The 26-year old singer/songwriter returns to Dallas for a show at Trees on Friday, Sept. 17. We had the opportunity to talk with Dacus from her home in Philadelphia about her fans’ relationship with her music, her burgeoning appreciation for sports, and most important, her relationship with her music.
“Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten into one sport at a time,” Dacus says. “A couple of years ago it was soccer – that’s the one for me. It’s my favorite. Last year it was tennis, and I’ve been wanting to get into basketball and others. Phillies are baseball, right?”
Dacus may be late to the Bryce Harper party, but her songwriting is extraordinarily detailed and lived-in. At times her songs feel like the reflections of someone who has lived time and time again and now has the time to reflect. Others seem to come from the experiences of a young person who doesn’t know how a situation will turn out. Given the detail and emotional weight of her songs, it’s no surprise to find that nearly all of Dacus’ music is based on deeply intimate real-life experiences. As a result, Dacus says one of her goals for the future is to become better at writing fiction, or as she describes it rather pragmatically, “Lying.”
“It’s actually really hard — not to write fiction, but hard to lie,” Dacus says with a quick, sharp laugh. “Because stories represent things, and anything you put together feels true, at least for me. I struggle to lie, it’s almost like it would be a cool exercise to write something that wouldn’t ring as true. It’s just not my wheelhouse. It’s just easier to tell the truth. But do I really think that?”
Throughout the past few months of promoting her latest record Home Video, Dacus has been asked countless times about the real-life stories behind songs like the Christian youth camp chronicle “VBS” and the intimate character portrait “Going Going Gone” featuring her boygenius band mates Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker on backing vocals.
“It’s really tough,” Dacus says. “If people want to know what the songs are about, I’ve got these packaged answers, but it becomes hard when people want to unload on you. I have some pretty intense songs on this record, one’s about convincing a friend to not kill themself, one’s about a bad father. People have these traumas and I’m really honored that my music would provide solace, but hearing about everybody’s trauma — I’m highly affected by it.
"I do care, so I actually have to minimize the opportunities for that to reach me because I know it’s gonna affect the full day. I just sort of keep to myself. I’ve been getting more shy throughout my life. I used to be more outgoing, and I’ve noticed that I’ve become more introverted. Maybe I’m seeking a protective element, because this record has felt so bare and I have revealed a lot about my life, and maybe by the time I make a new record I’ll be up for it again. If I can write songs that are good but are not so close to home, would I feel more comfortable? Would I be as proud of them? I don’t know.”
I"’m not pissed at people who are misguided — that’s just what their combination of information has led them to believe." - Lucy Dacus
Regarding that tricky balance between separating an artist’s personal life from how they produce their art, Dacus mentions Bob. “I admire the resolve with which Dylan reinforces that he doesn’t owe anybody any part of his life,” Dacus says. “He has never felt compelled to give the whole story, whereas I feel this weird compulsion to say the most. I think ‘Oh, people are listening, I have to give them everything that I can’ out of gratefulness or my personal desire to be understood. Dylan doesn’t care about being understood or not, which is a skill.”
Dacus is a believer in the power of music as a healing agent (her favorite album to listen to whenever she feels anxious is I Need to Start a Garden by Haley Heynderickx). She understands that many people have strong connections to their favorite musicians through their music, but that connection does affect the artists over time.
“People all the time tell me what has happened to them,” Dacus says. “They’ll say ‘I’ve lost this person’ or ‘I’ve had this experience,' and I think they just need to be heard. Because I’m a fan of musicians that have been there for me in ways that people I knew couldn’t. I understand the impulse to give back to the musicians that give to you or have some kind of a balance, but I can feel the story settle in my gut, and I just carry it with me.”
Less than a week after we spoke with Dacus, she announced she would be donating 100% of the proceeds from her four Texas concerts to the state’s grassroots abortion funds, as a response to Texas’ controversial Senate Bill 8. She later told Rolling Stone that there is always room for improvement in a bad situation, and that her donating the proceeds is something she feels is right: “I [originally] tweeted, ‘If you’re not cool with me doing this, don’t come to the shows.’ Maybe that came off as a little confrontational. I am pissed. I’m pissed at the politicians. But I’m not pissed at people who are misguided — that’s just what their combination of information has led them to believe. I believe people are capable of change. I don’t think it’s useful to blanket-statement hate Texans. I’m really angry at these laws. They are hateful and evil. But you have to believe that people are capable of change, and having experiences that lead them to care about people more, instead of less. I don’t think I can believe otherwise.”