Rebellion usually swings to the dark side of life for teenagers and young adults; Lucy Wainwright Roche went in a different direction in her attempt to stay off what for her family was the conventional path.
“My rebellious period consisted of going to college and grad school and then teaching elementary school for a couple years,” she laughed.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what she was rebelling against, but when you’re the daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche, and the sister of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, you can figure out that by going into teaching, a career in music was the last thing on her mind.
“As a younger person I definitely did not think that I wanted to do this at all,” said Lucy, who released her second full-length solo album, There’s a Last Time for Everything, this week and also plays City Winery in NYC tonight. “I was incredibly shy as a kid, and even as a teenager, so that was not interesting to me at all to think about getting up on stage and talking to people. Though now, I’ve gotten over the shyness factor and I have the opposite problem: I talk too much. I can’t shut up.”
That’s a good thing for listeners who were captivated by her debut album and her live shows, and who will likely feel the same way about the new record, even if it tends to hit some tough topics emotionally.
“I’m a little heavy on the sad songs,” she admits, but at the same time, she has found a way to bare her soul and make the songs accessible and universal to her audience.
“I don’t feel shy at all about other people hearing them, but really the hardest part is getting them out in the first place and letting yourself not censor enough to say anything at all because I am certainly quite a big fan of censoring myself,” said Wainwright Roche. “So it’s sort of about finding a moment where you let it happen, and once you make a record, then all these people have a relationship with the songs that you don’t even know about. It becomes theirs at that point and the hard part for you is over because you wrote it already.”
She’s obviously come a long way since those teaching days, something she owes to her brother bringing her on the road and providing that spark for her to leave her old life behind.
“My brother Rufus invited me to go out on tour with him for a couple weeks one summer and sing a song with him in his show, and that was when I remembered my connection to that world and what it meant to me and that maybe I missed,” she said. “After that, I went back to my job for another year and that was my last year of teaching. Then I left and started on this path. So he definitely reminded me and sort of drew me in, and I appreciate that very much that he did that because it was a very influential move on his part.”
Yet despite her current success as a musician, Wainwright Roche does have times when she misses teaching, though as she points out, “They’re quite similar jobs really because they’re both about communicating to a group of people, and hopefully, they’ll sit down and be quiet and listen to you. (Laughs) So in that way, they’re the same. But as a teacher, I was part of people’s everyday lives in a really intimate way and there were a lot of strong feelings about people and these connections. Now, my day-to-day is very solitary in a way because I go to the next town and see that audience, then I leave again and go to the next town. So I miss that deeper connection that comes with being in the classroom.”
Her classroom will be on stage for the next several months, as she supports a new album that didn’t exactly come together in the way her first one, 2010’s Lucy did.
“After the last one, I’ve just been on the road a lot, and in the midst of being on the road I lost track of writing,” she said. “I wasn’t writing much at all and mostly I’m driving around, so there’s a very small sliver of the pie chart that’s really about the shows and the writing at this point. There’s a lot of traveling and a lot of organizational stuff, and I lost track of what I was writing about and I only had one song at the beginning of thinking about making this record, and that was the title track. I knew I wanted to make a record, but I didn’t have any songs, which is problematic. (Laughs) So I basically locked myself into my apartment and made myself write a song a day for a couple weeks, and that’s not how I used to write. I used to be much more about ‘when the feeling struck me,’ and very romantic with a capital R about writing whenever I felt like it. But for this, I made myself do it and I came up with a handful of songs, and we chose from that to make the record.”
From there, it was smooth sailing, with the recording taking just eight days.
“I had a really fun and light-hearted time recording the album,” she said, even if some of the subject matter wouldn’t fit that description. Now, it’s in the world’s hands, and she’s looking forward to seeing just what that world thinks.
“It’s exciting and interesting to hear how people react to something that you’ve worked on and been listening to for a long time,” said Wainwright Roche. “And there’s this other aspect, if I’m honest about it, which is that you want to be excited and you want to sort of trumpet from the rooftops that you worked on this project and that you believe in it, which I do. But you also want to be careful that you don’t get your hopes up too much, because in this day and age it’s hard to get music out to the world and have people listen. When their record is coming out, I think people can get caught up in feeling like ‘this one’s gonna change it all,’ and it’s a balance between being genuinely excited and genuinely believing in the project and also not hanging your hat on the fact that it’s going to make a bigger splash than anything else. I’ve come to find that the best, most useful thing to hope for is that what’s happening keeps happening and maybe a couple more steps forward happen, and that’s what I aim for at this point.”
Lucy Wainwright Roche plays City Winery in NYC tonight, October 16. For tickets, click here