Performing Covers Isn't A Gimmick for Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus plays Crescent Ballroom this week.
Lucy Dacus plays Crescent Ballroom this week. Dustin Condren
After the monumental year that 2018 was for Lucy Dacus, it would have been easy for her to lay low in 2019 and recuperate.

That’s not what she had in mind.

Dacus released the critically acclaimed Historian in March 2018 and then followed it up by forming boygenius, a supergroup with Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers, later that summer. Constant tours and live television performances have kept the 24-year-old singer-songwriter away from home. Even though she’s been unbelievably busy, she still finds time to enjoy the little things.

“Tour’s really good,” Dacus revealed to Phoenix New Times ahead of the band’s tour stop at Crescent Ballroom. “We’re going along the west coast and I haven’t been here in a while. I’m looking out a window… and it looks like a postcard.”

The current tour is at the end of what she considers a three-year-long experience. She somehow found time to record and release songs loosely based around holidays. Titled 2019, this mixture of covers and originals will be on an EP released by Matador Records on November 8.

“We booked sessions before Historian came out and after Historian came out,” says Dacus, regarding how the band found time to record the EP. “That’s where most of these covers were recorded. There are also originals that didn’t make [the album] or that I didn’t write in time for the record.”

The band’s goal during those sessions was to have fun recording and learning new things.

“I was focused on the sound. I want the sound to reflect the meaning. With covers, we just messed around and made sounds you wouldn’t hear on my record. On “In the Air Tonight,” we used keyboards and before I never really connected with keyboards as an instrument. Now, I’m in love with keyboards. I love their role on a song that adds atmospheric sounds a guitar or drum can’t do.”

The covers on the EP were all chosen for a variety of reasons. Every song has a different story of how it came to be.

“La Vie En Rose” and “Dancing in the Dark,” for example, are some of Dacus’s favorite songs.

“I wanted to cover [“La Vie En Rose”] in a way that was different so it is more upbeat even though the original is more of a croon.”

Meanwhile, Dacus revealed the Bruce Springsteen hit had a deeper connection.

“My dad is the number one Bruce Springsteen fan. It was released for Bruce’s birthday, but it’s also my dad’s birthday.”

The remaining covers were born out of the band having fun. They liked air-drumming along with Phil Collins on “In the Air Tonight,” but “Last Christmas” was something Dacus never thought she would record.

“I just don’t like Christmas, but we were in the studio around Christmas, and without planning it we just did a take of the song. It’s very tacky, and honestly, it’s kind of bad. But it’s kind of fun to put out something that doesn’t sound like me. It’s not my taste, but it’s fun.”

Fun is exactly what Dacus and her band have been having in 2019. Dacus says she still isn’t very graceful with being recognized in the streets while she’s out eating food or having fun with friends though she appreciates it all.

It’s all worth it to be on stage playing music.

“It’s nice to sing along with people. It’s fun to treat it like karaoke,” Dacus says about this current leg of her tour. “I try to do some from No Burden, Historian, this EP, and unreleased songs. That’s great because it gives me time to get used to the songs on the upcoming record.”

This tour is the end of a long chapter. The looming third album, which has a tentative release date that she wouldn’t share, is coming. A boygenius album might follow, but only after Dacus, Baker, and Bridgers release their solo records.

“I have written all of it,” says Dacus. She’s learned a lot from her time in the studio for the 2019 EP and writing with Baker and Bridgers for boygenius. “I’m willing to be a bit darker. I really care about honesty. I want to communicate hope.”

Lucy Dacus is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, October 29, at Crescent Ballroom. Tickets are $17 via Eventbrite.
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