February 24, 2016

Featuring: Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus is here to to teach you that there's strength in being vulnerable.

Lucy Dacus is the voice you needed to hear in middle school. The 20-year-old indie pop musician knows what it’s like to be delegated to a specific role in a social circle, or to seem like a burden when you just want to fit in – feelings she lays bare on her debut album, No Burden, out Feb. 26 on EggHunt Records. In “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” Dacus sings, “I don’t wanna be funny anymore/I got a too-short skirt, maybe I can be the cute one/Is there room in the band, I don’t need to be the frontman/If not then I’ll be the biggest fan.” It speaks to the tendency to categorize people, the way women are often reduced to archetypes, and a longing to be included all at once. On the album, Dacus, who’s based in Richmond, Virginia, asserts strength in her refusal to check one box. “I was just raised being told I had worthwhile things to say, probably before I could say anything,” she said.

Dacus’ creativity throughout her childhood wasn’t a deliberate act, she said. Rather, music permeated her life, and singing and writing music became inevitable. While singing with her mother, a pianist, Dacus learned to reach for different notes to enhance the songs – de facto harmonizing that was occurring before Dacus knew she was writing music. With No Burden, Daucus didn’t set out to write an album; it was only after she had about 15 solid songs written that she considered recording some of them. Often compared to Courtney Barnett, Dacus amped up her previous solo efforts with the help of a full band to create a punchy and vocal-heavy collection of pop songs. “Songwriting just changes based off of how you’re changing,” she said. “I think if you just do it all the time you find the way that you like it, you get someplace where you’re confident in it not just for yourself but for other people to hear it.”

No Burden, written mostly between fall 2013 and winter 2014, marks a transitional time for Dacus – the early days of college (she’s since dropped out), living on her own, traveling. “I guess that’s kind of characteristic of people – when a lot of change is happening you just really have to sort it out in whatever method that you have to sort things out with,” she said. It’s Dacus’ hope that her music can help others sort things out, too; she has practiced the mentality of confidence and overcoming her feelings of being a burden upon others, and hopes to instill that message to her listeners. In recalling those complicated middle school days, Dacus remembers the ways, with their first taste of independence, everyone was testing out the effect they could exert on others love and cruelty amongst them. “That’s a time where it felt like I wanted to be well-liked but I didn’t want to be hurting people. Since then it’s just been a life goal to help people know, you aren’t a burden,” she said. She credits the Richmond music scene with helping her build the confidence she now possesses. “I feel there’s a really unique community going on, and people just really want other people to share,” she said. “I have felt very encouraged to get up and not just keep to myself. There’s so much music that can just stay in a person’s room, but it’s helpful when people are telling you we all want to hear it.” Dacus became part of that community by going to lots of shows in high school, and understanding that there shouldn’t be anxiety around participation – everyone was there because they wanted to be, and because they felt they belonged. Dacus showed people she cared about the music, and they cared in return. “You’re not a burden and you’re strong,” she said. “Being vulnerable is strength.”


Listen to Lucy Dacus on Soundcloud.

Quinn Kelley, a Baltimore-based writer, who has never not finished an open bag of Swedish Fish. She tries really hard on twitter.