Belfast singer-songwriter Lucy Gaffney told David Hennessy about going it alone after years in a duo with her brother, how the industry left her ‘haggard’ at 21 and her Oasis cover getting Liam Gallagher’s approval.
Singer-songwriter Lucy Gaffney would have already followed up her debut single Can’t Escape if it hadn’t been for the coronavirus. However, she has filled the gap before her second single and debut EP by recording a collection of covers that have featured and impressed the original artists.
When Matt Mason of Australian indie rockers DMA’s heard Lucy was covering their In the Air to be the title track of her stopgap EP, he wanted to play on it too.
And when Liam Gallagher heard her version of Songbird, the former Oasis frontman described it as ‘celestial’.
Lucy told The Irish World: “It was all kind of random.
“I know the guys from DMA’s because I played with them in Belfast and during lockdown I started getting into the covers. I don’t usually do them and that was one that was really nice for me and some alternative tuning that I’ve been doing. We have a studio in our back garden so me and my brother were like, ‘Let’s go and record it properly’.
“Mas had been talking to me about the cover that I had done from my back garden. He was like, ‘This is class’. I said, ‘I’m recording it properly’. And he was like, ‘I’d love to play guitar on it’.”
Lucy almost missed Liam Gallagher’s compliment and had to have it pointed out to her: “It’s such a weird thing how the internet works. I just put that video up. I didn’t even know people would start retweeting it. It just went mad on Twitter but that’s the power of the Oasis fans. They’re like a cult and once they take you in, you’re there with them for life. I put that up and then within three hours I think it had 60,000 views. The only reason I saw what Liam Gallagher had said about it was because a fan messaged me saying, ‘Do you know who’s been talking about your video?’ And I was like, ‘Wait! What?’ It was pretty cool.
“The EP was such a random little filler just before the second single. I really want to get way more of my tunes out there because everything is pretty much recorded.
“We’re the industry that is still at a standstill, everyone else is kind of back at it. I can’t wait until we can start gigging again, it’s such a big part of what musicians do. It’s our wee way of showing ourselves to people and if we can’t do that, all you’ve got is YouTube and Instagram Live.”
Lucy Gaffney may be an unfamiliar name but she has been performing for a long time. When she was 15, she started busking on the streets of Belfast with her brother Thom.
Performing under the moniker Southern, the siblings would relcoate to London and find themselves sharing the stage with people like Jake Bugg and Pete Doherty.
“I loved London. I finished my A levels and moved straight to London and sofa-surfed for two years just doing the rounds of all the pubs in Camden and everything. That was such a great time.”
However, Lucy reveals she was less comfortable with the vision other people in the industry had for the sibling duo act: “People got in the way of what we were doing. We used to busk in Belfast the two of us and we were always into early Radiohead and that’s what we were trying to do. We never really thought too much into it and then when we moved to London and when labels and things started getting involved, they saw a young brother and sister and instantly they wanted to put us in a box and give us a gimmick: ‘What are you? You’re a brother and a sister, you can do harmonies and you’re pretty: Okay, we can sell that’.
“But we were very purist about what we were doing. We weren’t just a little pop act that wanted to just make a quick buck. We wanted the music to be really good.
“We spent a couple of years touring and it was almost like we were about to break. We had been working with so many people in the industry that were causing us a lot of stress: Labels telling you you need to do more, you’re not working with the right producer, you need to be doing all these photo shoots. There was a lot of men in the industry that I found difficult as well, they would tell you how you have to look and everything. I ended up becoming a bit jaded with it.
“You get to that point where you almost feel haggard and you’re only like 21.”
Both brother and sister did get a break when Thomas contracted a rare autoimmune disorder. However, it wouldn’t keep them out for long as the family members returned with their new incarnation MMode.
“He was a bit sick anyway and just the stress of it took it out of him. We were like, ‘F**k this, we’re getting out’. So we moved home, had a year and a half off and eventually got back into the studio and just started making music again. That’s where MMode came from.
“The sound we were creating was more directed at me. Onstage I was more the lead and it made more sense for me to have my own title. Thom produces everything. He also does his own stuff. It made more sense for us to do two separate things rather than try and push it all into MMode.”
You can expect to see Lucy following up Can’t Escape with the very catchy forthcoming single Daydream in Tokyo that has a powerful chorus you can see becoming a festival anthem.
“I’m really really excited to get it out. I can’t wait to start gigging again. Next year I’m hoping to get to all the festivals if they’re back up and running.”
Her fans know she loves a stout as last month Lucy announced she had finished recording her second single today while asking, ‘Who’s comin for a Guinness?’
“I absolutely love a Guinness. I go out for my runs every day and there’s a big billboard with a big pint of Guinness half a mile away from my house. As I’m running back up the road every morning I see this big creamy pint of Guinness being poured. I swear to God it will turn me into an alcoholic looking at it!
“I used to work at a pub in Hammersmith, pulling pints of Guinness.”
Lucy lives in Liverpool but returned home when the crisis took hold just to return to Merseyside recently.
“Liverpool is so comfortable for an Irish person. You’re so close to home and everyone there is either from home or their background is Irish so we have the same sense of humour. It feels a bit colloquial and it’s so musical.
“You get off the plane in Liverpool and you see a big yellow submarine and then the second you start driving into the city you kind of feel the history of the place. It is a nice city to live in.
“It’s nice being by the sea, I think that’s what I like about being in Liverpool, because it’s a bit more like home.”
Lucy may not be massively into her GAA but, regarding the game of camogie, she can say one of hurling’s greats taught her everything she knows.
“Do you know what’s funny? You know DJ Carey? He actually taught me camogie once. So random. We had a house in Co. Mayo just near Killala and DJ Carey was there for the weekend teaching all the kids hurling. Me and my brother just happened to be there one day. He was teaching us to hit the ball and stuff.
“I follow the rugby more than the GAA. All my friends do Gaelic and stuff. When it’s on, I support Mayo just because we had a house there for so long but I don’t know the ins and outs of it.”
The EP In the Air by Lucy Gaffney is out now.
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