Rock bottom is a funny place, a place that shocks you out of your false sense of reality in the hopes that you will begin to seek the truth again. UK-based singer/songwriter Lucy Spraggan says she never hit rock bottom when it came to her relationship with alcohol. But she came dangerously close.
It was just about 18 months ago when Spraggan decided that alcohol was playing a massive part in the self-destruction of her life. And it’s this self-destruction, and her recovery from it, which she documents on her new album Choices, a masterpiece that she recorded completely in a remote part of Scotland during the recent pandemic lockdown.
“I woke up one morning and I said that I was not going to do this anymore and that was the last time I had a drink,” admits Spraggan in a revealing interview with American Songwriter. “A week later, I went into the studio, wanting to write a song about the reasons why I am doing this, so I can kind of freeze them in time. And that way, I would never forget why I am doing it.”
That song was “Sober,” track three on the new album and one of the many refreshing tracks on the album that Spraggan is calling ‘the diary of her last couple of years.’
“It’s a lifesaving thing to realize you have a problem when you are 29 years old and you still have time to change things,” she says quietly. “The privilege of being a musician is that you can freeze time by simply writing a song.”
Indeed, her addiction to alcohol has been a longstanding one for Spraggan, who burst onto the music scene via her impressive showing on the primetime television show The X Factor UK back in 2012.
“Here in Britain, we are sort of a destructive drinking society,” says Spraggan. “We celebrate, we drink. If someone dies, we drink. if someone has a baby, we drink. Something bad would happen and I would have a beer and put it in the back of my mind.”
Still, Spraggan felt more than capable of creating despite her growing addiction. In fact, she continued to create impressive albums such as Top Room at the Zoo, We Are and Today Was a Good Day through the years, while alcohol continued to serve as her crutch both in and out of the writing room.
“The thing about being creative and being drunk is that you have an inflated sense of what is good,” she explains. “There has been so many songs that I have written where I have been like, ‘yep, this is a smash’ and then I wake up the next day and it’s like, ‘that’s not going to go anywhere.’”
These days, with a renewed energy and a renewed sense of being, Spraggan says she is finding herself to be more productive than ever before, and the fruits of her labor are evident on the entirety of Choices, the sixth album of her career. But, especially on the title track “Choices.”
“The album was called Choices before the song ‘Choices’ was even written,” Spraggan remembers of the song that now serves as one of the strongest on the album. “I learned that the only way I could improve on myself was to be myself, my true self. And this one was my message of encouragement to everyone else to try and find out who they are. Because I had to learn who I was all over again.”
She pauses for a moment.
“I was like a toddler when I removed alcohol from my life,” she says. “I had no idea who I was. But now, I do.”
And that new person found multiple ways to branch out on this album. “Let Myself Down” is a sonic shift for Spraggan, with a pop feel seldom explored on her other albums. Her latest single “Animal” is about the discovery of one’s most powerful self. And then there is “Flowers,” the first song that Spraggan says that she has written about being, and more importantly feeling like a sexy woman.
Granted, that woman is vastly different than the Lucy Spraggan that Lucy Spraggan once knew. First off, she’s a runner now, something she touches on in the aptly titled song “Run.” She has found a strength in the simple act of exercising, something she had never had any interest in discovering before.
And yes, she is still sober.
“It’s funny,” she admits. “I’m proud and I love who I am now. But still, I am just so cautious. Who you are is never a finished product. I just want to be strong and capable and love the person staring back at me in the mirror.”
Photos by Nik Bryant