Lucy Rose is a British singer-songwriter from England who gained fame first singing backing vocals for Bombay Bicycle Club and finally releasing her own debut album back in 2012. Since then she has had her songs featured in TV shows and performed the feature song for Sony Mobile. She’s played festivals all over, and has a fanbase all around the world. She toured in the UK, the US and Canada with Bombay Bicycle Club as well as with Noah and the Whale.

Lately though, Lucy Rose has been touring in a different way – off the beaten track. Like a backpacker she travelled around South America and organised gigs with the help of her fans; she visited India and Turkey to play in places many fellow musicians never go. I sat down with the singer-songwriter to talk about the meaning of travel in her musical experience, and what it was like to connect her wanderlust with her passion for music.

What is it like to travel the world as a touring musician? Singer-songwriter Lucy Rose gives us the inside scoop!

What inspires your passion for music, and what inspires you to make music in the first place?

It’s quite a selfish reason in that it makes me happy I guess. When I play music it helps me to understand myself a little better and that’s something I’m remembering more so at the moment – that’s the reason I play music. I write music very much for my own enjoyment whether that’s sitting at the piano or picking up my guitar; I just really like it.

What’s truly inspiring about it is that I can write a song in my bedroom and then travel to almost the other side of the world and find someone who’s really connected to it and it’s helped them through something or it’s been all they’ve listened to while they’ve been going through something, or someone who felt a little alone and they’re now feeling that they’re not alone in something.

And that’s the same feeling for me for most of the songs, when I write a song I’m thinking ‘oh gosh is anyone going to understand me?’ and then having all these people from different cultures and countries understand me in a way I didn’t really realise was possible; to me that’s the beauty of music.

What does it mean for you to tour and travel to such far away places to play your music?

Touring is something that I’ve always truly enjoyed as an artist – being on the road, seeing all these people. Going out playing gigs every night was something I’d really dreamed of doing. I’ve been writing for such a long time that when there came the opportunity to say “does anyone want me to play a show, does anyone want to book me?” then no way am I going to say no if the answer is “yes” – because that’s what I’ve always wanted.

I love the writing of music but it can be a lonely experience because I don’t co-write anything. I write everything just on my own so the process itself is quite isolated and that’s why its so rewarding to be out on the road, to be in front of a crowd of people singing along with these words that I wrote, going up on stage seeing a few hundred people singing your songs back to you – there’s no other feeling quite like it.

This year especially I wanted to go further afield because sometimes I worry that the music industry ignores huge parts of the world – you go around the UK, you go around Europe, and if you’re lucky you end up going to the USA but there are these huge territories there and in Australia too (although I’ve never been there) that are just missed out completely by touring musicians for many reasons – it’s just not easy a lot of the time and it’s quite complicated.

What is it like to travel the world as a touring musician? Singer-songwriter Lucy Rose gives us the inside scoop!

photo via Lucy Rose FB, by Laura Palmer

Where did you tour last year?

This year I feel very proud that we got to do so much. I went to India to start with and did three full band shows in India – in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore and it was just some of the most life affirming stuff I’ve ever done.

I really wanted to go to South America but it was turning out to be impossible doing it through my usual avenues of my booking agent and getting gigs booked by promoters so I just decided I was going to go there and play music for free for 8 weeks and live with my fans and that was the deal – if the fan booked me a gig I would come and stay with them and play music for free.

It was me and my husband – he was awesome, he came and supported me the whole time.

We ended up flying into Quito so it was Ecuador to start with then we went down to Peru, to Lima, to Cusco; I did a gig in Machu Picchu Town which was crazy. Then we went down into Chile, so all through Antofagasta, La Serena, Santiago. Then we crossed into Argentina to Mendoza and San Luis, Buenos Aires. We went from there into Uruguay to Colonia Del Sacramento and Montevideo, which I loved. Then up to Paraguay, to Asuncion and Encarnacion. From there I went back into Argentina; a fan took me to Iguazu Falls which was absolutely amazing. Then up through Brazil from Porto Alegre, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, then up to Mexico City and then I also played in Puebla, Toluca, and Monterey and then I came home! So it was quite an extensive Latin America tour.

What is it like to travel the world as a touring musician? Singer-songwriter Lucy Rose gives us the inside scoop!

photo via Lucy Rose FB

My husband filmed the whole experience. When we went there we were thinking “is this going to be unusual? What’s this going to be like?” We knew it was kind of of crazy but we didn’t realise how mad it was going to be. Some of these towns we went to it was the first time anyone outside of the town had ever been there to play a gig; most people we met had never been on a plane or left their town, so them seeing their favourite musicians is just never going to happen. For someone like me living in London where there’s a gig every single night, it’s such a different world to be in where music seems so unreachable, live music especially. So it was way more rewarding and amazing than I had realised and also it’s formed a big part of me going forward as an artist, to do more like this. I’ve just been to Turkey, to Istanbul and also to South East Asia so I’ve just been to South Korea, Bangkok, and Taipei all for the first time and it’s so rewarding because people are so grateful that you’ve made the effort to go to all these places and on top of that it’s an absolute privilege that I’m able to go and do stuff like that.

What is it like to travel the world as a touring musician? Singer-songwriter Lucy Rose gives us the inside scoop!

photo via Lucy Rose FB

What was it like to play in Istanbul?

Outside of South America, all my other gigs have been booked via booking agents via normal means I guess. I got forwarded an email from my booking agent saying could you come to Istanbul and do a gig? Straight away I thought, “wow that’s amazing I’ve never been to Turkey before, I’ve never been to Istanbul this is really exciting”. Then I spoke to my sister who said that within her company at the moment they had a no travel policy to Turkey; they could travel to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and all these places but not Turkey because of the coup and state of everything happening there. So that brought up this dilemma that as an artist you don’t want to be silly or go somewhere that you could be at risk in anyway but at the same time I feel for all of those people who live there, and I didn’t want to not go and play music there. Some of my biggest fans who message me all the time are from Istanbul so I decided I would go because it would make people really happy. There was slight apprehension to that decision but it was an amazing experience. I went with my sister in law who is also a singer, Rae Morris – she just really wanted to go to Istanbul, and the gig was really good. When there’s tension in a country, when there are political things going on, it’s not just as simple as going and playing a gig. That’s something I noticed in Turkey, India, Uruguay and Brazil too.

Does it feel very different to play in places like Turkey than to play at home in the UK?

Music is such an important thing for so many people. The more I’ve travelled the more I’ve realised the importance of music for people who have a much tougher life. Where it’s not just background music – let’s just put the radio on while you’re cooking or let’s just put that album on that you’re loving. Music is like a survival kit for some people who I met who are going through such difficult times, their lives are so vastly different from mine and they would express “if I couldn’t have music, if I couldn’t have my headphones and plug in now and again then I don’t know how I would get through some things”. That’s when you really understand the importance of music and the importance of going to different places to play music, to make people forget about those things for just one hour.

I’m really passionate about trying to explore more places, especially those where I feel there is still real hardship. But then at the same time I always then come across a problem with fees, I always want the ticket price to be really, really low which is why in South America I insisted on the gigs being free entry. But when I went to India tickets were $20 for my show and that’s way more than the average monthly wage for some of those places, so then that caused another dilemma, in that maybe I’m just playing to the most privileged people in all these places. I’m constantly in a debate with myself about how we can make music somehow accessible and affordable for everyone, because I really feel it’s an important part of being alive and it shouldn’t just be for the most privileged people, it should be for everyone in society.

Your new album picks up on that too, doesn’t it?

My records are all full band but I just can’t afford to tour like that. If I want to do free entry gigs and I want to play all these exciting places then it normally means that I have to play solo. So for all the people that have seen me at these shows this year I wanted my new live album (Live at Urchin Studios) to remind people of these gigs. The acoustic versions aren’t available anywhere else and it’s quite different to my studio albums so I wanted it to be reminiscent of what these gigs were like, and to reflect that most of the time I tour acoustic and solo.

What is it like to travel the world as a touring musician? Singer-songwriter Lucy Rose gives us the inside scoop!

photo via Lucy Rose FB

When you travel do you end up picking up any local musicians or local music traditions?

I love to always have a local support wherever I play, especially female singer songwriters – which is what I just did on my UK library tour. I just had female singer-songwriters playing with me on that one. When I played a gig in Seoul in South Korea I had the most wonderful girl supporting me and I’m so lucky because usually they’ll give me one of their own CDs too… So I now have this huge stack of CDs from all these different friends I’ve made, who are musicians all over the world, and I occasionally get to dig into it now and again and remind myself of the evenings I’ve had in all those places.

What are your music and touring plans for 2017?

We’re making a documentary from the footage we filmed in South America, and the whole point of this documentary is to try and make other musicians tour outside of the UK, Europe, US, Australia. I think it’s really important to try and branch out, even if it doesn’t make financial sense, even if it’s harder. I now know how rewarding it is for artists if they do tour to more places. And I want to continue that, I’m saying that if you really want Lucy Rose to come and play your town no matter how small the town is, if you get your friends and all your family to demand it then I will come. That’s how I want to go forwards on my next record, I want to go back to India, I want to go to Indonesia because I’ve never been there and so many people tweet me and I want to tell them that they are important to me. There are a lot of people in the world who think they aren’t important enough for an artist to go to them and I think it’s important to say yes you are.

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians who are just starting out?

So many people ask for advice because they’re starting music and they want to get their career off the ground etc etc – but I just have no advice for that because it’s an unpredictable industry! And it’s not necessarily just about hard work and talent, there’s an element of luck and it’s so difficult. But if you’re writing music and you’re a musician then it has to be an integral part of who you are as a person, not just a career. You’re doing it because it’s you, and music makes you the person that you are, and without it you would be nowhere near as happy; anything else that comes out of it is just a huge added bonus, not the reason why you’re doing it in the first place. You have to remind yourself of that all the time, that it isn’t about what people deem successful, it’s about fulfilling your own creative need as a person.

Happiness is the greatest success you can achieve, because it’s hard; just to be happy in life is not an easy thing, so if you can make yourself happy and the people around you happy that’s the biggest success.

What is it like to travel the world as a touring musician? Singer-songwriter Lucy Rose gives us the inside scoop!

photo via Lucy Rose FB, by Alejandro Arras

Lucy Rose and her team are currently working on the documentary about her South America tour, but to bridge the gap check out her new live album ‘Live at Urchin Studios’, which is out now and available to buy from Lucy Rose Music and on Spotify.

Here is a little taster from the gig:

This is a post by Kathi Kamleitner.

Kathi Kamleitner was a regular contributor at Travelettes from 2013 to 2019. Originally from Vienna, Austria, she packed her backpack to travel the world and lived in Denmark, Iceland and Berlin, before settling in Glasgow, Scotland. Kathi is always preparing her next trip – documenting her every step with her camera, pen and phone.

In 2016, Kathi founded Scotland travel blog to share her love for her new home, hiking in the Scottish Highlands, island hopping and vegan food. Follow her adventures on Instagram @watchmesee!