Lucy Spraggan was the first contestant in The X Factor's history to score a Top 40 single, and independently-released album, Top Room At The Zoo, before the live shows even aired.
This unprecedented success for the folk-pop singer has led to 3 Top 20 albums in the UK — 2 of which were self-released. Before turning to music and after having her leg crushed as a demolition operator by 1.4 tons of slate from a cherry picker crane, Spraggan originally planned to become a firefighter. A former magician and self-proclaimed “bike purist,” Spraggan grew up listening to Dolly Parton and Joni Mitchell, but also Blackalicious and Tupac. The four-time UK Top 40 artist recently released her fifth full-length album, Today Was A Good Day, via Cooking Vinyl Records. Spraggan and her wife, Georgina, have been married for three years and foster children in their home, where Spraggan says she feels, for the first time in her life, “settled.”
What was your experience like on X Factor?
It was a very strange thing to happen. The reason I went onto X Factor was because I'd been speaking to a couple of big, major labels before it. One wanted me to lose 30 pounds and change my name to Lucy Diamond, and another one wanted me to wear a top hat, a princess dress, and Doc Martin boots while I was playing, and I was just a bit like, ‘Yeah, I don’t want to do any of that. I want to do what I’m doing.’ The opportunity came up to go on X Factor so I just went for it. Having overnight fame in the UK was mental. Pretty hard to deal with, coming from being a street salesperson to this insane change. It’s not something the human brain can process, really.
For your newest album, how did you pick the title “Today Was A Good Day”?
So one of my favorite songs on there is called “Today Was A Good Day” and the album is written about my wife, but as I’ve always been really open about my struggles with mental health, that song is about acknowledging when today is just good, or today was alright. That for me is important because I often have to remind myself, ‘Today wasn’t shit.’
The album starts upbeat, but becomes reflective and vulnerable with “Breathe,” and ends with an honest, melodic, acoustic ode to your wife with, “Thanks For Choosing Me.” What was the creative process behind this album?
This is my fifth album and to be honest, it's been the hardest for me. Just creatively, I really struggled to think of things to write about because almost every song has a different topic. So for me, it was just getting those songs down and sitting in a room with my hand on my head, like ‘Hmmm.’
Along with “Today Was A Good Day,” my second favorite song is “Connie’s Bar.” I wrote that about a biker woman who worked behind a bar in North Florida. She was amazing, fully tattooed, drinking a beer at 10 o'clock in the morning, while making some burgers with a cigarette in their mouth.
How was being in that space suit for the “Lucky Stars” video?
For the “Lucky Stars” video, there was an issue with the space suit because loads of people had taken all the space suits in the UK, like ‘Shit, we have to do the video, what are we going to do?’ So we got this one, and it was pretty good, but a lot of people had been in that space suit. It had not been dry-cleaned in a long time it was vile. It looks good on the video, and I like that it’s got an American flag on there. I want to live here. Every time I come to New York I love it a little bit more.
Having top albums self released, and now moving to a label, are there any things you miss about working independently?
I had another label sniffing around for a bit. I would go into meetings with them and it was just a bit like, ‘I’m not doing this again.’ Having all these A&R guys saying, ‘Let’s do this and that.’ But with Cooking Vinyl, they’re a really relaxed indie label, and they like me as an artist so they just want me to be me, which is imperative. I have to do loads less work, so that’s great.
Who would you say are your musical parents that you're across between?
I get a lot of comparisons to Ed Sheeran sometimes, but I would say early Kate Nash and Lily Allen. *Laughing* Gay moms.
How did you and your wife, “G,” meet?
We met in a bar. Funnily enough, this guy from Ireland was crossing the road in Vegas and he'd recognized me and so he was like, ‘You want to go and party in Vegas?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, man!’ And my wife used to live in Thailand and she’d met the same guy in Thailand, and then fast forward to his 30th birthday in London, [my wife] and I both went to that party. She’s got tattoos as well and he goes, ‘Oh, I’ve got to show you this beautiful tattooed girl. You’re going to love her, she’s really up your alley.’ And he led me towards my wife, whom I had seen walk in early on, and I was like, ‘She’s amazing.’ But he led me right past her to a different girl and I was like, ‘Damn it.’ So I was chatting with this other girl, still looking behind at where my wife was, and then she disappeared and I was circling around this venue trying to find her. But I couldn’t, so I went to the bar and ordered a drink, and she tapped me on the shoulder.
It’s funny because she has a big mandala tattoo on her sternum and she was wearing a low jumpsuit and when I was speaking with her and looking at her tattoo, she was like, ‘Are you looking at my boobs?’ and I was like, ‘No, no, I’m looking at your tattoo! It’s really beautiful.’ And as we are talking for a few hours she said, ‘Are you looking at my tattoo again?’ And I said, ‘Nah, I’m looking at your tits.’
You two are foster moms together?
We foster emergency and short-term placements, so like children that might have come out of an abusive household or their foster carers might need respite. We were watching the local news and it said that like a load of Syrian kids are being dropped off around Manchester and we were just like, ‘If we can help them, we should.’ We went down to social care and there were so many kids, I think it was 250 UK children at any time need somewhere to be. Not even just Syrian kids, all kids. So we thought, we have enough room. We don’t really have enough time, but we’ll try. It’s been really good, we’ve had 14 kids in and out of the house. The youngest has been 18 months and the oldest was 16.
What is your favorite part?
Saying goodbye. No, I’m joking. The social workers will say, ‘You gotta be careful because they’ll smash up your house, throw stuff down the stairs. They’re real problem kids and they’ll swear at you.’ We’ve never had a single one give us any problems. If you just treat them with respect, and often it’s the first time they’ve ever been treated with respect, that’s a massive part of it. Watching the sheer improvement and difference you can make by applying so little. That’s my favorite bit. I had a kid that they kept saying was nonverbal. After spending a lot of time with him I was like, ‘No, he does speak.’ I was giving him a bath, counting to 10, and when I got to 8, he goes, ‘9!’ and I was like, ‘Woah, what the hell!’ It’s moments like that.
Onto your tattoos, which is your favorite?
I've got a big Elvis on my left leg, but it’s hard to pick a favorite. They’ve all got different meanings. Like this is my Boston Terrier, Steven. It's hard to be away from him, so that’s one of my favorites because I get to carry him with me all the time. My first one is the one behind my neck, I put a mandala over it, but underneath it I got ‘Proud’ in really bad Old English writing. I was 15 and I went to a pride event and I loved it. It was amazing. Like I wanted to get a tattoo because it was my first liberating experience. My mom told me I would regret it, but now when I see her and she asks me, I’m like ‘NO! I love it.’
You’re a bike purist. What do you ride?
At home I have a Kawasaki Vulcan. It's in black and I've just had a new [Arrow exhaust] put on it and it sounds beautiful. I love riding. It's probably my second passion to music, being on a motorbike. I’ve been riding since I was 18 but I passed my full license in December because you can’t get a full big engine unless you do three tests, and I had some time off and I did it, so now I have this big beefy bike. I got into it coming from a hilly, middle-of-nowhere town. However you can get out, you do it. Being in a helmet and staying alive, and getting that lean on the corner is really therapeutic to me. Once you get on two wheels you can’t go back to any more. I wouldn't ever stop biking.
What can Lucy Spraggan fans expect from you in the future?
I’m touring in the UK and in Europe for the fall, but I’m going to be touring back in America in the fall as well. I want to do some opening shows for some people, but I did a headline tour here in September so I should be back then.