Lucy Dacus Wants You to Know Her Sophomore Release 'Is Not a Breakup Album'

Dustin Condren
Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus is sitting on a small couch in her Airbnb, a fifth-floor walk-up in New York City’s Soho neighborhood. It’s a shoebox. Holding lime green knitting needles, she weaves black and blue marled yarn as she speaks slowly and thoughtfully, pausing each time she considers a question deeply, which is often.

Her phone sits silently next to her, but she doesn't look at it once. "I don’t check my phone very often, I’m not yet very good at calling people up randomly," Dacus admits. “My big goal [this year] is to get on the phone more often, use [technology] for what it’s good for,” she tells Billboard. “I really want to figure out how to be present where I am and [at the same time] not neglect the relationships that aren’t right in front of me. Being on tour, it’s really easy to stop knowing people that you want to know, because you’re not sharing experiences, you’re not existing in the minor moments of somebody’s life.”

Such thoughts are naturally on the rising singer-songwriter’s mind; the 22-year-old Richmond, Virginia native is readying to tour in promotion of her anticipated sophomore album Historian, out March 2 on Matador. It follows her breakthrough debut No Burden, which earned attention for Dacus' thoughtful, relatable lyrics and impressively slick guitar skills -- a warmly welcomed addition to the traditionally male-dominated genre of indie rock. The 10-track album, according to Dacus, is a “progression of loss,” with the first song and lead single being “Night Shift,” which chronicles the “understandable loss of a breakup.”

Dacus crafts a satisfying build throughout the near-seven-minute song, which transitions from gentle whispers over a lone acoustic guitar to a flurry of tense distortion that blares from the speakers by its end. “It shows a full range of the record in one song,” Dacus relates. “The end is pretty much as loud as it gets, and the beginning is as quiet too, almost like a prologue to the rest of the record sonically.”

The song also birthed the lyrical gem: “In five years I hope the songs feel like covers/ Dedicated to new lovers,” suggesting to her established fan base and new listeners alike that what Dacus wants most is for her music to withstand the test of time. That aim is solidified not only by the album title, but also its closing track of the same name, on which she sings: “I’ll be your historian/and I’ll fill the pages of scribbled ink/hoping the words carry meaning.”

Her organic writing process, which allows her to articulate her own feelings in relatable and timeless stories -- like avoiding an ex by switching shifts at work -- makes such a desire seem doable. She often writes while taking walks near her childhood home in Richmond, though she never knows when inspiration will strike: “I’ve written in the middle of a conversation or the grocery store or at another band’s concert or in the last moments before falling asleep. It’s pretty unpredictable. I think it’s always flowing and sometimes I’m not listening. There’s no formula for when I’m going to be able to be a good listener to myself.”

Dacus has tossed formula aside when it comes to recording as well, and says she wants spend time in the studio, no matter how far along she is in the writing process. “There is no 'stop,' there’s always 'go'; on both sides: always keep writing, always keep recording," she explains. "I don’t find them to be segmented processes.” Recently, Dacus has been going to Nashville with her band for a handful of one-off days of demoing and exploration at Trace Horse Studio, which is run by her high school friends (who were once all in a high school band together).

As so much changes around Dacus -- just three years ago she was working in a photo lab -- and as more catch on to the undeniable appeal of her honest, assertive and at times electrifying indie rock, she’s adamant about keeping much of her life the same. “[My songwriting] has stayed the same, which feels like I could do a lap of victory for that because I was really worried that it would change now that I know people [will] hear it, because I wrote so many songs for myself.”

But she knows come March 2, her songs will belong to everyone. With that, there's one thing she wants to make clear: “What I do want people to understand about the record is that it isn’t a breakup album,” she says. “It’s taken a lot to give these songs to other people. Breakup albums are important, but I feel like [labeling Historian that] would minimize what I had to access in myself in order to write this album.”