Lucy Rose and Kwes on the making of her triumphant new album 'This Ain't The Way You Go Out'

Interview Lucy Rose: “I was even more grateful for music than ever, because it really pulled me into a good place”

To mark the release of her triumphant new album ‘This Ain’t The Way You Go Out’, we caught up with Lucy Rose and renowned producer Kwes to discuss their (perhaps unexpected) collaboration.

There were times when Lucy Rose never thought she would release an album again. After wrapping up the supporting tour for 2019’s ‘No Words Left’, the Brighton-based singer gave birth to her first child, Otis, in the summer of 2021, but soon found herself incapacitated by overwhelming back pain.

After doctors had been slow to come to her aid, Lucy would end up paying for her own MRI scan, which revealed the shocking truth: she had eight fractured vertebrae, and was quickly diagnosed with a rare form of pregnancy-induced osteoporosis.

Tending to her infant son while racked with such unbearable pain, music could not have been further from her mind for a spell. Gradually, sitting at a piano with Otis began to bring her joy, and she found that the sounds she gravitated toward were necessarily positive and escapist.

Since then, she regained the bug, and began writing feverishly. At the invitation of rapper and producer Logic, she spent a fruitful week recording in New York, before another flurry of activity at Paul Weller’s Surrey studio. She soon reached out to Kwes (who’s produced the likes of Sampha, Loyle Carner and more), who could not resist the intoxicating defiance of Rose’s new material and agreed to produce what would become her hard-earned masterpiece of a fourth album, ‘This Ain’t the Way You Go Out’.

It is a record made by and about the indomitable spirit of a new mother, where loose, jazz-tinged freedom fuses with Lucy’s melodic grace. On the week of the album’s release, DIY caught up with Rose and Kwes to discuss their collaborative style and the satisfaction of carving a positive path out of the biggest challenge of your life.

Lucy, you’ve been through an awful lot since the release of your last album. By the time you were able to start making ‘This Ain’t The Way You Go Out’, had you decided you wanted it to have a positive message?
Lucy Rose:
When I was seriously unwell, I just didn't think I was going to make a record at all. And before it happened, I think I lived in quite a small world musically. I had got to a comfortable place with it, and I wasn't really ever good at pushing myself out of it, probably just out of fear of rejection. By the time I was on the other side of it, I felt a lot braver to try things, because everything just felt like... honestly, not to be over top, but it was like a miracle that it was happening, to a certain degree. I don't know if I'd ever have had the courage to reach out to Kwes if I hadn't gone through it, because it seemed so far-fetched.

And did you have a relationship with Kwes already?
Lucy:
I literally just texted him out of the blue. My friend Steph [Marziano] is a great producer - she gave me Kwes’ number and I thought 'well, what do I say? Should I explain like, ‘hi, I'm a singer-songwriter called Lucy Rose?’' [Steph] actually wrote something and said, ‘just copy and paste that’, and then Kwes got back straight away.

Kwes, were you familiar with Lucy's work already?
Kwes:
Yeah, I was super familiar. I was just so surprised - like, 'where's this coming from?' I said I was totally up for it.

Lucy Rose and Kwes on the making of her triumphant new album 'This Ain't The Way You Go Out' Lucy Rose and Kwes on the making of her triumphant new album 'This Ain't The Way You Go Out' Lucy Rose and Kwes on the making of her triumphant new album 'This Ain't The Way You Go Out'

“I thought of it like a Willem de Kooning painting, where there is already a really beautiful piece of work, and I could just start chiseling away and messing everything up.” - Kwes

People might try to imagine how your two Venn diagram circles overlap, and how the album will sound as a result. What kind of conversations were you having about where to take the music?
Lucy:
I'm such a huge fan of Kwes’ work. Loyle Carner’s record [‘hugo’] had come out at the time, and I loved all of the sounds in it, I loved how the drums and piano sounded. So for me, I wasn't referencing any records, it was just, ‘I want what Kwes does’. So I told him, ‘Please just do your thing as much as possible, and make this sound cool, if you can’.

Kwes: I loved the songs from the start. It was super freeing working on it, to be honest. Lucy just let me do my thing in my own space - it was pretty amazing actually. I’d wake up at maybe three in the morning and do some stuff then; my second [child] had arrived, so I was all over the place, but I was just doing it.

Lucy: You sent me a track and I'd just think: ‘I can't believe this is my song, this is crazy, I'm so happy’.

Kwes: Also, you sent me a Spotify playlist of other bits of music you'd been listening to as well - I had a listen through that. I thought of it like a Willem de Kooning painting, where there is already a really beautiful piece of work, and I could just start chiseling away and messing everything up. So, I basically just messed up the record.

What was on that Spotify playlist?
Lucy:
You sent me that Makaya McCraven record (‘In These Times’), and that's still my most listened to record now, I'm just obsessed with it. I think Loyle Carner would’ve been in there, Little Simz as well. I was listening to a fair bit of Kiefer and Thundercat and stuff like that.

Kwes: We had Daddy Kev master it, too - he’s a spearhead of that LA scene with Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and Brainfeeder Records - and he did an amazing job.

Obviously, a lot of the songs directly address your health struggles, and there's a definite theme of your survival instinct and being undefeated by this thing. Was that hard to be so open about?
Lucy: Definitely. It's quite exposing to say ‘well, there was kind of a mental thing that happened to me’. I feel a lot better talking about it now, but at the time, because my back was still bad and I didn't know how much I would recover, or whether I'd just be in pain forever, I was just embarrassed. This illness mainly affects old people, so it’s just a weird thing to have to talk about.

How much do you think people need to know the story of what happened to you to enjoy the album?
Lucy: I don't know really. I've only done one in-store gig so far, and there were quite a few people there who didn't know. I sort of mentioned it on stage briefly and a lot of people afterwards went: ‘oh, we didn't know that! We just love the new tunes’. And that was good, because I don't want people just to go to this record because they've heard the story and they're curious about what I’m saying. It's a very musical record and yes, I think once you know a bit of the story behind it, then you can hear glimmers of that in the lyrics, but it’s still hopefully relatable and still has the enjoyment factor.

And people will latch on to the theme of defiance that runs through it and relate to some of the universal themes you’re tapping into.
Lucy: What's happened to me is obviously terrible and it's been really hard for me, but I feel like everyone is going to go through stuff in life, and in some ways, the point of music is finding comfort. So yeah, it's meant to just be a life record, to be honest. Anyone who's living life will hopefully be able to feel it to some degree.

Lucy Rose and Kwes on the making of her triumphant new album 'This Ain't The Way You Go Out'

“The music was giving me so much energy and courage. I was pretty low in confidence after going through all that, but I’d put my headphones on and it was like I had my own secret life.” - Lucy Rose

Was there a different, darker path this album could have gone down?
Lucy: When it came to writing songs, this was just the most natural and subconscious thing. Which is why I was even more grateful for music than ever, because it really pulled me into a good place. I didn't want to be sitting at the piano feeling miserable; I already felt miserable. Making this record helped me escape it all, to be honest, even though it's so entwined in it lyrically. The lyrics came really last minute - they were the last thing I put on - but the music was giving me so much energy and courage. I was pretty low in confidence after going through all that, but I’d put my headphones on and it was like I had my own secret life. I'd be really buzzing because I felt like I was making something great with great people. And it was just so different to what was going on with life and hospital appointments; it was really good for my soul.

There must have been moments when music was a long way from your radar. Did you have moments where you thought it might never come back?
Lucy: To be honest, it probably wasn't even really a concern at the time. It was just like, ‘I need to work out how I can pick up my baby and walk again’, and that's it.

You’re about to play a big show at Camden's Roundhouse. What's the plan for playing live for the time being?
Lucy: There probably won’t be tours. I was pretty set on not touring too much anyway, and that was before I found out that I was pregnant again, because I just wasn't very interested in leaving Otis for a long time. I just find it very, very difficult. So I’m going to try and release the record and work as hard as I can, but the live [show] is just going to have to wait until he's bigger.

It seems like the two of you might keep working together in the future?
Lucy: Stop, I'm way too keen. I have to see if I write some good songs; I need to earn it first. But that would be great - it's been amazing.
Kwes: 1000%.

'This Ain't The Way You Go Out' is out now via Communion.

Tags: Lucy Rose, Features, Interviews

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