The Richmond musician could make a list of reasons why 2017 sucked - instead she's made the wonderful 'Historian'
On New Year’s Eve, during a house party at her home in Richmond, Virginia, Lucy Dacus had her fortune told. She thought why not. On a personal level, 2017 had been a wretched year – a steady conveyor belt delivering the 22-year-old bad news.
“This girl, who I didn’t even know, came to the party and gave me this year-long reading,” she explains. “Month-by-month it was so specific. So far, it’s kind of lined up.”
In the past Dacus has been sceptical about the prophetic powers of the tarot card deck, and was taught that the pentacles (coins) were a symbol of Satan. “It’s hard to look to the future and see nothing, to know nothing,” she muses. “I still don’t know what’s going to happen, but having something to have your mind bounce off is nice. That’s why I like tarot. It gives you something to reflect on.”
It’s all part of a fresh way of thinking for Dacus, a new “mood of just trying to be open to new things.” For so many reasons the past year has been one Lucy Dacus is keen to put behind her. “I guess I could just list things,” she says laughing, but not joking. To begin, some of her close family suffered health problems, compounded by her own serious issues including a bout of appendicitis that forced her to have surgery. She was attempting to buy a house for the first time, a process that proved “trying”. Three of her tours got cancelled.
“It was a little bit miserable,” says Dacus, sitting in an east London cafe. “Towards the end of the year, I just had to laugh… Like, come on!”
Interwoven with these practical challenges she was having to navigate something much more troubling. “I got out of a relationship in 2016, which I was waking up from in 2017 – realising that it was abusive,” she begins. “Letting myself say that, it took many months to come out of the numbness… to stop being brainwashed. So, that’s all been a growth. It’s ended up being positive, but it is difficult wondering how I let that be a part of my life for so long.”
Deepening the ordeal, still, this year of personal upheaval was set to the backdrop of Trump’s first 12 months in office. A vociferous supporter of Bernie Sanders through the 2016 election campaign, Dacus is a passionate advocate for equal rights, attending marches and collecting donations for community organisations at her shows. To have Trump sat in the White House representing her country, she says, felt – feels – “horrible”. “It’s just absurd and I feel like I’m in an alternate universe,” she says. “It’s really hard maintaining hope.
“Coming to Europe I’m embarrassed to be an American sometimes, but then I just have to hope that people know that I am not part of Trump. I’ve thought about wearing shirts at the airport – just like ‘not my president’. In little ways I just want to assert that opinion.”
And then there were the disturbing revelations surrounding Harvey Weinstein (and subsequently many other men) revealed in Autumn 2017, that opened out into a global conversation around the abuse and harassment of women.
“It’s been nice coming out of that really terrible relationship during a time when women are speaking up more. It feels like I’m allowed to say these things now,” says Dacus, crediting the #MeToo movement. “All these horrible, heartbreaking stories of women being mistreated are at the forefront but the solace that people are doing what they need in order to find closure and help each other prevent that happening ever again. For one of the first times I’ve been noticing male friends of mine actually examining their past behaviours.”
While there are some early shoots of positivity, the truth is, the culmination of all of these factors left the songwriter dealing with anxiety for the first time. “2017 was a new state of mind for me – and not really in the best way.”