Lucy Spraggan: All Grown Up
The singer-songwriter opens up about babies, Trump, and why she almost quit music for good.
When the first issue of DIVA hit the shelves in April 1994, Lucy Spraggan was barely a toddler, but her “super liberal” mum was already taking her to Pride parades. As a teenager she snuck into WH Smiths to buy a copy on the down-low, “red in the face, trying to hide it under an arm like a dodgy mag”. She could never have predicted that in her 25th year, and the magazine’s 23rd, she would be on the cover of our landmark 250th issue.
When we meet at an east London studio for our photoshoot, Lucy is brimming with excitement, wearing her jacket like a cape to protect her hair from the drizzling rain, making her look like a gay superhero. Her new album, I Hope You Don’t Mind Me Writing, has just dropped, she’s fresh from an appearance on ITV’s Lorraine, and she’s eagerly checking her phone for updates on how the record’s selling. Despite all the distractions, Lucy is cheerful and chatty; all cheeky grins, hearty laughs and twinkly eyes.
A lot has changed since she was a blushing adolescent skulking around the local newsagent searching for something gay to read. But even then, she was performing whenever she got the chance. At a tender 12 years old, she played her first gig at Crich Tramway Festival. Then, after paying her dues and honing her craft, it was her unforgettable self-penned X Factor audition song, Last Night (Beer Fear), that catapulted Lucy into the public eye in 2012. That now legendary performance has racked up over 40 million views on YouTube and counting. After making it down to the final nine, she left the show abruptly when she was taken ill following the death of her grandma.
As it turns out, X Factor wasn’t the last we saw of the guitar-wielding songstress. Lucy has pulled off that rare trick of starring in a reality TV talent show and still achieving credibility in the music industry. To date, she’s released four top 30 albums and now runs her own label, CTRL Records (she was previously signed to Columbia). And she’s accomplished all this in spite of the dreaded “X Factor chain” that she wears around her neck.
Coming off the reality show conveyer belt “can be hell” Lucy confesses, with the kind of brutal honesty that makes you instantly warm to her. “I would like to know how many people have left The X Factor and not had problems with their mental health. I can’t think of one person who hasn’t.”
I’m curious what she thinks has given her the edge over other, less successful X Factor alumni. “A lot of people go on there and expect to be superstars. And you feel like a superstar for a while, and then you start feeling like, ‘Oh shit, I’ve got to work to keep this going’. The difference between me and people you might not see anymore is that I won’t let this go.”
But the music business is ruthless, and her career hasn’t always been easy to hold on to. By the end of 2015 she was “hanging on by a thread” and was on the verge of quitting for good. “I genuinely nearly left music to open a hog roast business. I was going to buy a fleet of pick-up trucks. Sproggans, I was gonna call it; Spraggan with ‘hog’ in it.”
You can read the rest of this interview in the April 2017 issue of DIVA. Buy your copy here.