak of See You Later to realising that even the captain of an aircraft “feels lost sometimes” in Pilot.
Never is this more apparent than in First Man On The Moon, where there is a sense of space and isolation in a soundscape of stripped-back piano and lush vocal textures.
“I don’t get homesick, just sick of never feeling at home,” Lucy croons in the chorus. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was one of the first songs she wrote after leaving Ireland.
"I’ve always had a bit too intense emotions about everything, so I probably just overthink it all."
“Coming over here just gave me perspective,” she explains on a Zoom call from her new base on the other side of the Irish Sea. “Everything is so much bigger here and you can feel like you’re a smaller fish in a bigger pond. So First Man On The Moon was my first response to feeling like that in London.
“I’ve always had a bit too intense emotions about everything, so I probably just overthink it all. But I think loneliness seems to be a big thing in my music – not always in a bad way. It’s ok to be lonely or alone sometimes. I’m an only child so I spent a lot of time alone as a kid. It’s a complex feeling and everyone has it.”
Despite initial feelings of loneliness, moving to London was a pivotal step that has paid off.
“Lockdown was where things happened for me in a way,” Lucy says. “I started making music, posting a bit more on social media, and people were listening. I came over to London to meet people with a bunch of demos, and yeah that’s where it all unfolded for me. I feel like one day I went and never came back.
“I came at a weird time so I was a bit scared. I didn’t know anyone out here, my friends and my family were all at home, it was lockdown. So I kinda threw myself into being in the studio world as much as I could, because that was the only place I was able to meet people.”
Lucy also threw herself into the aesthetic side of her work, focusing on music videos and creative artwork for her tracks. There’s a ’90s-tinged, Harmony Korine-inspired element to her visuals, and she says that she draws a lot from videos and photos from that era.
“I just love that side of it – maybe too much,” she jokes. “I’m a control freak when it comes to my visuals, which is maybe annoying for other people sometimes. But I love people in music who have amazing visuals, I’m a huge fan of Björk and her visuals on stage. So I’m always thinking about videos when I’m writing songs, I guess it’s part of the process for me.”
There is striking artwork for her three most recent singles – Taxi Driver, Pilot and First Man On The Moon – featuring a tongue-in-cheek ‘CV’ for each role. This is all part of a concept for the new EP these tracks will feature on, being released at the start of this year.
“I feel really passionate about this project,” she says. “I had an idea before I went into it about what I wanted it to be. There’s kind of a theme, a thread, a weird concept of everyday jobs.
“I think sonically it’s different as well. My first EP was almost done before I came to London, I just wanted to get it out because it felt like a stamp for that time in my life. So with the next EP, I’d like to think there’s growth with it sound-wise. But I didn’t want to change it up too much or add too many people to the project, because too many hands isn’t always a good thing.”
While 2022 is looking as uncertain for artists as the two unprecedented years that came before, Lucy is hopeful that she’ll be able to bring this new material to live audiences. For someone who felt as though she was thrown in at the deep end, she’s now eager to get her hair wet and learn to swim.
“I don’t know where I’ll end up,” she admits about the year ahead. “Doing a support slot would be really sick, or some shows over here or back home. I just wanna go out and make the most of being able to play in front of people if I can.
“Getting the EP out will definitely be a relief,” she adds. “I’m really excited to let that go. It feels like the next chapter.”