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Lucy Dacus on how her childhood journals inspire her music


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Hari Sreenivasan: As a young up-and-coming artist, indie rock singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus has already gained critical acclaim for her albums "No Burden" released in 2016 and "Historian" in 2018. With lyrics that have been described as "confessional songwriting," she's drawn on her own life for inspiration.

Her latest album "Home Video," released last month, is being called a coming of age memoir of sorts ...Reflecting on her adolescence with some of her most personal artistic expression so far.

NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker has more.

Christopher Booker: There is tricky serenity in the music of Lucy Dacus. Whether singing about her religious childhood spent in Richmond, Virginia or how she is making her way through the broader world today, the calmness of her delivery never seems to waver.

Lucy Dacus: For a long time I think I was just good talking about people in general, like tropes and I didn't really find use in talking about myself, or it felts selfish or like how l could anyone relate to this since it was just my life. I don't want to take up space unless it's meaningful.

Christopher Booker: But after three solo albums, her most recent "Home Video" was released last month and her part in Boy Genius, the indie rock super group with artists Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker, the 26 year old has emerged as someone who actually has a lot of meaningful things to say and a gift for saying them. An ability that in part can be traced to journals she kept as a child.

Lucy Dacus: I was given my first journal I think in kindergarten and it has like a printed out laminated sign on it that says, like,' this is your diary. You can say whatever you want in here. All of your thoughts are your own, like this is your space and nobody can tell you what to do.' It's like, yes, I can do whatever I want!

Christopher Booker: Home Video is an album written largely from entries pulled from these journals. Her songs paint vivid scenes of the places she inhabited as a young person - and offer snapshots of how she navigated her youth.

Christopher Booker: Is there an order? Do you find yourself coming up with a riff first or are you coming up with the lyrics first or does it change from time to time?

Lucy Dacus: It's always lyrics and usually lyrics and melody at the same time, like I'll be in a walk and just sing to myself and kind of refine. I don't know much about music. I've never taken music classes. I play in like an open tuning. So I just kind of find the sounds that I want on the guitar. I don't know what chords I'm playing a lot of the time. I love music, but I don't feel like a musician. The lyrics do really matter to me, the stories matter, so the form is less important.

Christopher Booker: This story first approach has attracted a cavalry of attention from critics - calling Home Video a 'brilliant coming of age memoir' and others referring to her as one of " rock's best pens" These songwriting abilities allow her to explore the uncomfortable, the unpleasant and in the case of her song "Thumbs" the painful - A song written about an encounter from college when she accompanied a friend as that friend met with her estranged father.

Lucy Dacus: I said you don't have to see him, but for whatever reason you can tell him no.

Christopher Booker: But to label Dacus as some dark, brooding songwriter who only peddles in sadness is inaccurate. She is at the core, a young musician working to understand the world refreshing honesty. An honesty coupled with her songwriting capabilities that has endeared Dacus to so many, but the accolades and attention seem to have little impact on that serenity that sits in the center of it all.

Lucy Dacus: I really like the idea of a song having a more exciting life than me. Like you don't know who wrote hymns most of the time. I love any song that could exist without its writer

Christopher Booker: Why do you think you have that attitude?

Lucy Dacus: Like why am I able to want to let go like that? Because I know I'll have to. So it's almost like I have to get ready now in order to feel really grateful for anything that happens. I do feel really grateful everyday for where I get to go and what I get to do. That stems from the fact that I realize I don't necessarily deserve it and like nobody really does. Also I don't feel the pressure to share everything that I make. So, like, I'll write a bunch of songs that I don't show anybody and those are for me and so when I decide to share a song, it's on purpose.

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