Lucette Talks Debut LP, ‘Black Is the Color,’ Working With Sturgill Simpson + More
Last year, Canadian singer-songwriter Lauren Gillis -- who’s perhaps better known by her stage name, Lucette -- dropped her debut album, Black Is the Color, a collection of haunting, folk-noir songs. On her debut effort, Lucette deftly moves from the sweet, gentle warble heard on “Darkness” and “Dream With Me” to dusky, cutting tracks like “Muddy Water” and album single, “Bobby Reid.”
Produced by Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell), the album is a prime introduction to a singer-songwriter who’s resolute in the rich history of country and Americana music, while bringing something new to the table with her singular vision, confident yet haunting vocals and the distinct ability to tell stories that resonate.
Lucette took some time to talk to us about Black Is the Color, working with Cobb and Sturgill Simpson, what attracts her to the sounds of classic country music and what lies ahead for the singer.
Black Is the Color is steeped in really classic country sounds and tradition. What draws you to that sound?
I like the raw nature of traditional folk and country. I love how earthy the sound is. I grew up obsessed with a lot of Southern artists, without realizing the similarities between the different artists I loved. It's a sound that has been steeped in the South for decades. I'm drawn to the soul of it. Alberta, where I grew up, has a very heavy country influence, and the fanbase for country there is very strong.
Were there any albums or artists that you were listening to at the time of recording that helped drive the making of Black Is the Color?
We recorded the album in two cycles and you'll notice a different feel between certain songs because of that. The music I listened to while recording the album really brought about those different nuances. There were records that I was into at the time and some that always inspire me. At the time of the first cycle I remember listening to lots of Ryan Adams, Neil Young and Gillian Welch. During the second cycle -- which includes some of the heavier, greasier tunes -- I was listening to lots of Beck, Aretha Franklin, Emmylou Harris and Stevie Nicks. Dave [Cobb] is originally from Georgia and he introduced me to a lot of Southern music I hadn't heard, like Bobbie Gentry and Jessie Colter. He also brought cool ideas to the table that were inspired by everything from Nina Simone to Mazzy Star.
Could you talk a little about your experience working with Dave and what the process was like?
Well, it was easy. We became fast friends. I think a lot of it had to do with our mutual obsession with food ... Dave introduced me to a lot of sounds that never made it into my register before working with him. It was a really eye-opening experience for me because I was so young --19 -- when we started the record. Working with Dave was so great because he really helped me find my sound. I had written an entire album before arriving in Nashville and only two of those songs actually ended up on the album. Dave and I co-wrote and recorded the record in three weeks. I really felt at home and at ease. Dave surrounds himself with good people, too. I became friends with the musicians and enjoyed the hang as much as the creativity. The whole process of making Black Is the Color has been a sort of "coming of age" for me. I have really grown into myself as an artist and it has given me a renewed sense of healthy self-awareness. I think as an artist and writer you need to know yourself well enough to be able to back up what you project into the world. Dave really helped me create that foundation and self-worth.
You're clearly well versed in country and Americana’s rich history, but you still incorporate your own modern interpretations. I think that’s perhaps best heard on the title track, your adaptation of the folk song, “Black Is the Color (Of My True Love’s Hair).” Could you discuss the motivation to reimagine classics like that?
This was the last song we put on the album, so it's also the most recent thing that I've created. I love traditional lyrics and Celtic stories. I imagine how lonely that soul must have felt who wrote that song and I think at the time, I felt that way, too. I wrote the melody first, with different lyrics, and then was listening to Nina Simone's version of the song. I looked further into it and loved the rich history behind the tune. I think my sound is really developing into something more modern but with the earthy and gritty folk and country roots and this song really embodies that. I like pop. I'm inspired by a lot of modern pop artists as well. I think there is some really great stuff out there right now, and I think creating your own hybrid formed from your unique taste is what making records is all about. Black Is the Color, in its entirety as an album, really represents me as an artist, a city girl with country and mountain girl spirit.
Much of the album has this really dark and kind of enigmatic tone and quality to it as well. What was the drive behind recording a record that errs on the darker, moodier side of country music?
I've always been drawn to "dark" things. I like music that gets your gut stirring -- even if it is happy, it needs some grit for me to be drawn in. I think in recognizing darkness you're admitting that you're flawed and that you feel and that it's okay to be in dark places because everyone gets there sometimes. It kind of went that way without me realizing it, too. I think my music is the side of me that not everyone gets to see, which I suppose is sort of ironic because it's the one thing I've chosen to give people. Check out my Instagram -- not so dark. I think even in the art, TV shows and fashion I'm drawn to, it's just the fact that it's not trying to be perceived as perfect. It's recognizing that we're all a little f---ed up, in one way or another. It's just my taste, though.
I think “Bobby Reid,” in particular, really helps solidify that tone, with its vivid murder ballad narrative. What was the inspiration behind that song?
I've always loved murder ballads, and I was having some love troubles at the time. Dave and I were hanging out after recording one night, having some wine and we came up with the melody for “Bobby Reid.” I went home that night and wrote the story. We recorded it in one take the next day. No other song has ever come to me that quickly, and it really started the spark for the album. As far as where the story came from, I have this capability to "elaborate" on a small truth and I love to put little bits of myself into fiction. If you want to hear more about me, listen to “Fly On,” “River Rising” and “Fields of Plenty.”
Likewise, the video for “Bobby Reid” really captures the song’s story — could you talk about its making and working with Sturgill Simpson and J.D. Wilkes to translate the song for the screen?
Blake Judd, who runs Judd Films, has known Sturgill and J.D. for years. I met Blake through Dave and together we came up with the storyboard for “Bobby Reid.” Sturgill and J.D. really added an element to it. I was actually blown away with their acting skills. It made it a lot easier for me to get into character. I was trying not to laugh a lot of the time because, let's just say, he really got into character.
You’re heading to SXSW in March. Are there any other upcoming tour plans you can share with us?
I am so excited for Austin. It's gonna be a blast. There are some really cool things happening this summer. It's all in the mixing pot currently, but I can share that I'm working on some epic new videos, and creating lots with people I admire. I've had a pretty killer 2014, touring with Sturgill Simpson, Mason Jennings, Joe Ely and David Ramirez. The ball is going to continue to roll.
And can we expect any new music from you in 2015?
I am in the process of writing my new album; I write almost every day. My sound is evolving constantly, and the next album will be something fresh for me. I don't think this will be the year for release, but it's all happening, and I couldn't be more excited.
Lucette's debut album, Black Is the Color, is currently available on CD, digital and vinyl formats via Rock Creek Music. You can pick up your copy of the record at this location; make sure to stay up-to-date with everything happening in her world at her official website here.