When Lucy Spraggan won over the X Factor judges auditioning with an original composition, it was clear she had wit, talent and buckets of personality. Seven years and five albums later, she proved last night that she was very far removed from being a one-hit wonder. I have to admit I hadn't followed her career: like many others, I warmed to her audition (as someone who didn't really watch X Factor and was cynical about sob stories and manufactured stars), and when I heard she was coming to town I was intrigued to find out how she has progressed. The likeability that shone through the small screen has remained, and indeed grown as she's gained more life experience.
Every song was introduced with a story explaining the motivation behind the writing, or an amusing anecdote it produced. For example, she got married to her wife and moved in to a new home all at the same time, three years ago. Her pre-music training had been as a plumber, and so she was convinced that she could handle all the work on her ‘fixer-upper’ property, leading to stress and arguments, and the wittily-titled Home Wasn’t Built in a Day. In this way Spraggan is a raconteur, not just through her knowing lyrics but in her whole presence. Luckily, however, the hubris suggested by this story didn’t match up with the down-to-earth person onstage before us!
Spraggan has a distinctly British sound: indie, folky and anthemic, combining a seemingly laid-back attitude with lyrical gritty playfulness, like a hybrid of Oasis and Arctic Monkeys. Refreshingly different to many of her more poppy overseas contemporaries, many songs on the set list were honest explorations of her struggles with mental health, managing an admirable balance of moving and upbeat. This was truly inspiring, and seemed to resonate widely with the diverse crowd, whose energy levels were way beyond expectations for a Tuesday night.
Spraggan seemed to regard her own career as not hugely commercially successful, telling an ironic tale of how You Won’t Hear This On The Radio came out of her frustration at her tracks not getting national airtime - and ended up being the first of her songs to do so. I would dispute her definition of success here, but while she may not quite have broken into the mainstream, I imagine that this comes with more freedom to explore issues in her songs that super-starlets couldn’t get away with. In her audience interaction, she promised that her next album would be forthcoming in the next year, and based on what we heard tonight, I’m looking forward to seeing the direction it will take. Although her songs are realistic, personal, and touch on wider issues, I’d love to see a more political side, which was gently hinted at with a joke about the Prime Minister.
The tour continues across the country, but judging from the genuine affection Lucy seemed to hold for Oxford, I am hopeful she will return soon. If she does, she will no doubt attract newly-converted fans, myself included!