The ‘Fiercely Independent’ Lucie Silvas Is Redefining Success
There's a Side A and Side B quality to Lucie Silvas' new E.G.O. album. One half finds the British expatriate as wildly free as a spring tornado, brazenly striking where and when she decides. With bold, beautiful strokes she introduces a fiercely independent gypsy who will only settle down on her terms.
The second half of Silvas' new album (Aug. 24) finds her heavy with guilt, regret and vulnerability. A trio of melancholy ballads drills deep into heartache and remorse before she finds compromise with the title track and then "Change My Mind."
So, which is the real Lucie Silvas? Predictably, the answer is both. She's an artist who has weathered the storm personally and professionally without being spat out jaded or jilted. Now happily married and pleasantly independent after nearly two decades making music for record labels large and small, Silvas knows a thing or two about priorities and independence.
Seated comfortably in an East Nashville coffee shop one August morning Silvas spoke with color, candor and tremendous enthusiasm about her current project and future. Later she'd add glam for an industry event downtown, but for now the tools of pretense are out of sight — how she likes it at this point in her life.
"I used to wear lots of jewelry ... bangles, necklaces," she says, "and I started to take them all off because I realized I was wearing them to feel dressed up in some way. I was like, 'This makes me interesting.' And then I just decided I'm not doing any of that."
"Girls from California," the most arresting arrangement on E.G.O., wraps this idea up in a strange kind of dissident disappointment. "He only wants girls from California / Beach blanket dolls that will carry his heart away," Silvas sings at the chorus.
"It is that thing of like, I don't need to have a certain color hair, I don't need to have certain clothes, I don't need to keep up with that trend. I'm just not interested. You're either interested in me or you're not," she says. "I'm not going to chase you down the street."
People can be very patronizing, and they decide what success is. This is my way of going, "I decide what my success is because I decide what makes me happy, not you.
Have you always been the woman we hear during the first half of the album?
It’s been me and it has not been me. I feel like in some situations in my life I’ve become ... I know I’ve always been quite fiercely independent. But that has been sometimes shattered by trying to please some situation I’m in, whether I’ve been in the wrong relationship and I've suddenly gone, 'Well in order to make this work, I can't be as independent as I want to be.' I've struggled. Then fortunately later on I found the right relationship ... and it didn't threaten the person. (Silvas is married to Brothers Osborne guitarist John Osborne.)
It’s still a compromise though, even if you’re in the right relationship.
It is. Everything. You can’t go into a healthy relationship thinking there won’t be compromises. I think the album is eclectic like that because I’m like that. Sometimes I feel strong in my own instincts and other times I’m struggling between what’s most important to me.
The personal and professional are always intertwined. From a professional standpoint, though, have you always felt that confidence?
I did start feeling independent as soon as I came out of a record deal in England. I didn’t do well with a big label. I just felt ... it felt alien to me. It didn’t coincide with all the thoughts I had about being an artist — some people are very good at cross pollinating being a business and being a creative artist. It’s taken me a long time to figure that out. I never felt better then when I started doing music on my own terms. And that was when I had no cheerleaders around me. Weirdly enough, as soon as all those people went away I felt stronger, which is strange.
As a culture and as media, we celebrate that shiny thing, be it a No. 1 or a record deal. And we forget that’s not as important as the journey and the process.
And I don’t think it’s bad to celebrate those things. I think it’s good to celebrate your achievements in any way that they come, but I think it’s good to remember to keep your eye on whatever it is that you actually want. You can get enraptured by this idea. I say it in one of my songs, you drink your own Kool Aid too much ("E.G.O.") and you start to believe something that isn’t real. It isn’t about being celebrated it’s about why did you pick up a microphone, why did you start playing an instrument in the first place? Because you love it.
"People Can Change," "My Old Habits" and "Just for the Record" all deal with self-inflicted grief. Are these apologies?
They’re apologies in a way, justifications. They’re also standing up for yourself a little bit. And expressing, "Well I never said I was perfect. I never said I wasn’t going to do dumb things." Especially in “My Old Habits,” just admitting you’re gonna turn a corner and be better about it and all of a sudden one night it all goes to s--t.
“Just for the Record,” to be honest, was really liberating. It’s a little bit of an apology, but it’s saying that it doesn’t matter what happens, people love each other when they hurt each other. It’s pointing the finger a little bit at the other person saying, "You know this goes both ways?" It’s a bit of, "Say what you want, and now I’m moving on."
“Black Jeans” feels like a response to something personal or professional.
Very much professional. JD (McPherson) had the title “Black Jeans,” and JD usually writes on his own. He’s only collaborated a few times and he said "I got this title, ‘Black Jeans’ and I really don’t know what it means.” The weird thing was we wrote a little bit of it and I had to finish the lyrics in the vocal booth because we were trying to record and I didn’t have all the lyrics. And as it progressed I made it about a persona that I felt — it’s not even a persona that I felt I had to put on, but maybe it was a bit of a pissed off song. I’m not a really overzealously bold person. I’m not shy, but I don’t walk into a room like "Here I am!” I’m not that type of personality, but I hate it when people mistake quiet for lack of ambition.
It’s saying, “I’m going to actually do things, I’m not gonna care what anyone thinks about it.” I don’t like it when people look at something you do and say "Oh well done. That’s great for you. That small little thing is great for you.”
People can be very patronizing, and they decide what success is. This is my way of going, "I decide what my success is because I decide what makes me happy, not you."
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