Music Critic Hannah Joint meets Lucy Spraggan to discuss her new single, TikTok comebacks and firefighting

Written by Hannah Joint

I’m really enjoying your new release, Everything Changes (Beer Fear Pt.II). I remember hearing you perform the original on the X Factor ten years ago now.

When you were a child!

How crazy is that! It is quite self-reflective and it shows the way that you have matured as a singer and songwriter. I was originally going to ask if there was any advice you would give to yourself ten years ago but that is probably the route everyone goes, so instead I’ll ask you what would you say that you have learnt from your younger self?

Everything that I have learnt has been from a previous version of myself. I’m actually writing a book at the moment that comes out next year that truly reflects on what we learn from our previous selves. I think the thing that I’ve learnt the most is that we are all really hard on ourselves whilst we are young, that we are constantly criticising ourselves. The older I get, the more soft I get and the more compassion I have for my younger self. The older I get, the more I learn that actually any mistakes that I feel like I made when I was younger, they actually helped to build who I am now. So, I would say self-compassion.

I thought using the samples from one of your first singles was genius. How did you come up with this idea?

Well, people always say to me “Ah, Lucy Spraggan, Beer Fear!” or “I remember you from the X Factor!” It’s actually a real privilege to have something like that. Some people would be like it follows me around, and I have felt like that but then I thought, actually it’s a really interesting way to revive a song that’s stayed alive that whole time and give it a different spin, that’s what I wanted to do. A young person said to me “Oh! You’re the one who wrote that TikTok song!” and I thought oh my god, I’ve basically become a meme.

The TikTok thing is interesting. Do you think, especially nowadays, that social media plays a big part in the way you go about releasing music and promoting it, compared to the way that you used to do it?

I think that some people’s careers are based solely on that, trying to get a viral song. But something that’s great for me is that, because I have been in the industry for ten years, I’ve got a core fan base who receive that music and listen to it. But there is also that element of releasing things that you want other people to hear for the first time, so you have to tie it in with lots of stuff. Nowadays, digital platforms like Spotify, Apple, TikTok, Instagram, they’re all really important but the thing is, people think they can control those things, based on the idea ‘we’ll do this and we’ll get this result’. But the truth is that you can’t and most viral things are a total fluke anyway.

Yeah, a lot of it comes down to chance doesn’t it. Beer Fear recently resurfaced and there must have been a lot of new people discovering it through TikTok. Do you feel a bit haunted by it in that way or is it quite nice to hear it again?

I think, rather than haunted, it’s more like an echo, like being in a cave, shouting something, hearing it and then walking further down and hearing it again. It’s actually a reminder of my beginnings. I guess, anyone who has one of those songs, or two of those songs because Tea and Toast haunts me and echoes in my life in that way as well, for anyone to have those songs, it’s actually nice. You can see it however you want to see it, some people would be like “Oh, just listen to my new stuff, forget the past!” or you could be like, it’s really nice to have that grounding that occurs every so often.

Also, I have to talk about the album art for your new single. Do you mind sharing the story behind it?

At the time of my X Factor audition, #beerfear trended worldwide and somebody tweeted me asking when I was going to get it tattooed, so I got it on my ankle. ‘Everything Changes’ is the same song but remade and so I thought it was time for me to replace that part of my life. So, I crossed out #beerfear and had the tattoo ‘everything changes’ put underneath it. The woman in the tattoo shop was so confused when I asked for a strike through, she was like do you want me to cover it? I was like no, it’s part of the message!

I’ve got a core fan base who receive that music and listen to it. But there is also that element of releasing things that you want other people to hear for the first time, so you have to tie it in with lots of stuff.

From the very beginning of your career, even before the aftermath of the X Factor, you were already on your way to becoming quite a successful artist. What would you say is your greatest achievement over the course of your career?

I think my greatest achievement is the career itself. So many people think that careers are high chart positions or playing Glastonbury, and those are things that are really great and every time that has happened to me, I feel like ‘Oh my god’. But the biggest achievement for me is to wake up every morning knowing that the art that I create perpetuates the life that I have. I’m super grateful for that, so that’s definitely my biggest achievement.

Would you say that’s also your proudest?

Yeah. I know so many artists who have been around the same amount of time as me and I think that they are more talented than I am and they’re working ‘normal’ jobs and not able to do the same sort of thing that I do. That makes me even more grateful.

Speaking of ‘normal’ jobs, you started your career as a musician fairly young. I was wondering if this was always the dream or if at any point you thought you’d like to do something else?

I went to college to be a firefighter. But I had an accident at work, I was working in demolition at the time and I was working on some machinery that fell over and I broke my leg. After that, I didn’t think I could be a firefighter because of this injury. You can still see videos of me doing shows in this big leg brace. Then, actually since then, after X Factor, I broke my leg again and was doing shows in a cast not even that long ago!

But the biggest achievement for me is to wake up every morning knowing that the art that I create perpetuates the life that I have.

Like a little trademark for you then!

Yeah, just me and my broken legs!

You have a tour coming up that you’re due to start at the end of this month. I was wondering if there were any locations that you were particularly looking forward to performing in?

Well, speaking to you, obviously Birmingham on May 13th! I have actually just seen that it is a Saturday though, which means that it’s a different kind of show. Birmingham is always fun and it’s always sold really well, it’s just great. I do love the Midlands. I’m excited for Manchester too because that is always a great and exciting show. Everywhere really, I’m just excited to be touring.

What makes Saturday a different show?

There’s a sweet spot. If you can manage to get doors open slightly earlier on a Saturday, and if there’s support, get support on really soon after doors, then you can catch people just as they’re on the way to being quite pissed. People are out drinking on Saturdays and there is a time where people are a little bit too pissed for a good gig. Saturdays mean that people don’t care about tomorrow, and I think that’s really important to be present at a gig.

Obviously, you’ve performed all over the UK and internationally, I was wondering whether there was anywhere that you haven’t had the chance to perform that you would like to?

I’ve played across America quite a lot and I play a lot across Europe and Switzerland, which has always been quite a healthy place for me. But COVID snatched my Australia and New Zealand tour, I was meant to be going April of 2020 and then it was like oh, I’m not going to leave the house for another year! So, I can’t wait to get those back in.

Is this your first tour back after COVID then?

I actually did a tour in December last year but I cancelled it halfway through because it just didn’t feel right. Nothing felt right. There was still a lot of bad atmosphere, people didn’t really want to be in a room together.

The climate of the whole performing arts scene was obviously drastically altered by the Pandemic. I was wondering how this has affected you as an artist and how you have adapted to this?

For a start, the last tour was in quite small rooms but these venues hold a couple of thousand people which means they are a bigger area and they’re nicer to be in, in general. But at the same time when I’m on stage, I’m looking at everyone too and I can sense when there’s something wrong. I had a show in Edinburgh on that last tour where I could see something was about to kick off and I was like guys, just move away from each other. I think it’s important for an artist to be aware of their audience too, so I’m definitely thinking about that more.

You’ve been in the industry for a while now, do you ever still get butterflies or stage fright?

Mostly at festivals. When you sell tickets for a show, you have confidence that people are going to be there. But at some festival shows, quite literally nobody could turn up. There’s a reality somewhere where no one turns up and that freaks me out but it’s never happened yet, touch wood.

Finally, I was going to ask because I’ve seen on your social media that you’re venturing into the DJ scene now, performing at Manchester Pride a couple weeks ago, how was it? What’s lined up in the future for you, DJ wise?

It’s quite hard. I don’t ever like to do things in half measures so I spent about six months having proper DJ lessons so I could live mix and use software to trigger stuff. It’s quite hard but I really enjoyed it. I can see why people have entourages onstage because it’s quite a lonely place. It’s more of a fun thing for me so I can imagine doing things like Freshers next year and DJing in gay clubs, that sort of thing.


Lucy Spraggan will play the Birmingham O2 Institute on the 13th May 2023.

Enjoyed this? You might also enjoy:

Celebrating the Life of Olivia-Newton-John

Redbrick Meets: Cleopatrick

Single Review: Loyle Carner-Georgetown