“My disclaimer before this all begins is that I think I’m just choosing the 10 best classic records in the world,” explains Lucy Rose ahead of our discussion.
“There’s no, ‘Oh I’ve never heard of that band’; I’ve just gone for the best in my opinion.”
‘Let the music do the talking’ is an adage that is ‘well-worn’ to the last tattered scrap of leather, but it nonetheless applies here in Rose’s approach to life, songwriting and listening habits.
It’s an approach manifested on Rose’s affectingly direct third album Something’s Changing. Inspired by her guitar and backpack travels around South America in 2016 - in which Rose used social media to make real-life connections with fans, booking gigs directly and staying in their homes - the album reflects personally on a status quo of embedded sexism, an ever-worsening refugee crisis and proxy emotional discourse.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the values of the album share something with this collection. Here, you’ll see a collective of capital-A artists and to-the-point writing that's unafraid to look the awkward in the eye.
Something's Changing is out on 7 July via Communion Records.
1. Neil Young - Harvest (1972)
“I was singing backing vocals on tour with Razorlight when I was 19 and the production assistant was a girl called Sophie, and she was just a million times cooler than I was in every way. She knew everything about music from her parents and I just listened to Radio One. I’d never heard of Neil Young before, so she was like, ‘Right, you’re starting with this record…’ Like a lot of great records, I didn’t know I liked it initially, and then you break the barrier.
“When it’s just a band playing in a room, live, or just on an acoustic, it means the song has to be great. I kind of decided on this new record that I wasn’t going to record anything unless I could play it just me and a guitar or me and a piano and still have the song stand on its own two feet. [With Neil Young], you can tell what music means to him; it’s like an integral part of his soul and you know why he does it.”
2. Joni Mitchell - Blue (1971)
“I think I discovered this in my last year of school when I started delving into other acoustic singer-songwriters. Her name had been thrown around a bit, so I thought ‘I’m going to investigate this’, and the music was immediate, but the lyrics made me want to dig deeper…
“[When she made Blue], she had just broken up with the love of her life, but was doing it all for music. It was almost like she put her own happiness after music, which is a weird thing to get your head around. I don’t think she’s scared of those [dark] feelings, and I think sometimes people can be.
“Sometimes when they listen to music they don’t want to feel those things, because they’re scared. I think there’s nothing scary about understanding life and understanding that life’s not always perfect and not always rainbows, but the honesty and realness of those records is what inspired me to not be scared. It made me feel something.”
3. Tom Waits - Closing Time (1973)
“This record, man! I actually just gave this record to a friend who just had me on tour, because I think it’s one of the greatest songwriting records ever.
“There are some songs on it, like Martha, which is sort of capturing when you’re older and you’ve got married and had kids, but you still think about that one person. Again, I think people are scared thinking about that. People think, ‘Oh, what if that was my wife or husband?’ But it’s also just honest. The amount of times people have thoughts in their head that they push away, but there’s actually nothing wrong with them. They’re not bad thoughts. It’s real.
“Lots of songs on that record have the simplest songwriting, but it’s the hardest. A lot of times you’ll hear people use a metaphor in a metaphor to describe something because it’s been described a million times, but with Tom Waits, he just says it, straight down the middle, exactly how it is, and it’s amazingly beautiful.”
4. Carole King - Tapestry (1971)
“I love her. I think she’s been a big influence on the new record because she’s kind of on the line between classic singer-songwriter and soul, and I love that upbeat soul-y, super groovy feel in places.
“It’s almost the same with every one of these: I genuinely think they’re the best songwriters in the world. I know some people get into all of the sounds of things, but I think I just like honest sounds. I like the drums to sound like drums and the bass to sound like the bass; some people like everything processed - that’s great, but it doesn’t float my boat. The thing I really love is when an instrument is played really well, mic’d well and played live.”
5. Nick Drake - Pink Moon (1972)
“You know on those days where you’re just having a meltdown? When you’re on the edge of a panic attack and it feels like nothing will help and everything will make you feel worse? This is the one record that calms me when I feel nothing else can. It just makes my body go to a resting pace. So much so that I actually walked down the aisle to Pink Moon when I got married.
“His guitar playing is unbelievable. It’s so underrated. If I could play and sound like anyone, it would be him. He’s just amazing, but his story is so sad. He never knew. It’s madness, really.
“It’s funny, too, how your interpretation of something can be totally different [to the originator’s]. He wasn’t calm in so many ways, but when he sat down with the guitar it was his way of being at one. It’s just such a huge injustice that he never knew how much happiness he would bring people.”
6. Jeff Buckley - Grace (1994)
“My first boyfriend, when I was 16, was a massive stoner and listened to Jeff Buckley all of the time. I remember driving in his car sometimes and he’d play Jeff Buckley and I’d think, ‘What is this crap?’
“I’m so ashamed that I didn’t get it when I was 16. Then, through his love of it, I just kept listening to it and I think I had to listen to it on my own. I had to put my headphones on and give it my full attention.
“There’s not many voices that do the things that his does and make you feel the things that you feel when he’s singing. He moves between feelings and makes you feel loads of things all within a minute. That’s what I get from him.”
7. Joan Armatrading - Joan Armatrading (1976)
“I like Joan Armatrading’s boldness. I don’t feel like she was scared to be herself. I feel like, even nowadays, it’s hard to be your true being, that we’re all fitting into some societal mould. She’s been true to herself in her writing and who she is from start to finish.
“I saw her play at the Albert Hall a couple of years ago and she was absolutely awesome. I listened to Down To Zero a lot, Love And Affection and there’s another song of hers, The Weakness In Me, that I love. Maybe I should just choose my favourite Joan Armatrading record to be The Very Best Of Joan Armatrading. It’s awesome. But we can’t put that down...”
8. Scott Walker - Scott 4 (1969)
“I had a huge obsession with this record for a long time. Someone in a session a long time ago was recording some of my songs, doing some demos, and we were just chatting about music and he was like, ‘You know Scott Walker?’ And I was like, ‘No…’ He said, ‘You have to listen to Scott 4.’
“For me, a lot of it is just the songs that make the record great, but wow, the bass sound on my new record has been a huge reference to Scott 4, because it is so good. You know the amount of times you listen to a song and you can barely hear the bass in there? You only realise it if you mute it. I love it when the bass is really upfront, muted mid-y bass and played well and that gives you room for loads of different movement.
“I think bass is underrated and not used to its full ability sometimes, but on this record it really is, and then it’s just the combination of all the orchestrations and his voice, which is so deep and amazing. I love that.”
9. José González - Veneer (2003)
“José González has got to be one of my most listened-to artists, and I listen to all of his records. I’ve put Veneer down. It’s not my favourite - I love them all equally - but I think it’s what got me into him, that record.
“I actually ended up meeting him for the first time when I supported him in Rio De Janiero last year, which was so surreal. We swapped details and I sent him a message, asking him about how he records stuff and he said, ‘I would just suggest that you get a laptop with an interface and a microphone.’
“I was like, ‘What!?’ As far as I know, he’s recorded those records on his own in his bedroom. Hardly anyone nowadays is brave enough to put out a record that’s just a Spanish guitar and a voice. Usually, you take it to someone and add all the crap on.
“I remember the same thing when I started out. Industry folks would be like, ‘You need to invite us back when you’ve got a band.’ I feel like I grew up with that being the advice and that it was never good enough, just me and the guitar. So many people must get told that, but that’s what I think people want.”
10. Zero 7 - The Garden (2006)
“I used to listen to a lot of Zero 7 as a kid and I still go back to it. I remember getting into them from Garden State, them and The Shins. I just saw The Shins at the end of last year at The Village Underground, but I’m going to go with Zero 7.
“Sia - as in Chandelier and all that stuff - was on that record and José González, so I’ve kind of featured him twice. That’s the record I like, so it’s pretty obvious why. Then Sia’s vocal performances are insane. The Garden, with those two vocalists, was great and the production was really interesting.
“It’s kind of everything I’ve not been saying, with the real instruments, but it’s like a mixture of that and experimenting. It’s awesome.”